The force. As we learn in Star Wars, "The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together".
In the world of SMBs, many of whom are ever more advanced padawans on the journey to become true SMB masters, Salesforce naturally hopes it will be one part of the force you'll draw upon to build your empire and bind your small business and customers together for the betterment of all, but to do this in 2018 and beyond, you're sure to need a powerful digital transformation strategy.
Indeed, with Salesforce being a digital tool of note, it binds well with one of Deloitte's recent annual research reports entitled "Salesforce digital SMBs", commissioned by Salesforce to "explore the use of digital tools by small businesses in Australia and New Zealand".
You may well be one of those SMBs, but whether you are, or aren't, Salesforce notes that it's clear "there is a genuine focus in Australia across all sectors to implement a digital strategy for future business benefit – but businesses absolutely want to make sure that when investing heavily in change, it’s going to be something that lasts. Your digital transformation strategy, therefore, needs to be future-proof and flexible".
This insight comes from the powerful force of nature that is Dan Bognar, SVP Solution Engineering & Cloud Sales for APAC at Salesforce (LinkedIn page), who has "put together five ways to make sure your digital transformation strategies are still relevant five years from now".
Before we start, it's important to note that all references to Star Wars and the force were my idea, thanks to the Salesforce name and my imagination running wild, but the words in the five points below are from Bognar himself.
So what are those five wise ways to digitally transform your self into SMB master, ready to strike back at competitors and strike a blow for being the best SMB you can be?
1. Think strategy first, technology second.
"As Stephen R. Covey wrote in his cult classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Begin with the end in mind.” And so it goes for your digital transformation strategy. There is no value in adopting the latest technology without a clear sense of how it will be beneficial for your business.
"With so much talk of AI, IoT, and machine learning, businesses could be forgiven for thinking these technologies should be adopted as a matter of course. But why does your customer need these technologies? What will be better, faster, easier for them in terms of interacting with your company?
"If you’re clear from the beginning what you’re using the technology to achieve with your customers, you’ll be far better able to adapt it to thrive with future change."
2. Be customer-centric.
"Customers have become more discerning and brand loyalties have become looser over the past few years, and these trends will only continue into the next five. Businesses therefore must focus their transformation strategies on the customer in order to succeed in the future.
"Expectations of a personalised service will increase, and making customers feel like they are the only one should be at the heart of all digital transformation strategies. To deliver on this, savvy organisations are shifting their focus from business process management to customer experience design."
3. Place value in skills.
"Digital transformation also allows businesses to adopt new learning models and help employees develop new skills faster. Rapid skill development helps future-proof your business by ensuring your people keep up with the continuing introduction of new technologies.
"Leaders that instill learning as a core value and competency set their organisations up for success in the long term, no matter what the future holds."
4. Use the cloud.
"We’re all familiar with the benefits of cloud migration — it results in greater efficiencies, offers a better experience, and helps save money. Similar to point one in this list, it is important to adopt tailored solutions when migrating to the cloud — a rip-and-replace model benefits no one.
"But being cloud capable is no longer something you can avoid. Today’s customers demand the flexibility and scalability that the cloud enables, and by placing the cloud at the heart of digital transformation strategies, businesses set themselves up for success in an increasingly cloud-centric world."
5. Establish an ongoing process.
"It is easy to think of any strategy having an end point. And though goals are important, as is progress toward that goal, a truly flexible digital transformation strategy will recognise that technology is constantly evolving and that as such, it can’t be too rigid a framework. By factoring in this flexibility, businesses can be more adaptive to the challenges (and opportunities) of the modern business world.
"Digital transformation is not an overnight transition to online processes and connections – it’s an ongoing process that involves rethinking the business you are in, redesigning the processes, increasing your people’s skills, and employing the technologies to deliver value to the customer. One day at a time.
"Five years is a long time in business – and a lifetime in technology. But by having these five guiding principles in mind, businesses can go a long way to future-proofing their digital transformation strategies and set themselves up for a successful journey."
There endeth the lesson from Bognar, for whom the Salesforce awakens to ensure that you are not the last SMB, but one of many who blossom with a new hope for a solidly digitally transformed future, not only making your business better, but one that uses a beautifully cloudy future to be the best SMB you can be for your delighted customers – and your own happier, profitable and satisfied self.
May the Salesforce be with you!