By James Robins

There’s a lot of talk about the need for SMBs to undertake digital transformation but it’s also important to talk about exactly what the digital transformation looks like and its benefits to businesses.

Many SMBs hear the words “digital transformation” and immediately get hung up on the complexities – intricate code, software engineering, and skill sets that businesses don’t have the budget for.

Culturally, SMBs may also be change-hesitant or simply don’t know how to prioritize digital transformation and modernization with other priorities in their limited budgets.

But this reticence is a mistake. With the right approach and the right technologies, your business can enter the digital age with ease (no code necessary), at your own pace, and without blowing your budget.

Why Change is So Hard

Clinging to the old way of doing things can be tempting, but the fact is that many of these workflows are highly manual, paper-based, and labor-intensive which can cost thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours over the long run.

If you use spreadsheets, email, and forms to collect, track, and store information such as time sheets, payroll costs, and contracts you’re typical of most small businesses. But it’s a process that is time-consuming, error-prone, and vulnerable to lost data.

Manual processes also introduce a lack of standardization and accountability. With paper forms, employees have free rein to collect information as they please. Required fields can be skipped, miscalculations are made, and accuracy can be questionable.

It’s a sub-optimal workflow that also leads to lost insights. The data stored in your business can reveal valuable information, if you can unlock it. For example, inventory data can help you identify which items are trending towards being out of stock. But, data only has a half-life of 30 minutes. By the time you’ve captured it, entered it into another system, and turned into a useful chart, its worth has diminished.

Digitize Through Ubiquitous Technology

Digital transformation can solve many of these issues, and can be achieved without integration headaches, coding, or employee rebellion! It’s as simple as embracing the mobile application technology your staff and contractors are already familiar with.

Today, easy-to-use cloud-based mobile applications are helping SMBs boost productivity and get powerful reporting capabilities by moving their most commonly used paper forms to smartphone or tablet-based applications, creating a standardized process for collecting and sharing important information across the business. Every inspection, time card, or checklist is filled out wherever you are, and the data is sent straight to the cloud. From there, the information can be exported into a variety of back office systems from Salesforce to QuickBooks.

The use cases and applications available are infinite. From mobile recruiting applications that allow you to screen potential employees for factors such as engagement and personal fit, to mobile checklists that let you manage your safety program and speed up your response time to potential alerts.

Digitize Data Workflows for Greater Insights

Each of these applications can be accessed from a single platform and customized to your specific needs, so there’s no need to purchase point solutions from multiple vendors for different functions of your business – mobile processes can be created in minutes. Plus, advanced integrations let you import your data into other systems, so you can slice and dice it for valuable insights.

For example, if you perform regular safety inspections and an inspector flags an issue the problem is automatically entered into another connected application for work and sent to a technician for repair. All of this happens behind the scenes and instantaneously, through cloud integrations.

Digitize at Your Own Pace

Digital transformation doesn’t happen overnight. The great thing about using mobile applications to automate how work is done, is that they support an iterative approach. Start with a single process that you use daily that could benefit from digitization, such as invoice template forms or a merchandise contract. Make a list of the information you need to capture – optional and mandatory – including photos, signatures, pricing, GPS information, time stamps, etc. and you’re ready to create your application using an existing template or customize it to your needs with easy-to-use drag and drop functionality.

If you’re struggling to embrace digital transformation mobile platforms and applications offer a simple way to automate workflow and modernize your business while integrating with your existing technology stack without complexity or cultural resistance, so you can do so much more for your customers, your company, and your top and bottom line.

James Robins is Chief Marketing Officer of digital transformation platform GoCanvas. For more info, please visit:, [email protected]

Digital stock photo by Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock