This is the time of year to assess your company’s overall performance, what’s working, what isn’t and understand where things are heading in the next year — the annual checkup. I have my own ideas based on what we’re seeing with our customers, but it’s always good to look at what independent researchers are uncovering as a reality check. The good news for us at Systum is that the research is pointing to digital transformation as a big trend for SMBs in 2018.
According to IGI Global, “digitalization” is the process of integrating digital technologies into the day-to-day processes of your life or, in this case, your business. The buzzword that’s often used these days is “digital transformation”. It starts with the process of digitalizing your data or company information, but the emphasis is on integrating digital information and processes to automate everything from inventory control to sales, customer care and the latest automated manufacturing facilities.
A simple example of digital transformation would be linking your inventory management software to the software that is running your web site so that only those products that are in stock are offered to customers. As soon as a product goes out of stock, it automatically vanishes from the web site or an out of stock message is displayed — no more disappointed customers. Or, another example would be, integrating your marketing database with your CRM and purchasing system so that you could automatically target an email promotion for red leather handbags at all those customers that bought red leather pumps in the last two months. Digital transformation is about integrating software and automating time-consuming processes.
The SMB Group completed a study last year with over 750 SMBs to study digital transformation and the various ways it was impacting their businesses and future plans — 2017 U.S. Small and Medium Business Digital Transformation Study. The big takeaway was that roughly three-quarters of SMBs agreed or strongly agreed that “digital technology is impacting their business and industries.” 36% of SMBs are already implementing solutions to support digital transformation and 48% are planning to do so in the next twelve months. Less than 16% have no plans.
Integrating your digital information is, of course, the goal of our work at Systum.
It is why we built Systum from the ground up on a single database that integrates every aspect of your business from marketing campaigns to inventory management and from sales and to after-sales and support.
The SMB Group study found that the top three areas in which companies were investing or planning to invest were:
Improve employee productivity/re-skill employees
Improve decision making
Personalize/improve customer experience
More good news. Systum checks off all of these boxes. The principal benefits of integrating business analytics, e-commerce, marketing, inventory management and CRM into one database are improved productivity, timely accurate analytics and the ability to have a consistent process for understanding and responding to customers throughout the sales and support lifecycle.
On the productivity front, the less friction there is within your business the better. Working with five separate software applications is more time consuming than just having one. Instead of five separate interfaces to learn and juggle data to and from, employees have only one. Enter data once, not five times — less is more. You have one source of the truth and don’t have to spend time reconciling data across the different applications: your data is always accurate and timely.
You can also begin to take advantage of automation. The two examples we used above — automatically updating your web site based on your inventory and targeting email promotions at customers that had bought red shoes — these are just some of the many automations that Systum makes possible. This is digital transformation at its best, saving you time and boosting your employees’ productivity.
With accurate information available across all aspects of the business, the customer experience also improves. From sales to support and customer care, personnel have access to the current situation and context through a single customer record. This ensures that interactions with the customer happen around a single data record and are consistent and much faster. The customer gets the sense that they are valued and have a more personal relationship with the business.
The productivity and time saving are especially noticeable when it comes to analyzing what’s going on in your business. With multiple software applications to consult, it becomes a big exercise involving data exports, probably into an Excel spreadsheet, and the creation of pivot tables to start seeing trends and correlations. With Systum, all of that happens automatically. Not only do you improve your productivity, but also you will make better decisions because you have the real-time, accurate data at your fingertips, on any device, anytime, anywhere.
Another trend in the study that supports one of my strong beliefs is that younger, smaller businesses are the ones that have the most to gain from digital transformation. For bigger and more established businesses, there is always the issue of legacy digital investments. They want to get the most out of them, but integrating them with middleware to achieve a Systum-like experience is expensive and time-consuming. Younger businesses that move to Systum are integrated from the get-go, and with Systum’s 'Fast Start' 14-day, go-live process the digital transformation of your business can happen quickly!
This is even further reinforced when you look at the principal challenges that SMBs face when undertaking digital transformation — the costs that integration imposes and insufficient budget. These were the number one and number two challenge identified in the SMB Group study. Systum solves these issues because it is cloud-based and with its a pay-as-you-grow model, SMBs can start early and easily.
None of this is big news to us at Systum. These trends have been obvious for a few years. It’s why we started the company. Still, as I look forward to 2018, I’m glad to see that we are well aligned to support our customers with exactly what they need to grow their businesses.