SMEs are leading the charge in the UK’s digital transformation, leaving large firms with cumbersome traditions and practises trailing behind.
Smaller firms ‘have the edge over bigger companies’ when it comes to a digital overhaul of business models, thanks to their flexibility and willingness to evolve, according to a panel of experts.
Innovation was pinpointed as one of the main aspects of digital transformation – using digital technology to create change within a firm.
Lawrence Jones, CEO of UKFast, said: “Large businesses have a much different process to go through than SMEs.
“If small businesses don’t innovate digitally and don’t try harder, they don’t survive. So I think we’ve seen a lot more digital transformation in smaller companies.”
Nina Mack, managing director of digital design and build agency Worship Digital, said: “Something that we found when working with SMEs is that their digital transformation has to almost be a shift in not just their processes and the way they handle stuff, but their whole business model.
“Shifting your business model when you are not an SME is very hard; SMEs are much more agile in that respect. They’re able to pivot and react to the new technologies to which they have access.”
Managing director of digital agency Carpe Diem, Bill Carr, said that often big firms are held back by concerns about new technologies.
Carr said: “I think that’s where some of the expertise lies with the agencies which have set up to specifically look at this digital transition.
“There’s sometimes a fear factor or resistance which leads to questions like: ‘if I adopt that system what will happen?’ But they can be educated in the process by a digital transformation agency and find out what it would entail.”
Farooq Ansari, business development director and digital consultant of web design and digital marketing agency Reading Room, explained that agencies have a duty to advise clients on staying digitally up to date.
Ansari said: “The optimal solution for the client and the agency is to be able to go in there and advise on the wider aspects of digital transformation whilst also doing the bread and butter stuff that agencies do.”
Despite the difficulties staying up to date with digital trends may be, Jonathan Whiteside, principle consultant of digital agency Building Blocks, explained how essential it is for firms to remain current and meet client expectations.
He said: “For me, digital transformation is about modernisation and innovation. It is a way of differentiating an organisation from its competitors, or comparing the business to how it used to be.
“There is a strong focus on ‘how can we transform our business to make it more relevant to the customer and make their experience better’?”
Matt Cockayne, managing director of digital solutions provider Zucchi, summed it up, saying: “You can innovate gradually. I have clients coming to me saying they need this, that and the other.
“But I don’t see digital transformation as a transformation at all – it is an evolution.”
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