Regional Views on Digital Transformation Find Common Ground

Digital transformation can be an overwhelming topic for any business to tackle. Even the big guys – Tesla and electric companies that serve as the yellow brick road, as it were – find it difficult to navigate from time to time.

Meanwhile, 85 million small and midsize businesses across the globe also are trying to wrap their collective heads around what it means to go digital.

Yes, the Teslas of the world have the funds and resources to act as early adopters. But the digital transformation movement is inevitably coming to all businesses, regardless of size, scale, and location. Small and midsize businesses have no choice but to adapt.

For more than 20 years, I have seen first-hand how firms from many industries use technology to secure market leadership, amass significant growth, and operate with greater sustainability. Some successes were so ground-breaking that these customers overcame some of their largest and most-established rivals.

The last two years alone have been nothing short of astounding, as companies continue to achieve expected benefits of their technology implementations.

Take Sonnentracht, for example. This family business in Bremen, Germany started out harvesting honey locally. With the growing movement towards eating organic and natural sugar like that found in honey, they saw an opportunity. Today they import alternative sweeteners from around the world to create and package new “certified organic” products used globally.

The company attributes its rapid growth – as well as its certified organic rating – to technology innovations. Every investment has improved production management, refined its substance analysis that verifies product purity, and enabled live decision-making with supplier locations anywhere.

According to a new IDC InfoBrief, “The Next Steps in Digital Transformation: How Small and Midsize Companies Are Applying Technology to Meet Key Business Goals,” sponsored by SAP, many firms worldwide are experiencing similar success. The study says  73%–87% of small and midsize companies across 13 countries say their technology investment expectations have been met or even exceeded. Top benefits include easier access to information, better portability within the office environments, and regulatory compliance.*

Here’s a snapshot of the most important priorities for digital investments in 13 countries, as reported by IDC.

1. Everyone agrees on the top priority for digital investments

No matter the region or industry, 56 percent of small and midsize firms view “improving customer acquisition” as the top priority for their digital strategies.

But secondary priorities are more diverse.

  • Companies in Germany, India, Korea, Singapore, South Africa, and the United States say improving revenue growth is their second priority.
  • Brazil, France, and Japan are focused on driving cost reduction.
  • New Zealand/Australia and Mexico are concerned with improving efficiency and productivity.
  • The United Kingdom has equal interest in improving revenue growth and lowering expenses as secondary initiatives.
  • China, on the other hand, breaks away from the rest of the world, desiring greater capacity for innovation.

2. Firms everywhere say they are digitally nascent

The majority (86%) of small and midsize companies worldwide believe that they are doing the work necessary to apply technology and participate in the digital economy.

However, critical digital resource acquisition, coordination, and automation are still in early stages for approximately one-third of businesses in nine countries. Those that feel furthest along in their journey can be found in France, India, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. 

3. Reasons for initial technology selection all lead to the greatest need

From region to region, 47 percent of small and midsize companies direct most of their technology investments to areas with the greatest need and immediate impact.

Ease and speed of implementation is the reason for 34 percent of businesses in 12 countries. China again was the only exception, where half of the firms are compelled by quick and high ROIs.

Why These Findings Matter to Your Business

Small and midsize firms worldwide are seeing the opportunities presented by digital transformation and how to unleash them. But digital technology cannot remain a stand-alone, one-off initiative. The investments are too critical to ignore – no matter where your small or midsize business resides.

To learn how small and midsize businesses are digitally transforming themselves to advance their future success, check out the IDC InfoBrief, “The Next Steps in Digital Transformation: How Small and Midsize Companies Are Applying Technology to Meet Key Business Goals,” sponsored by SAP. Be sure to check every Tuesday for new installments to our blog series “Road to Digital Transformation.”

Hernan Marino is COO of Marketing at SAP.

This story originally appeared on the Digitalist.

*“The Next Steps in Digital Transformation: How Small and Midsize Companies Are Applying Technology to Meet Key Business Goals,” IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by SAP, 2017.