By Jeff Lewis

Today’s customers expect rapid responses and personalized services no matter how they interact with your business, either by phone, email, website or mobile app. A fast and reliable small business network is an absolute necessity to meet customer expectations and power the next phase of digital transformation.

In this ever-changing world, speed is currency. To survive and thrive, SMBs need to “act fast.” Those that don’t—or can’t—will quickly become extinct. That’s why a growing number of SMBs are realizing the importance that digital transformation (DX) plays in their future.

Today, DX is undergoing a transformation all its own

The next phase of DX is all about empowering small and medium-sized businesses—and their employees—with high-speed access to apps and data that allow them to be more productive and enhance the customer experience. The goalposts measuring what makes a company “digitally transformed” keep moving, because technology advances seemingly every day. DX isn’t the same for every company, but a few general rules can be applied to DX 2.0 and the old DX:

Source: IDC and Comcast Business, 2018

New research conducted by IDC in partnership with Comcast Business found that while 74 percent of companies have digital transformation initiatives underway, only 16 percent can be considered Disruptors, meaning they’re ready for DX 2.0. This isn’t surprising, since many companies are hesitant to embrace new technology—but this fear of the unknown only serves to hold a small business back. In today’s fast-paced digital-driven environment, it’s in SMB’s best interest to remain a step ahead of competitors – or risk being left behind with outdated technology.

The study found that businesses that do digitally transform reap the rewards. For instance, those categorized as Disruptors gain measurable business advantages, including:

  • 38 percent improvement in customer satisfaction;
  • 28 percent increase in revenue; and
  • 26 percent increase in employee productivity.

With these findings in mind, it’s clear that providing employees with fast, high-quality predictable connections to apps and information is critical to business performance and customer experience, and therefore a critical contributor to an SMB’s bottom line.

Take Stock of Your Digital Strategy

Successful digital transformation relies on the recognition that quality, high-speed enterprise network performance is critical to employee empowerment, and must be easily accessible to employees on the frontlines of the business. However, that shift in understanding may not happen overnight.

The first step to achieving DX 2.0 is to take a holistic view of where your company stands in the digital journey. The first-ever Digital Journey Index, created by IDC in partnership with Comcast Business, explores four types of companies and where they are in the DX journey:

  • Legacy (15% of respondents—healthcare, government and hospitality): Organizations are in the process of launching or planning DX initiatives; 48% have no plans.
  • Aspirational (34%—manufacturing): Organizations have completed a few DX initiatives and are launching more.
  • Opportunistic (35%—banking, professional services, and wholesale trade): Organizations have completed several DX initiatives and are launching many more.
  • Disrupter (16%—retail, IT, transportation, pharmaceutical, and quick-service restaurants): Organizations have completed many DX initiatives and will continue to launch more.

Once you’ve confirmed where you stand on the index, it’s time to create a holistic strategy to survive in the digital era—not just a digital strategy, because it can’t be thought of as an add-on. Consider how technology can improve the experience of your customers and employees from beginning to end. To get started:

  1. Evaluate which employee tasks can be automated, in turn giving employees more time to be as productive as possible.
  2. Next, develop a plan to comprehensively transform the enterprise network architecture to align all resources. Consider the benefits of cloud computing and software-defined networking.
  3. Set an ultimate goal of using technology to deliver a richer experience to the end customer.

DX 2.0 requires an increased understanding of how an SMB’s network enables employees to work smarter, faster and more efficiently. Tech-empowered employees are more confident in their customer interactions, because they know they have the intelligence and flexibility to make informed decisions with the apps and data to back them up. They also are able to use their time more efficiently because a lower percentage of their workday will be directed toward mundane tasks. Data collection, storage, and analytics are automated—benefiting employees and also providing key data to the business: a win-win.

Jeff Lewis is the Vice President of Data Product Management for Comcast Business.

Digital transformation stock photo by Olivier Le Moal/Shutterstock