Time is money. Everyone wants to do more in less time, even more so, for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Larger enterprises can easily leverage their bigger budget to tap into more resources to get things done. Meanwhile, as an SME, you will always need to think innovatively in optimising your business as usual (BAU) to maximise your limited resources. So what can you do in this highly competitive world to keep your cost low whilst ensuring high productivity? Digitisation!
Digitalisation, easier said than done
This is an exciting period to be in. Digital transformation is taking place in all sectors and industries. SMEs are constantly placed in a position of vulnerability to change especially during the pandemic. Usually many would think that if you are constantly placed under such circumstances, you’ll eventually learn to adapt and change for the better. Unfortunately, that is still a far cry for SMEs. According to OECD, the pandemic has impacted SMEs worldwide and it shows more than half of SMEs face severe losses in revenues. Struggling to survive the day and having endured repeated hits from lockdowns, you will not have the capacity to plan for the long term, let alone prioritising digital optimisation by putting aside funds to digitise your business processes. Furthermore, it does not help when there are inefficient legacy systems that are deeply embedded into your organisation’s structure and everyday business activities. This only makes it harder for many of you to switch to newer and more up-to-date systems. Thus, adopting minimal digitalisation and settling with what we already have is good enough for many SMEs. Yet, that should not be the case.
The role of digital optimisation to increase BAU productivity
Time is a key factor for many businesses. According to Inc.com, they constantly see a lack of time as a huge concern for a large percentage of small to medium business owners. There’s so much to do in so little time! Hence, as business owners, making sure every minute and second is fully utlised is crucial to maintain peak productivity for BAU. With digital optimisation, SMEs can create a work environment for employees to feel more comfortable and productive. Gartner defines digital optimisation as the process of using digital technology to improve existing operating processes and business models. This is because it enables employees to do more value-added work instead of redundant work. This would allow them to be more objective-driven to focus on quality output.
So what can you do to kickstart digital optimisation to increase your BAU efficiencies?
Be bold to innovate and grow
Quoting CEO See Wai Hun, “Innovation is making the impossible possible, and that requires taking risks.” One has to be bold to make the decision to shift their mindset and to set out doing the impossible. For example, instead of just settling on an inefficient legacy system, is there a better and cheaper system out there? Additionally, it’s time for business owners to grasp and understand that size no longer matters. In the past, you’ll need big budgets and large resources to have the greatest access to technology. Now, the ever changing tech landscape and the emergence and development of advance technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Predictive Analytics, and Machine Learning (ML) have made technology easily accessible for SMEs to utilise and scale with it. Growth can now be driven by technology and technology is now democratising the world of business. The beauty of SMEs and it’s smaller size in nature gives SMEs an advantage of being more nimble and agile when it comes to seizing the opportunities with these advanced technologies present.
Start small, test, and learn
Of course, it can be daunting to immediately dive into using these technologies without knowing where to start. However, the COVID-19 crisis has taught us that experimentation is both a necessity and an expectation as these experiments will take aim at longer-term gains for all concerned – employees, customers, or business partners.
For instance, you can start with customer-facing initiatives as it offers a larger upside. Automate your processes, utilise data and analytics to quickly and effectively isolate difficulties. Watch out for opportunities to build a new standardised work process in scaling these digital solutions across your core business processes. This is so that it reduces confusion and builds a focus or vision for your employees to achieve. Be willing to experiment, pivot when necessary, and learn how you can scale better with technology catering to your own business needs.
So where can you start to automate? Take onboarding a customer as an example. You can automate your approval process for eligible customers which creates a frictionless digital customer experience and reduces manpower involved in the application process. This will not only reduces time, effort, and cost, whilst reducing manual errors; it will also allow your day-to-day business operations to be more agile and your employees can focus working on areas that require the human touch to generate higher income for the business. Another clear example would be to embrace the visual workforce in your BAU approach. However, to do so, SMEs will need to first digitise their business operations. For instance, if you need to collect unpaid invoices, you could always opt for a cloud-based solution that allows you to work over the Internet. This will help SMEs to manage and keep track of all invoices, making sure SMEs don’t miss a customer’s payment.
Change is constant but we only have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s time to touch base on your everyday task to increase efficiency and productivity. What can you do as an SME business owner to optimise your BAU? Remember, size doesn’t matter when you can leverage technology to scale and grow.
Read more on how to become a successful business in the long term.
JurisTech (Juris Technologies) is a leading Malaysian-based fintech company, specialising in enterprise-class software solutions for banks, financial institutions, and telecommunications companies in Malaysia, Southeast Asia, and beyond.