The digital transformation of VSE/SMEs in France

TimeTonic Team
March 21, 2019
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The subject of digital transformation is becoming more and more alarming on the startup scene. For example, the state secretariat predicts that one in five companies will disappear within the next three years if they do not embrace this opportunity.

At the same time, new measures concerning DPM, fears related to cybersecurity, and also advances in terms of artificial intelligence in addition to other avenues of technological development, make the issue of digital development more and more urgent. Especially for VSE/SMEs, which easily eclipse the larger ones, while being the main lever of the economy. As a reminder, they represent 99.8% of French companies*.

According to a BPI report, 47% of SME and ETI managers believe that the impact of digital technology on their business will be negligible in the next five years, 61% make little or no use of sales and customer relationship data, and 87% do not make digital transformation a strategic priority for their companies.

What is digital transformation?

First of all, digital transformation does not simply mean the creation of new tools and processes. It is the integration of digital into the business model and the value creation system.

It is a global and radical transformation of the company's logic, which is based on three axes:

  • The customer at the heart of the company
  • A more agile organization
  • Partners involved in value creation.

Thus, technology is only the support of this new vision to be implemented.

Indeed, most managers confuse the definition and end up taking digitalisation measures that do not necessarily have a major added value for the company.

Many managers believe that this "trend" is nothing more than an image constraint and a new fashion in communication, instead of seeing it for what it really is: an opportunity!

How do we get there?

What about the human factor?

The first crucial element to consider is the human factor. Indeed, a company that has not yet embarked on the wave of digital transformation necessarily contains traditional staff, not trained to follow new and radically different processes. That said, it makes sense to offer staff training that introduces them to the new features being implemented, on a purely technical level. But also to familiarise them with the new vision.

However, this is not to say that staff who are not competent in computer science, programming, or other areas is a bottleneck to the new wave, and must be replaced.

However, it is consequently necessary to invest in training. But at the same time to introduce change gradually over time. In order to enable employees to follow the new processes and get used to them.

Finally, implementing ergonomic and intuitive tools can ease and smooth the transition, instead of choosing non-accessible solutions.

First define the needs of the company:

It is necessary to carry out a general diagnosis of the company's processes, vision, the added value created, and finally, the long-term objectives, before determining a digital strategy.

The aim being to define the crucial points of the organisation where the introduction of digital will have a strong and tangible impact.

At this stage, a benchmark is the first reflex. Exploring market and competitive trends can clarify the company's vision.

How to choose the right tools for a successful transition?

Once the strategy has been put in place, the next step is to put the tools in place, to put it into practice. The company can choose to create its own solutions, to outsource the creation, or to adopt existing solutions that meet its needs.

Generally, the first option is only available to companies that already have IT and programming know-how. This leaves the other two options.

Outsourcing the creation of an ad-hoc solution can be a good idea for a company with very specific and precise needs. Needs not yet addressed by the current market. However, this option is particularly expensive and can be very time-consuming.

Nevertheless, today there are several companies that offer digital tools, IT systems, ERP, etc., which are not only available in the market, but also in the market place. These are solutions that are already in place and sometimes meet all-purpose needs, and sometimes meet specific needs depending on practices.

This option is the most practical option being comparatively inexpensive, accessible, and immediate. But the choice can be very delicate.

Thus, the company can proceed by sector. That is to say, to explore the business solutions proposed for players operating in a particular sector. In this way, it can ensure that the solution is tailored to its specific case, which means that it will not need accessory products to meet its needs.

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