SME Leadership in the Digital Age



In my collaborations with others companies during the past year it has become apparent that the the world of digital technology is expanding faster than many managers and leaders in organisations can keep up.

Strategic leaders in small and medium size enterprises can take a leaf out of big business when it comes to harnessing the power of digital in the workplace.

We know that the brave new world of artificial Intelligence, macro analytics, automation and the like are driving organisations to rethink their business models, business process improvements and customer service interfaces.

Much of this – harnessing the computational power of ever improving software and developing the analytical capabilities from the mega data organisations gather – is aligned to time and resource investment. In order to make significant changes that will drive up efficiency and drive down costs, then companies need to invest.

SME’s won’t necessarily have the scale or scope perhaps to do this but they will and do have the ability to use and engage the workforce ( in many cases just themselves or their business partners) in order to drive innovation and improve the service they provide to customers, clients and staff.

Here are some leadership tips that small business owners can benefit from.

  1. Engage your staff in thinking about technology. Many businesses have young people working for them who have only grown up in a world where digital is always “on”. Smart phones, social media, computer graphics, coding and understanding the myriad uses of Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram are normal for the so called Millenials. However it is my experience that they are turned on by the applications themselves and rarely get behind the technology. Get them thinking about how these can be harnessed to improve the reach of a business. Digital marketing should be an essential tool for growing a small business and a business collaborator of mine is a true expert at this – contact him and see what he says: e.mail
  2. Use Information not just Technology.  Understanding how to transform big data into decisions that improve business performance is critical. With digital comes analytics and leaders need to harness the business intelligence and information that their data is telling them. Insurance companies for example are completely changing how they interface and interact with customers with the help of data analytics. The age of the call centre is almost over. So much more can be done to optimise the customer experience and sell more products by being digital savvy. Imagine the opportunities if buying a house linked seamlessly to insurances, solicitors, wills, removal firms etc and all of this could be arranged as a one stop shop?  This is the way digital marketing is moving.
  3. Be Forward Thinking and Experiment. Customers are fickle beasts and they often move with trends changing their preferences regularly. Social media captures this and as it is a reflection of the “here and now” it can be used to gather how people are thinking today. Being nimble and able to adapt is key – so use use social media to experiment with your offerings. If you don’t try you could miss out.
  4.  Become digitally adept. Leaders need to be adept at understanding digital media and what it can provide for a business. They should be embracing digital thinking and bring it into the everyday operation of their business. This will inspire those in the business to be innovative and creative in their use of it.
  5. Adapt and Thrive! One thing is for sure – organisational culture and how we naturally default to safety and what we know, is not going to work in the digital age. Silo thinking and risk aversion coupled with a weak customer focus are three elements that leaders need to concentrate on. So think outside the box about how digital technology and digital information can help your business. Be prepared to invest in it and listen to what customers want!

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