Subscription Center

Real-time insights from the industry leader in IT.

How Midmarket Businesses Can Catch the Digital Train

26 Feb 2016 by Melissa Alexander

For businesses resolving to become fully digital, there’s no time to waste — the digital train is leaving the station and it’s not slowing down.

This train is one that businesses don’t want to miss. Gartner forecasts that deficient digital business competence will cause a quarter of businesses to lose competitive ranking by 2017, while digitally attributable revenue will double over five years. As technology elevates us to a higher digital plane, small to medium businesses must follow suit and transform themselves into entities that can operate fluidly in a digital world.

Here are a few ways they can harness the power of the digital realm.

Disruption comes in all sizes.

Though perhaps not as flashy, the digital transition for small to medium businesses is no less essential. Digital practices provide a direct pipeline to consumers and an injection of employee productivity. 

  • Automate and streamline. Any task that’s time-consuming and doesn’t require human engagement should be automated, says Abdu El-Shaarawy, president of Blue Global Media and an experienced manager of tech teams for startups. Streamline all areas that need a human touch — for example, project management — through tools such as JIRA and Basecamp.
  • Embrace digital platforms. Social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest give small to medium businesses a massive built-in customer base and the means to market to them directly. According to a recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute, more than 50 million midmarket businesses use Facebook, up from 25 million in 2013.
  • Don’t overlook business insight. “Many small businesses fall into the trap of trying to replicate the data model of large corporations,” El-Shaarawy says. “I’ve seen many companies try to implement big data concepts, realize too late that it’s not attainable, and then quash their business insight programs entirely instead of scaling back to a more reasonable level.”
  • Think mobile. Mobile is becoming the de facto standard for consuming media, making purchases and communicating, El-Shaarawy says. “Consumers will, and in many cases already do, expect to be able to interact with businesses through mobile mediums.”
  • Keep your head in the cloud. The cloud paradigm is opening up an opportunity for small to medium businesses to become more disruptive, says Ravi Panesar, a technology executive at Allstate who’s led initiatives at both startups and Fortune 100 companies. “They don’t have to be concerned with huge investments and large infrastructure that’s very costly.”

But perhaps the biggest lesson of all for any business riding the digital wave? Digital business is not synonymous with IT, says Ken McGee, vice president and Gartner Fellow. “It is about revenue, value, markets and customers,” he says. “It is outward-focused. It is a metaphorical combination of front office, top line and downstage compared with back office, bottom line and backstage.”

This article originally appeared in Volume 2, Issue 1 of Technically digital magazine.