A digital leapfrog and increasing demands from both employees and customers call for a new recipe for the SME of the future. Here, Salesforce offers 12 tips for a more connected future.
The article is published in collaboration with Salesforce.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are going digital in different ways and at different paces to meet the growing demands of both customers and employees.
New, smart tools have become available at a rate where the sheer volume of possibilities can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there is no one right answer to how to seize the benefits of digitisation; each effort must be tailored to the individual business.
One important common thread, however, is that the new digital processes must be thought together. That’s why Salesforce has compiled 12 tips for improving the connection between your company’s departments, silos and initiatives:
1: Create a single source of truth
Every SME has data, but it’s often unstructured and fragmented. Single Source of Truth – or SSOT – is a data source that can be accessed by the entire organization, so everyone has access to the same information at the same time.
This means the data is never fragmented, misleading or out of date. And just as importantly, it allows for better collaboration across job functions and departments, helping to future-proof the company’s talent pool as traditional roles change and evolve.
2: Establish real-time reporting and instantly update data
Organizations must ensure that the Single Source of Data (SSOT) they create supports real-time reporting and is updated instantly when any of the company’s employees or systems have new information that can be added.
Too many companies work with “hidden” data – either in data silos that are not connected to the rest of the company, personal inboxes, on desktops, in cloud folders or word documents. By creating a unifying platform that updates instantly, SMEs don’t have to worry about version control, critical data going missing, or teams working with different data sources.
3: Connect both data and people
Just like business, people need to be connected too. Schedule periodic meetings across departments and functions – either in the office or virtually – to ensure everyone is pulling in the same direction. Meetings also boost morale and create teams that are invested in the whole business – not just their own department.
4: Streamline business tools and processes
Some companies suffer from “TMT” – Too Many Tools. This happens when companies keep adding new tools to the existing infrastructure without considering how it all fits together. The software debt is borne by employees, who are forced to deal with a handful of fiddly tools that aren’t integrated or designed to work together. By creating an integrated infrastructure and centralizing data from legacy systems, companies can streamline processes and practices. This increases efficiency and makes for happier employees.
5: Share internal processes
One of the key benefits of connecting business processes is increased transparency. In some organisations, it makes sense to share KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) as a way to get different teams working towards the same goals. At the same time, it is important to share insights about internal operations and establish trust between stakeholders. In fact, both employees and CEOs report active distrust of their business data. By working with the same data in real time, teams can be sure they are using the most up-to-date information from a trusted source.
6: Document and map new processes
An important aspect of connecting the business is creating a sum that is greater than the parts. In other words, SMEs need to focus on the integrations that create value for them. This is hard to do without a proper plan that answers the question: Where does it create value?
7: Get feedback from stakeholders
Every major business transformation requires a cultural transformation to reach its full potential. Change is hard for some people – that’s why it’s important to get stakeholders on board. Feedback and suggestions from key employees are a valuable way to identify frustrations, problems or bottlenecks in a new system.
8: Give teams the mandate to create their own solutions
Rethinking old infrastructures and connecting processes is an incredibly good way to give teams a greater mandate, and companies can go a step further by encouraging employees to become developers. It’s never been easier for teams to use no-code or low-code platforms to create apps without having any
programming experience. Employees can simply drag-and-drop components to create bespoke solutions – and become their own IT department in the process.
9: Look at long-term business goals and use linked processes to address them
Like digital transformation, connected business processes work best with a larger goal in mind. So before getting started, your organisation needs to evaluate its long-term goals and assess how connected processes can best support them. For example, if a company’s goal is to grow, look at how the connection between sales and marketing can help identify gaps in the market for which new products and services can be developed.
10: Provide continuing education so the workforce can become more data savvy and learn new roles
A further trained workforce not only helps the business pivot when it needs to, it also creates more loyal employees and better relationships in the long run. It boosts employee satisfaction and reduces churn rates, which can be costly for SMEs. Having happy employees who are better equipped for the future and able to work wherever they are needed is easier than ever – thanks to on-demand digital training platforms.
11: Use workflow automation
One of the easiest and most effective ways to empower employees is by introducing AI tools. And while there’s a lot of talk about artificial intelligence and automation leading to employee redundancy, the truth is that AI is better at helping employees than replacing them. By automating tedious routine tasks, small businesses can free up time for employees to spend on more creative and meaningful work.
12: Keep optimising new processes
Everything is a learning journey. Connected processes can open up some surprising benefits, and it’s important to seize opportunities as they present themselves. Along the way, SMEs need to find out which new approaches work and which need further adaptation – and then tweak, evaluate and repeat. And as the connectivity journey continues, processes need to be constantly tweaked and optimised again so that SMEs can become the strongest, most agile and most resilient version of themselves.
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