Ten years ago, it would have been preposterous to suggest IT should drive the direction of a business. Even today, it’s still normal practice, particularly amongst SMEs, for the CEO and business managers to set strategy and for the IT manager to follow, not lead.
Times change. The impact of digital transformation in the workplace is turning the tables.
The wave of new technology now available has demanded a different management mindset and a reshuffle of business priorities.
This new business model acknowledges that the usual fundamental objectives for sales revenues, customer loyalty, profitability, productivity, and headcount are being governed by investment in new technology.
– There is real evidence that the benefits this brings to customer experience and employee productivity are game-changing.
Why IT matters in business today
Amongst all organisations today, digital transformation is placing IT high on the boardroom agenda and demanding that business managers achieve greater ‘fluency’ in understanding the strategic capabilities of technology, not just the terminology.
Most recently, though, this trend has moved up a gear. For larger organisations, the IT manager is graduating to CIO, and the remit has shifted from operational management to strategic and innovative leadership.
This elevation of the CIO to influencer and visionary is documented in Deloitte’s 2018 CIO survey in which a study of US companies shows that ‘S&P 500’ high-performing businesses are nearly twice as likely to have at least one tech‐focused board member compared with lower performers (32% versus 17%).
– Deloitte label these cross-bred, technology-fluent, business visionaries as ‘digital vanguards’ and predict that this role will become fundamental to successful business growth in the years to come.
What SMEs can learn
No doubt, many small business managers reading this article will dismiss all this as a long-term view of the future and as something that will impact only the big multi-nationals. On both scores, that assumption is incorrect.
At Foehn, having served the SME sector for over fifteen years, we see ‘technical fluency’ and ‘digital vanguards’ appearing in small business management teams, by function if not by name.
“Forward-looking small businesses, often managed by millennials and generation Z, are placing technology at the centre of their strategy and at the top of job descriptions in the recruitment of new management.”
Kiwi.com, for example, is a Foehn client that has embraced technology from the top down and has risen from start-up to global business in just a few years. Find out how Kiwi worked with Foehn on the implementation of a new contact centre system – see the case study.
This enthusiasm for new technology amongst SMEs is hardly surprising when one considers that, in general, small businesses have more to gain from digital transformation and technology leadership than their big enterprise counterparts. Limited resources and ‘never enough hours in the day’ shape an environment where automation and collaboration technologies score high.
“Of course, for the vast majority of SMEs, in the day-to-day graft of dealing with more mundane though important issues, making the cultural change to a technology-driven business is just not realistic in the short term.”
– For these companies, the next best option is the so-called ‘trusted advisor’, the service provider or consultant that can, at least temporarily, occupy the CIO’s seat in the boardroom.
Our clients understand the criticality of their communications systems within their business operations and, accordingly, deal with us as an extension of their management team, rather than a service provider.
Let tech be your friend
Increasingly, businesses are coming to realise that a cloud phone or contact centre can revolutionise operational processes and customer services.
Consequently, our experience, guidance and empathy with business issues are things that clients often value more highly than the technology itself.
In particular, we are able to work impartially with all stakeholders in the company, fluent in both business and technology, to fill an important gap in creating a business case for technology investment.
– See our guide ‘Building a business case’.
Too often, small businesses get locked into the vicious circle of low income limiting low investment limiting low income, etc.
The challenge is to break that circle with just a seed of digital transformation which, if nurtured in a technology-friendly environment, will grow and propel your business forward.
– A good starting point is phone and collaboration systems (see our latest system Voxivo) that can boost productivity in the workplace quickly.
Similarly, improvements in contact centre technology can enhance customer experience and grow revenues.
Rafael Cortes is head of marketing at Foehn.