Using data and technology to transform your business 

What are the ways businesses can integrate digital tools to facilitate growth?

Using data and technology to transform your business

Innovation and technology advancements are the engines for long-term growth and productivity. Digital tools can help increase the efficiency and production of goods and services, resulting in fundamental changes to how businesses operate and deliver value to customers. But how can SMEs effectively implement technology in their business? What are the specific steps we need to take? Joining Alison Edgar MBE, motivational speaker, businesswoman & TV Boardroom Adviser for Amazon Prime on stage was Phil Hobden, Senior Product Manager at Silverfin, Sachin Agrawal, Head of ZOHO, UK and Sarah McVittie, Co-Founder of Dressipi for an exciting panel discussion at Elite Business Live 2024, as they discussed digital tools and how to incorporate them into your business. 

One of the hardest questions in digital transformation is how to get over the initial humps from vision to execution. How can we convince our team to incorporate the latest technology? Sometimes starting with a small digital tool can get your organisation used to incorporating tech before moving on to the big giants. Sachin said: “I think the best way to get your company comfortable with digital transformation is to take up something small, which is really critical for the business, and then run it as a pilot project. As much as you forward plan and calculate the ROI, it will never be as valuable as the proof of the pudding itself. So, identify something really critical for the business, because that will get the business involved, and then select a technology which you think will make a difference and make it happen.”

A cultural change is often required in an organisation to continually challenge the status quo, experiment, and get comfortable with failure in their digital transformation journey. Getting over that first initial hurdle is key, Sarah said. “We work with big fashion retailers, who tend to be followers, not leaders and they tend to be on very old school platforms,” she added. “We find that they’ll go and buy bits of tech here and there in the business, but they won’t necessarily take the time to think about it all the way through. And I think you’re right. You want to start with something small. But you also need to take the time to state what is driving that problem and then understand what data you need to resolve that. And it doesn’t need to be a massive challenge, but once you start to make data-driven decisions, then you can see the impact that it has. So, think of it as doing a small pilot to prove the impact of the digital tool. And then something becomes very compelling.” 

So, you come across a great digital tool for your business, and you believe it will benefit the company tremendously. But you are struggling to sell it to the board and there is a disconnect. Sometimes bringing on a tech-savvy team member to your meetings can give your board a greater insight into the benefits of incorporating digital tools. Phil explained: “If there is a misalignment in the business, that alignment will never happen. It’s tough to drag people who are technically laggards over the line and get that commitment. But to start a transformation project, you just need to get one person on the board who shares the same vision as you. If your board is so against the direction of flow of the business and where you need to be, your board are not the right board for your business. And so, you can’t replace the whole board, but actually, do you need to bring someone into that board that is technically savvy, and can then influence at a higher level?” 

What is the best way to approach a company board that is not technical at all? You can “translate” technical bits into business impact information, Alison said. Non-technical board members may care more about how to improve the business, not what is driving the improvement. You will reap the benefits of a better board relationship, more approvals to proceed with projects and improved engagement with your peers. Alison explained: “I think it’s about reverse engineering. When I’m working with a variety of companies of different sizes and industries, the main problem they have is people not being engaged in the discussion. It has to do with the people engagement and keeping the staff happy, including those who are non-tech savvy. If you can do something to help reduce overwhelm and make the team more productive that would be the key. Even the board members that are not tech savvy and don’t really know about tech want to have a good glass door and understand how the technology will improve the company, rather than the nitty gritty information.”

Latifa Yedroudj
Latifa Yedroudj

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