The crisis generated by COVID-19 has forced companies, regardless of their field of activity, to accelerate the digitization process. For larger companies, which already had a functional infrastructure, the changes necessary to develop remote activities did not pose major issues. However, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which do not have the same resources, have been taken by surprise by the current situation. For this reason, they had to act fast, to keep up with the restrictions imposed because of the pandemic, so they faced a series of barriers in the digitization process.

The impact of the COVID crisis on SMEs has been proportional to their capabilities to start the digitization process. Here are some solutions that can help these enterprises to overcome some of the most common issues when it comes to digitization.

 

How can businesses cover digitization expenses?

 

29% of the companies participating in the study claim that the main problem they encountered in the digitization process is cost.

The automation of internal processes, so necessary in recent months, involves, for certain organizations, costs that had not initially been forecasted in the annual budget. Fortunately, companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, or Google provide Cloud solution whose use does not involve major expenses, since they do not require the acquisition of hardware and software licenses. Another cost-cutting option for small and medium-sized businesses is to turn to local hosting providers. Thus, the amounts allocated for the use of the platforms are affordable monthly costs, and users will benefit from excellent conditions in terms of data security and safety.

In exchange for a monthly cost (subscription), enterprises can use online platforms that offer ERP, CRM, SFA and other services. However, if the business model does not allow the use or integration of these tools with the existing systems in the company, we advise purchasing customized software solutions and covering costs with non-reimbursable funds or long-term loans.

An important element to keep in mind is the planning of initial investments: the cost of professional communications and security equipment that must be installed at the company’s headquarters. These costs are modest though and should not be an impediment, as the subsequent benefits are major.

 

How to choose the right technologies?

 

When making the choice for enterprise software solutions, it is highly important to keep in mind the features these can offer, but the technologies used to develop these tools are just as important.  

First and foremost, the technology should be modern, to enable changes in the software once the company evolves. Since the business model should always adapt to economic factors that are constantly changing, experts recommend flexible apps that allow the addition of new features or change of existing ones, without rewriting code.

Besides this, the solution needs to be scalable, so Cloud solutions are the best choice since their major benefit is flexibility. If you are planning to start using a Cloud solution, pay attention to the provider’s ability to offer consultancy in terms of finding the best hardware and software configurations, plus their availability for technical support post-implementation. That is why it is preferable to pick a partner with a local presence.

If SMEs choose a local hosting provider, they should pay close attention to data and communication safety. In addition to this, all the resources should be scalable. Normally, the main role of enterprise software is answering business needs, without neglecting user-friendliness. If a company decides to use different SFA or ERP platforms, from different providers, they need to consider integrating them and make sure data transfer is 100% automatic, to eliminate all sorts of errors.   

Taking all into consideration, the best option for companies, regardless of their profile, is to choose Cloud software solutions that have a friendly and modern design, are stable and accessible both online and offline from any device, can be configured according to current or potential needs and provide data analysis and forecasting features.  

 

How can companies make sure that the implementation of new technologies, the replacement of old ones and the integration with existing systems take place without errors?

 

In order to successfully transition to new technologies, the initial stage of the process needs to be flawless: mapping, analyzing and revising current business processes. Very often, enterprises reach the conclusion that some of these procedures are too expensive, because of the resources consumed in relation to the benefits they bring. Therefore, it is necessary to identify the most suitable software solutions. This process is iterative because the new solutions will bring new working possibilities, which means that some processes will be eliminated and others will be added to the company’s way of working. Besides computerization, one of the effects of digitalization is the modernization of processes and the business itself.

After deciding upon the most suitable enterprise solutions, it is recommended that the implementation and data migration from previous tools to be done with the support of an external service provider (consultant). This will save companies time and save money.

 

Preparing employees for the use of new software solutions 

 

Another aspect that businesses should handle with care during the digitization process is the training of employees, who should be accustomed to the new software solutions. If the new technologies are the right ones and the implementation takes place without issues, users will find it easy to get used to new tools. However, ideally, besides the solution per se, the software provider should also include training services for employees. Specialized training will prevent the frustration arising from the need to adopt a new way of working, while also ensuring the company reaches the highest level of efficiency within the shortest time.

 

Things to keep in mind when choosing the right software solutions provider

 

The digital transformation of a business is a project itself. For this reason, it is ideal to choose a partner that can provide support from the initial stages to the final ones, and even after implementation, through support and maintenance services. Firstly, the technology provider should help identify business needs, revise them and select the most suitable technical solutions. Once this is done, they have to implement the solution, migrate data, train personnel and, last but not least, provide technical assistance and support throughout the use of that particular software. 

A determining factor in choosing the software service provider is their previous experience in similar projects, especially for clients from the same area of activity. In addition, another criterion should be the number and diversity of staff available for such a project. Since the most suitable technologies have already been chosen, it is important that the supplier is up to date with the latest innovations in those technologies and that they have a custom-oriented organizational culture.

 

At the moment, digitization is a global movement. Although some changes have been necessary for a while now, their implementation has been postponed and the pandemic only hastened this process. The positive thing is that most technologies have proven their utility in almost any field of activity or business model. Digitization is necessary and, fortunately, within our reach.