A guest post by Romi Mahajan, President KKM Group and Dharmesh Godha, President Advaiya
If the only source of information in the world was the business press, one could forgive anyone for believing that only a few, large companies are important. In the world of technology, we read about Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple: We get to know these companies well and through the narratives of the more clever of the journalist breed, even come to understand a few nuances. We hear a bit too about the next layer of companies; still it is fair to say that 90% of articles cover the top 10% of organizations.
What’s lost in this concentrative focus is that SMBs are also worthy of understanding- they are complex and important and can also be very innovative and forward-looking. Some of them are in a growth mode while others’ choose to remain small, nimble, and rewarding to their owners and workers. As in Baseball, not all hits have to be grand-slams- singles can be fine too.
When we take the time to focus on and understand Mid-Sized companies- spread across verticals and industries—we find that they grapple with issues, evaluate opportunities, and look to improve in very much the same way as their larger counterparts do. In some ways, the challenges are more profound: There are less resources in terms of money and people and still the same set of opportunities and technologies to evaluate. The “staying power” of Mid-Sized companies is less (a bad 6 months can lead to bankruptcy) so in fact being agile and responsive to customers is, interestingly, more important than in large enterprises. A few bad hires can ruin a smaller company, so HR and People processes have to be more exacting. It might seem like a Bizarro world- in which everything is inverted—but Mid-Market organizations require, often, a deeper focus.
Given this, the idea of Digital Transformation inevitably creeps in. How can mid-sized manufacturing or distribution companies use the tools of digital modernity to improve all aspects of their businesses? As has been pointed out by Jon Roskill in Information Week, Digital Transformation is not magic, is not “one and done.” It is not a spell the mere incantation of which will create abundance and prosperity. It is a journey that requires both planning and dynamism- planning because we have to know where we are going in order to get there, and dynamism because we know that the “unknowns” will pop up along the way.
Digital Transformation neither starts nor ends with technology. It starts with a commitment to improve and ends with the creation of a lasting culture of open-ness and ability to deal with ambiguity. Along the way, technologies of all sorts play an important role and enable people and processes.
Digital Transformation can be both recognizable and unrecognizable from the outside. In some examples- like mobile-ordering at Starbucks, the effects are visible- new scenarios emerge and change human behavior. Of course, one can only imagine the years of planning and implementation that went into that!
At other times, Digital Transformation simply “melts into the air.” When the integration of Business Applications saves an employee 10 minutes of work per transaction- that is absolutely Digital Transformation but we as consumers don’t really “see it.”
Digital Transformation, thus, can be both sexy and quotidian. Either way, it is important and backed by inspiration and perspiration.
For mid-sized companies, this hard work will not necessarily make the cover of the newspaper or be bandied about in online forums. But when we remember the spirit of the word “transformation,” we realize that indeed SMBs can truly be transformed with the right vision and execution, in real and not just rhetorical terms.
The good news is that many technology platform companies are beginning to understand just how fertile the SMB market is. Reality is loud- The Digital Transformation journey in the Mid-Market is real.