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Does Company Size Matter in a Digital Economy?

March 2, 2016 by John Ward 136

According to a recent episode of SAP Radio’s Meet the Visionary Game-Changers, the answer to the titular question of whether company size matters in the digital economy seems to be “not so much.”

Host Bonnie D. Graham and her three guests talked about how today’s digital economy is democratizing the business world – especially for the small and midsize enterprise (SME).

“Digital transformation is disrupting traditional business models,” said Graham. “Smaller, more agile firms are better able now to compete against the big behemoths.”

Panelists Ursula Ringham, Daniel Newman, and Brian Fanzo, clearly agreed.

Blurring the Line Between Large and Small

It’s absolutely true that small organizations can now run essentially the same business software that was once reserved solely for the much larger enterprise. And technologies like mobility, analytics, and social media provide entrepreneurial companies of any size with unprecedented connectivity, insight, and market reach.

As the panelists see it, collectively this technology is helping blur the line between large and small companies.

“With all the different digital solutions out there today, small businesses can appear large,” said Ursula Ringham, director of digital marketing for SME at SAP. “They can sell to anyone in the entire world.”

Ringham is quite right.

After all, do you really know who was at the other end of your last Internet purchase? Was it a global conglomerate or a guy in a bathrobe operating out of his garage? Do you even care?

Of course, taking full advantage of this equality might require a change in thinking for some companies. As Ringham put it, “Sometimes you must disrupt what you know, to innovate and grow.”

Making a Great Soup

But how can smaller enterprises embrace the digital economy while reducing the risks inherent in any disruption?

Daniel Newman pointed out that SMEs in particular should be mindful when it comes to their digital strategies.

“Moving toward digital transformation doesn’t mean jumping on every technological bandwagon,” said Newman, co-CEO of an integrated marketing and digital communications agency called V3B. “That’s like putting a bunch of cut up vegetables in a pot and calling it soup.”

Newman stressed the importance of choosing your tools and technologies carefully and then blending them in with your core strategies.

Changing the Face of Collaboration

Brian Fanzo – chief social media officer at MyChannel Inc. – was definitely onboard with this philosophy.

“I don’t like people doing technology for technology’s sake,” he said. Fanzo then went on to identify one of those critical core strategies that he thinks is being reshaped by today’s digital economy.

“I believe the future of innovation is collaboration,” Fanzo said. But in the past, he explained, the word “collaboration” typically meant working only with those people in your office or local area.

Hyper-connectivity and the virtual workplace are changing that mindset. Fanzo sees digital collaboration as the ability to work “without borders” and the freedom to leverage the best talent and business resources from anywhere.

Creating a Great Customer Experience

The ubiquity of digital technology could well be leveling the playing field of modern business. But eliminating distinctions between large and small companies is not necessarily the killer advantage for SMEs.

It appears that a digital transformation can be as much about creating differentiation as it is about staying competitive.

As Ringham observed, “Embracing digital technology can help you create new experiences that bring people in.”

The panelists were quick to identify some notable examples. Uber’s mobile app and Starbuck’s Wi-Fi enabled coffeehouses are each digital elements of a much larger business model. But both have contributed immeasurably to creating an experience that clearly resonates with consumers.

“People are now heavily connected not just to the product or service, but to the experience,” added Newman.

So then, what is the next consumer experience that companies should focus their digital attention on?

Fanzo believes that in this age of Big Data and social media, consumers are telling us what they want all the time.

“The question is,” he asked, “are you willing to listen?”

Please join me on Twitter at @JohnGWard3.

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

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