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Sachin Dev Duggal

CEO & Co-Founder, Builder.ai

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Tailoring digital transformation to fit SMBs

Helping SMBs embrace digital transformation more quickly should be a shared responsibility. SMBs are the backbone of our economy and are the key growth drivers of the world. Empowering them means empowering all of us – and creating a better digital future.

Photo Credit : ShutterStock,

COVID-19 has driven home a new reality for many small and medium businesses (SMB) – digital transformation is no longer an option. It is a necessity for survival. The numbers do not lie; digitally mature businesses are twice as profitable and productive than those who are still digitally indifferent. This also makes them more resilient and adaptable to sudden changes from unprecedented events, such as working from home and travel restrictions.

Now that we are agreed on the subject, the question then becomes: how can SMBs start their transformation journey? Digitalisation is not a one-size-fits-all strategy, and the myriad ways it can unlock new opportunities for SMBs can often seem overwhelming to businesses who are only just beginning to dip their foot in. Enlightening SMBs on the virtues of different digital tools is only the first step; helping them choose and deploy the tools most suitable for their needs is the next.

The gap between concept and implementation

Most SMBs already have an idea of what they need or want to achieve. What they lack is the knowledge of the digital assets and tools that can do what they want, as well as how they should be deployed. For instance, a retailer may already know that they want to be able to reach more customers and sell their products online. But there are many processes involved that need to be digitalised – marketing, payment, warehousing, logistics – and they may not know where to begin. 

The sheer variety of choice can also be very confusing to SMBs. Consultancies, for example, theoretically have an easier path to digital transformation than retailers because their service-based nature primarily only requires online communication and collaborative tools. But there are hundreds of such tools out there with similar capabilities and varying costs. Do they need a video conferencing tool with digital whiteboard functionalities? Or a workplace collaboration platform with scheduling functions? The fear of making the wrong – and costly – decision can give SMBs pause.

Turning ideas into reality

The general advice given to SMBs is to start small, identify the processes that would benefit most from transformation and to upskill their workers. These are valid and important suggestions, but they do take time to implement and achieve results, which is not ideal for SMBs who need fast outcomes. While extensive coding or IT experience is not necessary to identify and use suitable digital tools, some basic skills are required. Additionally, the smaller the enterprise, the weaker their digital confidence.

The obvious answer is to hire digital professionals to create a bespoke suite of tech solutions that address the SMB’s particular pain points. However, having to build specialised programs and functions usually does not come cheap – and budget is a significant concern for SMBs who are already tightening their belts now. Moreover, it is difficult to justify spending money on bespoke systems that may quickly become obsolete and will be hard to update because they are so specialised.

Tailored to fit

A sweet spot does exist in the form of modular, customisable apps. SMBs can work with app builders to select desired features from an existing library, which can be implemented into an app made to suit their needs that can be delivered in just a few weeks. The concept is similar to choosing templates for a blog. SMBs can keep costs low by choosing only the features they want, but they still enjoy minor customisation capabilities that help them keep pace with changing business and scaling requirements.

To simplify things further, there even exist prepackaged apps that are categorised by industry, such as apps for gyms, retail, restaurants, grocery stores, ecommerce and more. Apps for different verticals have features chosen specifically to address the needs of the businesses in those industries – a grocery app may have a scrollable carousel and a secure payment gateway, while an e-learning app will incorporate video conferencing and bulk uploading. Delivery time is as low as two weeks; with everything already set up in a cohesive system, these prepackaged apps are essentially a plug-and-play solution for SMBs – yet one that is still tailored to their needs.  

Transforming digital transformation

If digital transformation can improve so many aspects of business, why should that not include the very act of going digital? The burden of change does not all have to rest on the SMBs. The gap between being digitally indifferent and achieving digital transformation is like a river that SMBs need to cross. Instead of just telling them how to cross, we can use technology to build the stepping stones that will help them get there.

As far as tailored apps go, artificial intelligence and machine learning can help SMBs identify what they need to achieve their desired outcomes. The insights they reveal can guide developers in creating functions that properly address their pain points, which make economies of scale possible; the more relevant the provided functions are, the more SMBs will use them. This also means that providers can allow greater customisation for less cost, creating a win-win situation for both parties.

Helping SMBs embrace digital transformation more quickly should be a shared responsibility. SMBs are the backbone of our economy and are the key growth drivers of the world. Empowering them means empowering all of us – and creating a better digital future.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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