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Top 5 Digital Transformation Strategies for SMMES In South Africa

Bounfour says that digital transformation has only in recent years been subject to research and like digitalization it is a phenomenon that lacks coherent definition and covers several dimensions. Research on digital transformation has studied its effect not only on organizations, but also related to ethical, societal, and regulatory trends.

So, before we get to the strategies for SMME’s, let’s quickly define what is digital transformation to better understand this phenomenon.

According to, digital transformation is the process of changing how an enterprise leverages technology, people, and processes to improve business performance and embrace new business models. This transformation is cultural in nature and affects all elements of the business including sales, marketing, operations, and customer service and is typically accompanied by a move to modern cloud technologies. 

Digital transformation isn’t a new imperative for business leaders, yet in many cases, companies have a long way to go. Many companies have yet to create a culture that embraces change, experimentation, and continual learning and improvement whilst applying digital technologies. Other companies are planning end-to-end transformations but have yet to move beyond the drawing board. 

Many companies have yet to learn that by blending human and technical capabilities, companies can kick their digital transformation into gear—and keep the momentum going.

So how can companies drive their digital transformation? The answer lies in creating a vision for the future and steadily building the capabilities—technological and human—that let you achieve it.

Transformations succeed when they are gradual, profitable, and sustainable. That means focusing on outcomes: new products, refined processes, and other use cases that let you build capabilities, business value, and buy-in for the transformation.

According to Matthew Campbell, head of SME and FTTH at Seacom, small businesses can no longer not afford to go digital; it’s an essential step to staying relevant and competitive – even in smaller markets. Investing in digital tech may seem like a massive undertaking for businesses with limited budgets, but the benefits are significant, and getting started can be a lot easier and more cost-effective than expect

  1. Find a great digital partner to help you

For businesses with few employees, it’s better to rely on the expertise of trusted tech companies than to dedicate limited time and resources to finding and implementing the right software solutions on your own. A good digital partner needs to have the right industry expertise, share your customer-centric vision, and understand your specific transformation needs.

As a small business, you can’t afford costly disruptions, so whoever you partner with must be able to integrate new systems with your existing tech or seamlessly migrate data to new platforms.

  1. Keep an eye on your customers and competition

Small businesses should look closely at the digital footprint and online activity of their customers and their competition, as this can give invaluable insights into areas of the business that may benefit most from digital innovation.

Analysing your customer behaviour through customer data platforms can be invaluable, but this may not make sense for very small businesses. If your target market is on social media platforms, Facebook for Business makes monitoring your competition and customers relatively simple. You can also set up Google Alerts to keep track of keywords relevant in your market.

Learning what other services your competitors have to offer, as well as how they communicate with their customers, can help give you an idea of where to start, but it’s important not to just copy someone else’s strategy. Only implement what makes sense for your unique business offering. At the heart of this step is simply finding out where your customers are and what they’re doing online and thinking about how to use digital tech to serve them.

  1. Take advantage of your agility

Small businesses have a major advantage over larger enterprises in a rapidly changing digital market: the ability to adapt quickly, easily, and cost-effectively.

While big companies are often held back by the scale of their operations and the cost of implementing new tech, small businesses can identify trends and customer expectations and pivot almost in real-time. To harness this agility, small businesses need to be able to cycle rapidly between strategy, implementation, and feedback.

  1. Prepare to keep evolving

Business leaders need to consistently review and revise their progress based on their initial goals and see if these goals need to be adjusted or changed completely. Innovations are bound to shift the technological landscape, and small businesses must be prepared to migrate to new platforms, solutions, or even entirely new business models if they need to. The sudden move to remote work during the global pandemic taught us this.

Digital technologies evolve rapidly, and digital transformation should be seen as a continuous journey rather than something that can ever really be completed. While large enterprises are integrating their global operations and constantly improving their digital capabilities, small businesses need to do the same if they want to stay competitive.

Although 65% of companies believe that they will be able to adapt to technological disruption in the next three years, whether they will be able to or not remains to be seen. However, one thing is certain: small business leaders who think digital transformation isn’t relevant to them will be left behind. If you haven’t started on your strategy yet, make 2024 the year that you begin.

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