The COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to be more resilient, agile, and strategic than ever before. Many businesses had to pivot or even reboot remotely and suddenly, embracing digital technologies and transformations to adapt to the “new normal.”
As the globe hit pause and everything moved online, from school and shopping to meetings and medical appointments, back office technologies like cloud- and AI-based software saw a massive wave of new adoption. We’ve certainly witnessed these changes firsthand, helping thousands of businesses automate their accounts payable and receivable.
Despite this push for digital adoption, many companies had to evaluate the possibilities before plunging in. Modestly sized companies with fewer resources naturally approach change in a different way than corporate giants.
As they look to the future and evaluate their strategy, smaller companies should avoid trying to keep up with the Joneses (or the Googles and Microsofts of their industry)—and they should never invest in new technology just to chase fads.
Change for the sake of change is rarely a good long-term solution.
Instead, small and midsize companies may find that intentional, gradual innovation (at scale or even slower) is the more responsible choice. Organizations with limited budgets can still accomplish meaningful change by being more thoughtful about where to apply their resources.
Finding the right path to digital transformation—addressing your organization’s unique needs and priorities while protecting your budget—is critical when revenue, employee engagement, and growth strategy all hang in the balance.
If you’re tackling the question of how much—and how quickly—change should be embraced, consider the following aspects of your organization, the way they interplay with one another, and your company’s overall goals for growth.
Revenue Protection & Expansion
Do you have customers or clients who might be affected by new back office systems? Take the time to make sure your digital transformation will enhance and improve their experience. Think of the customer or client journey every step of the way—for new prospects as well as your long-term relationships.
In considering the possibility of digital systems, always go back to your core brand. Consider what sets your business apart and make sure your new systems will support or even enhance that differentiation.
For example, many small and midsize businesses compete by offering a more personal touch than their larger competitors. Digital systems should never take the place of that service. Instead, they should only improve it, making it even easier for your employees to deliver on that promise.
Once you’ve identified the results you want, research the transition process. Will there be “growing pains” as you switch to digital systems? Or will the upgrade be seamless for your customers, clients, and employees?
Employee Engagement & Retention
Don’t forget to consider your employees when introducing new processes or technologies. Do your research to truly understand your workforce. Meet them where they are, and set your expectations as a leader realistically.
For example, expect some dips in employee productivity while you’re integrating new processes and software. Adapting well to any new change means giving your team time to ask questions, identify pain points, and get the hang of things.
Taking that time today will build their confidence—in you, in the company, and in their ability to do their jobs well—improving the organization’s performance in the long run.
Technological innovation should elevate your employees and make their work easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable. Factor in the places where their load could be lifted, what changes they’re comfortable with, and what will empower them to do their jobs better, not just differently.
Your employees are also a valuable source of feedback. Since they’re the boots on the ground, they’re uniquely positioned to weigh in on pain points, showing you how changes to one process or department can have a domino effect on others.
Instead of just checking ‘listening sessions’ off your list, include employee feedback from every level in the decision-making process for a more seamless and productive transition.
Long-term Growth Strategy
Being tactical about new technologies also means analyzing trends so you can make the best forward-looking choices for your company.
Think about where you want to see the company in five years, one year, or even just six months from now. Set tangible goals, envision a timeline, and decide on key performance indicators so you know how to measure your success.
This will help you protect your budget while giving your organization the time it needs to test new ideas, products, and trends. Even offering fewer services, or different services, can be a competitive advantage for your company as long as those decisions are adding value.
With the increasing popularity of digital transformation, it might be tempting to jump on the digital bandwagon without taking the time to plan your transition. But a strategic, intentional approach to digital integration will be more beneficial in the long term.
Your customer or client base, the needs of your employees, and your strategic goals are key factors to consider—ensuring that digital innovation enhances every aspect of your business.
Mary Roach is the Senior Director, Product Marketing at Bill.com.