Digitisation: From Isolated Solutions to a Holistic Strategy

Digitisation: from isolated solutions to a holistic strategy

Resilience and adaptability: This can be achieved with digital business processes as well as data and algorithms, says guest author Hanna Kamijo from ServiceNow.

When it comes to digitalisation, German SMEs have to overcome a number of hurdles. Due to the acute shortage of skilled workers, IT departments are often understaffed. The consequence of this is that there are usually only a few contact persons and they only take on a support function. On the one hand, this leads to the fact that the capacities to work through the need for digitalisation are not available. On the other hand, due to inefficient organisational structures, the potential of the existing employees is not optimally utilised. In the past, this has meant that SMEs have often only focused on isolated solutions when it comes to digital transformation.

However, digitalisation that offers companies real added value requires an overarching strategy. By taking a holistic view of data, processes and interrelationships, targeted measures can be derived and technologies introduced in order to establish new and optimised processes, products or even business models. For small and medium-sized enterprises in particular, it is often difficult to assess which investment will pay off due to the numerous possibilities. Digitisation does not mean acquiring countless tools, but rather enabling a more efficient and simpler way of working with a few platforms and uniform solutions.

Efficient customer service

The big software and internet companies have above all redefined the topic of customer management. In addition to the globalisation of the market, SMEs must also deal with this. In order for SMEs to remain future-proof and competitive, they must make full use of their innovative strengths. This includes continuously increasing their productivity, working energy- and resource-efficiently and reacting to the increased individualised demand of customers. In order to meet all these requirements, both internal company processes and interaction with the customer must be digitalised.

End customers have been expecting a perfect digital customer journey since the Corona pandemic at the latest. Accordingly, the need for efficient customer service management is increasing in order to be able to serve customers’ requests quickly and easily. By expanding their digital services, companies can extend their reach, acquire new customers and generate additional data. The targeted processing and analysis of this data, in turn, makes it possible to better understand the needs of customers and thus offer customised solutions and drive innovation. In addition, AI-supported applications can help to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of customer management. For example, AI is able to recognise patterns in customer data and thus make better recommendations for products and services. And customer enquiries can also be processed faster, more accurately and moreover in different languages.

Optimising service operations through digital operations management

However, holistic digitalisation does not only include the transformation of external processes and services: In order for all areas of the company to integrate with each other, it is also necessary to digitalise internal structures. Accordingly, it is also necessary to automate internal service operations management.

Digital systems allow service activities to be monitored in real time. This allows managers and employees to react more quickly to bottlenecks and proactively address any problems. In addition, digitised service operations management offers the possibility to easily scale service operations. With the help of automation and the use of AI, companies can more easily deal with increasing demands and volumes without bottlenecks or loss of quality. It also reduces the number of manual tasks and therefore reduces error-proneness and turnaround time, leading to greater overall efficiency in service operations.

Seamless collaboration and optimised resources

Another component of a holistic digital strategy is the transformation of so-called enterprise service management. The aim is to integrate different areas such as IT, human resources, finance, facility management, purchasing and more on a single platform. This enables a central and standardised management of services, processes and policies as well as a uniform view of all data. This allows different departments and teams to collaborate and communicate seamlessly, breaking down knowledge silos.

This transparency also results in a better overview of the status of tasks and efficient resource planning. This is an important advantage, especially for medium-sized companies, to increase productivity and avoid bottlenecks.

Focus on cultural change and competence building

The prerequisite for implementing all these components of a digital strategy is not only the acquisition of new technologies. In the company, the digital transformation must also be accompanied by a cultural change. Above all, this includes transparent communication on the part of the management. It is crucial to inform employees about the necessity and advantages of digital transformation and to actively involve them in all projects. This helps to reduce fears and resistance and to create an understanding for the change.

Due to the shortage of staff, it is also important to both expand and train the digital skills of the existing workforce. It is essential to provide employees with the necessary skills to successfully implement digitisation strategies. Training, education and mentoring programmes can help build and strengthen employees’ know-how and skills. All of this should be accompanied by structured change management. A clear plan with predefined goals and the greatest possible transparency about the change process supports the smooth implementation of change.

Advantages for small and medium-sized enterprises

The benefits associated with digitalisation for SMEs are numerous. Thanks to new or improved processes, products or business models, companies can adapt more quickly to changing conditions, react to changes in the market and thus remain competitive. In addition, SMEs are often located outside the large centres in more rural areas. Here, the shortage of skilled workers is particularly severe. Automation and digitalisation offer the opportunity to mitigate the lack of personnel. Not least because with the help of the right platform, redundant activities can be reduced and kept as efficient as possible so that the focus can be placed on the value chain.

Hanna Kamijo

Hanna Kamijo

is Director General Business Germany & Austria at ServiceNow.