Digitising your SME: how to discover the right tools

Digitisation comes with a lot of questions and concerns for many SMEs. The following 4 tips will bring clarity on how to choose the right tools.

The company of the future works digitally. Research shows more than half of Belgian SMEs are convinced of this. But about 40% of companies are still struggling with the technological evolutions associated with digitisation. In other words: choosing the right tools and putting them to good use isn’t always easy. All the more reason to start your hunt by identifying what you should be looking for.

Companies that have already taken their first steps towards a digital workspace still get bombarded by numerous providers and consultants with modules, features, and integrations. Which ones help you gain maximum efficiency and which ones are a perfect match for your organisation? With these 4 tips in mind, you can start to further digitise your workflows.

1. Internal survey: how can we be more efficient?

Achieving more with the same resources is a key concern for every SME. So what’s the biggest dealbreaker in terms of productivity? According to market research agency Ipsos, it’s unnecessary administration. Inefficient meetings, unclear priorities, and complex workflows are the most important symptoms. For managers, the overload of emails plays a big role.

Working more efficiently is a concern for everyone. Therefore, a short internal survey can reveal the main obstacles in the roles of employees and executives. "How can a digital tool speed up or simplify this process?" is the first key question for everyone. In this stage, don’t focus too much on flashy features such as customised reports or digital dashboards - no matter how good they might seem.

2. Adjust your tool(s) to your goals and needs

The vast landscape of apps and software packages quickly overwhelms. That’s why prioritisation is key. On the one hand, concentrate on the feedback from your internal survey in the previous step. On the other hand, focus on improvements that are abundantly clear to you. Do you see overlap in terms of priorities? Perfect, that means there's already a consensus on some priorities.

With this input in mind, you can derive a wish list with one or more tools to present to partners or providers. Make the distinction between functions and strengths:

  • Functions: arrange your needs based on must-haves and nice-to-haves. Some tools offer multiple modules to start modestly and expand later on. This level of scalability avoids having too many tools in which people quickly get lost.
  • Strengths: depends largely on your organisational structure. If everyone has to be able to work with a tool, user-friendliness will be at the very top of the list. But if you’re looking for a solution which the entire internal accounting department will use, the number of features and the extent in which you can customise the tool is important.

Example: keep it flexible

Imagine you’re completely won over by digital time tracking. You can look for a small app that meets your requirements. Nothing more and nothing less. But if your business starts to grow, the need might arise to also digitise invoicing or accounting. So don’t forget to take your long-term ambitions into account when creating your wish list.

3. Digitise your customer service step-by-step

Ultimately, your customers keep your business running. That’s why there’s a possibility to also digitise customer service. For growing IT providers, an online customer support tool or ticketing system dramatically reduces time-consuming phone calls and email traffic.

Some SMEs still have doubts about an automated solution, partially due to bad experiences with online customer service. Nevertheless, McKinsey's research shows that digital customer service results in 76% customer satisfaction, compared with 57% through traditional channels. Even more: the more you provide digital customer service, the more satisfied your customers will be.

Keep the following two conditions in mind:

  • Create different digital channels: email is an obvious one, but also think about social media. Avoid time-consuming support via a built-out, well-documented FAQ or online product manual in which you can easily scan through information.
  • Evolution, not revolution: keep traditional channels available and communicate clearly and openly with your customers about a step-by-step migration process.

4. Take a look at potential collaborations & integrations

Discuss your wish list (see step 2) with potential vendors and investigate a potential integration with other software. For example, if you want to take on email marketing in the long run, a link between your CRM tool and an email marketing solution like MailChimp would be ideal.

Another example: if your business grows, a specialised accounting package can come in handy. But it will take a while if you still have to enter customer data from scratch. So don’t just check if tools can work together, but also how much work you will need to invest in the integration.

  • 08/05/2017
  • Last modified on 13/03/2024

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