An overview of how organisations, especially micro and small businesses, can improve their digital sophistication and integration of IT in their operations.
Although to varying degrees you might consider your organisation tech savvy, the digital techniques and strategies employed may be uneven across the organisation. Strength might be demonstrated in some areas, but not others. However, in our present day society, and recognising the increasing importance of technology for businesses not only to remain relevant, but also competitive, it is crucial that organisations – to the extent possible in their circumstances – fully harness the potential today’s digital environment has to offer.
Management consulting firms, such as McKinsey, have sought to quantify an organisation’s digital sophistication by assessing its “digital quotient”. The exercise allows firms “to identify clearly their digital strengths and weaknesses across different parts of the organization and compare them against hundreds of organizations around the world” (Source: McKinsey).
However, as a global firm, McKinsey tends to focus on large enterprises and corporations, and so I may not be appropriate to apply its standard assessment cannot to the Caribbean, where micro and small businesses, in particular, predominate. Hence outlined below, based on some of the principles espoused by McKinsey, are four key areas that an organisation should address in order to improve their digital quotient.
1. Have a well-developed strategy
First, it is essential to develop a digital strategy. The strategy should outline short-term, mid-term, and long-term digital-related goals for the organisation, along with key principles that foster their realisation. According to McKinsey, successful digital strategies address the following three questions:
…where will the most interesting digital opportunities and threats open up?
… how quickly and on what scale is the digital disruption likely to occur?
…what are the best responses to embrace these opportunities proactively and to reallocate resources away from the biggest threats?
However, frequently, organisations tend to think if their digital strategy in isolation of their overall corporate/business strategy, but it is critical that the two are aligned. It would be prudent that overarching strategy and imperatives are in place, and thereafter it is used to inform the digital strategy.
2. Have a solid digital/IT foundation
Although Caribbean MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) might be dependent on technology for their survival, frequently, and relative to its importance to the organisation, it is given little emphasis – in terms of resources and attention – within the larger context of the business. However, it also means that the organisation can be extremely vulnerable to cursory disruptions in its operations, since consideration and effort have not been given to establishing a comprehensive digital/IT foundation.
To address this deficiency, and with the benefit of having a digital strategy as a point of reference, organisations ought to ensure that the requisite systems, tools, and technology are in place so that they can achieve their strategic digital goals.
3. Foster agility and responsiveness
As changing customer behaviour and expectations demand more immediate responses from suppliers and providers of goods and services, the business culture, even at the MSME level, must also be prepared to adjust accordingly. Generally, organisations are expected to be responsive to not only to their customers, but also to developments in their industry, in order to maintain their customer base, and to improve their competitiveness and relevance.
The technologies adopted and used within an organisation, along with the culture fostered, are key contributors to the extent to which firms are agile and responsive. Examples of areas that may merit revisiting include matters related to the speed of product development and release. internal decision-making processes, and even customer support, to name a few.
4. Foster internal synergy and collaboration
Finally, for the successful execution of the digital strategy, an organisation must not only be adequately staffed, it also ought to be organised to support that objective. Elements that should be examined include: how the organisation is structured; the internal processes that have been established; and the talent that has been recruited. Ultimately, some restructuring or tweaking of the current situation may be necessary, but the clarity of a well-developed digital strategy, which is aligned with the organisation’s corporate imperatives and goals, should provide a basis for the changes needed.
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