Harnessing digital technology to accelerate business growth

(Image credit: Image Credit: Totojang1977 / Shutterstock)

The sheer pace at which both customer demands and technological advancements are evolving means many have been left with heads reeling as they struggle to keep up. Disruptive technology is being harnessed to turn traditional business models on their heads and bring ideas to market almost instantaneously, while consumers continue to expect a seamless offering across an ever-growing range of channels.

While this obviously presents challenges, for those ambitious businesses that can effectively harness the right technology it also offers a perfect opportunity to drive business growth. In fact, figures from industry analysts IDC show a huge correlation between the use of digital technology and business growth figures.

To be able to capitalise on disruptive technology though, businesses need to be able to identify and harness the right technology for their unique needs. Anticipating how customers want to consume products and services is key here, as well as having a solid understanding of how existing and emerging technology is influencing customer behaviour.

For example, in 2018, purchases via mobile phones overtook sales from physical shopping centres for the first time. As such, all businesses need to be embracing a mobile first approach. This doesn’t just mean having a mobile app, but having an overarching strategy for web systems and customer interactions that is constructed with mobile in mind.

In the same way, while still in its infancy, AI is set to have huge ramifications for all industries. It is not just something for the IBMs and Googles of the world to take advantage of, AI in the form of simple chatbots or machine learning in terms of search and keyword functionality can be employed quite simply and inexpensively by SMEs, if they have access to the right expertise.

Getting the basic building blocks in place

Before storming in and harnessing any new technology though, businesses need to ensure they have the basic building blocks in place. Know your objectives and develop a comprehensive roadmap to reach them. Don’t make the mistake of choosing a piece of software just because a peer has recommended it, or because it is shiny and new! Equally, don’t bend your business to suit off the shelf technology, instead find a partner who can shape technology to meet your needs.

A massively important part of setting a business up to harness digital technology for growth is recognising what you really need. Many businesses mistakenly think they just need a website, when actually what they really require is a quite advanced technology platform. This is a relatively easy error to make – after all, Uber looks like just an app and AirBnB just a website, but in reality they are both very complex booking systems.

Driving growth

Although identifying, implementing and optimising the right digital technology for your business can seem like a daunting task, there are key steps, which if followed correctly, can genuinely help accelerate business growth.

1.            Don't lead with technology

Start with the customer and your business goals, not with technology. Don’t rush in and throw some technology at a perceived problem in the hope of solving it. Instead, look at how your customers are interacting with your business and how they are likely to in the future.

Create a roadmap of what the current customer experience looks like and how you want it to look and combine this with your own business growth objectives. Use these to create a strategy, which can then inform the specific role you need digital technology to play.

2.            Build on data

Before purchasing any new technology, organisations first need to fully understand what they already have and what they want a new solution to achieve. Don’t make assumptions here; conduct an audit of current capabilities, skill sets and data to make sure you have all the information needed before making any kind of decision.

3.            Get the right advice

Recognising that you need outside advice and expertise is a sign of astute leadership. You may be an expert in your business area, but the world of digital technology is fast moving and rapidly evolving. Niche expertise and experience is needed to navigate through all the available technology options. As such, seeking independent, expert advice can save considerable time and money. What is vital here, is to choose a partner who is technology agnostic. You need to know that whatever technology they recommend is truly the best fit for you. Better still, find a partner who can build a bespoke solution just for you.

4.            Continuously optimise

Digital technology, by its very nature, doesn’t stand still. Neither do your customers. They are constantly adopting new ways of purchasing or accessing services and you need to ensure you can meet their ever-evolving demands.

Don’t look at any digital technology solution as a finite project. To get true value and really drive business growth, businesses need to constantly optimise their systems to stay one step ahead of the competition.

5.            Involve your employees

You can invest in the best piece of digital technology there is, but if it is not used properly it will be virtually worthless. Make sure you have the right team in place to implement, integrate and optimise your chosen solution, and do not overlook the importance of communicating with all employees about what you are trying to achieve with digital technology.

Take employees on the journey with you and invest in training them to use digital technology appropriately.

Used correctly, digital technology has the potential to streamline processes, drive efficiencies and accelerate business growth. Getting it right can be a challenge, with often seemingly daunting choices to be made. It does not have to be this way though, with the right approach, advice and strategy, all organisations can harness digital to really stand out from the competition and realise their ambitions.

Richard Pilton, Managing Director, Kayo Digital
Image Credit: Totojang1977 / Shutterstock