“But it’s my accountants we’re talking about – they need to give me the numbers. Why would I need them to talk digital business strategy with me?” – you may ask.
Well it’s actually quite simple. We live in a digital world where everything is online, “the cloud” made its appearance out of nowhere and people keep talking about the “internet of things” where all devices, components and applications are all connected to the internet and talk to one another. Sounds a bit scary at times but it is the times we live in and unfortunately for some late adopters, the change is here to stay.
It therefor necessitates for us to start thinking differently about our businesses as well. Funny enough your accountant is the one trusted business advisor that should be in the ideal position to help you with this. Contrary to the role accountants played in businesses until as recent as a few years ago where finance was a completely separate business function, it now represents the mothership of information and it has only one captain – your accountant.
Stephen Prentice opened a talk at Gartner Symposium with the following: “The technology isn’t holding us back any more. It’s a matter of coming up with the new business models. In a couple of years, we won’t talk about a digital age, because it will be everything.
As a result, companies need a digital business strategy which should ask: Who are my customers? What do they need? What do I mean to them? And how can technology make me indispensable?”
Through cloud accounting and connected business processes your accountant is in possession of a massive amount of data and the ideal person to identify any potential gaps in your business. Many of the questions Prentice poses above can be answered through analysing data that sits inside your accounting records.
Very few business owners know how to read their financial data and interpret the results. So your accountant plays a vital role to give you the necessary information to roll out and execute on your digital business strategy.
Technology changes at such a rapid pace and it almost seems that there is a new app on the marketplace every other day, trying to automate or streamline some mundane task we used to employ someone for. This can be completely overwhelming for a business owner! What do you change and what do you leave untouched? In other words, to build your business purely on technology and around the needs of your business and its customers might be a rooky error. Social trends change almost as fast as technology does which means that what might have worked for your customers today, might actually be the complete opposite tomorrow.
The fact that the trends are happening is not as interesting as why they are happening. “Technology succeeds when it meets a need that people care about,” Prentice said, quoting Genevieve Bell of Intel. Thus, societal trends are more important than technology trends.
Considering this statement, our logical deduction is therefor that your business doesn’t need a digital strategy, but rather a business strategy for a digital age! We see the following elements as critical components.
5 critical elements to a digital business strategy
1. Cloud computing
Cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the internet instead of on your computer’s hard drive. The cloud is just a metaphor for the internet. It is one way to increase capacity or add capabilities as you need them without investing in new infrastructure, training new staff, or licensing new software
2. Efficiencies through technology
Using the right digital technology for the right purpose, be it hardware (tablets, computers, smart phones, servers, etc.) or software (email marketing, CRM systems, business management software), can decrease your business overhead by providing your staff with the capability to undertake their work more efficiently and effectively.
Efficiencies include the ability to process data faster, retrieve information more easily and even downsize your business through the complete automation of suitable tasks. Consider how your business operates and determine which technologies will benefit your business to save time and increase your bottom line.
Decreases in your business overheads can be achieved by moving business processes such as human resources and finance online. This can decrease administrative overheads while increasing employee engagement and improving how information is shared. For example, you could introduce digital technology that may lead to cost savings if you automate how to:
- manage time sheets and pay
- plan and resource work
- order office supplies and stationery
- manage rosters and leave
- provide real time performance appraisals of your team.
3. Selling online
Using online selling in your business allows customers to buy from you whenever they want, even when your shop doors are closed. Selling online typically helps reduce processing times internally, enabling you to focus staff elsewhere in the business. Many online store platforms also integrate into your cloud accounting software which means no more duplication of transactions and accounting records updated in real-time.
4. Customer interaction
Customer interaction is about giving customers access to your business through whatever means they prefer – a mobile device, desktop computer, traditional phone call or social media. It should require minimal effort from the customer to find the information, service or product they are looking for.
To support your engagement with customers, you could use a customer relationship management (CRM) system to help you:
- capture and collate information about your clients
- track contacts, call backs and deals
- track the performance of your traditional and digital marketing strategies
- link your customer information with your accounting software.
5. Online presence
Your online presence refers to how and where the community and other businesses see your business online. Your online presence includes:
- your business website, mobile website or a campaign mini-site
- social media profiles (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.)
- corporate advertising profiles (e.g. on sites such as Yellow Pages Online)
- links, information, reviews or articles appearing on other businesses’ websites.