A digitally savvy business is no longer a “nice to have” – it’s the key to survival

The Canadian Business Resilience Network brings together a vast network of over 450 chambers of commerce and boards of trade and more than 100 of Canada’s leading business and industry associations, from all regions and sectors of the economy. This network represents diverse viewpoints, and the CBRN blog provides a platform to share ideas with other members of the business community and the federal government. The opinions expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of CBRN or the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. 


By Lissa Ricci
Senior Leader of Small Business Solutions
CISCO

Uncertainty has defined the last nine months. As COVID-19 cases are once again surging across Canada, the economic optimism from the summer has been put on hold and businesses are now bracing for scaled-down operations and potential closures.

Once more as the pandemic wears on, it continues to exacerbate the digital divide present in the small and medium-sized business market, forcing companies to consider the technologies they have (or don’t have) in place. It’s clear digitalization is no longer a choice for businesses, it’s a necessity.

A recent survey conducted by IDC and commissioned by Cisco — 2020 Small Business Digital Maturity study — found that 97 per cent of SMBs in Canada say COVID-19 has made their business more reliant on technology. What does that mean? For digitally progressive small businesses it’s built resiliency — keeping teams connected, orders flowing and workers engaged. While for those lagging behind or previously indifferent, it has become the answer to business continuity. In fact, SMBs could add a potential $70B CAD to Canada’s GDP by 2024 through increased digitization.

I recently spoke with Asad Zaman, CEO of Sales Talent Agency, about his renewed outlook on technology after it provided a lifeline for this year’s Great Canadian Sales Competition. So, what should businesses take into consideration as they look to digitize their business?

ASSESS YOUR CURRENT TECHNOLOGY
Start by evaluating what technologies already exist in your arsenal, including the capabilities of the technologies, what’s being used and what’s not. From there you can evaluate what gaps need to be filled.

“When things are going well, you sometimes don’t look as critically at your business as you do during the tough times. Make sure to take this time to look at the foundation of your organization and improve it,” said Asad. “With technology, you want it to support your workforce to be more successful, productive and efficient. The problem is that unless you implement things properly, you’ll never get the value from it.”

From there, focus on acquiring technologies that can empower your business, whether that means collaboration tools to keep remote workers engaged, adopting a more secure e-commerce platform or installing workplace monitoring tools to ensure safe distancing as your business reopens.

LOOK BEYOND THE SOLUTION
Our gut instinct usually tells us to choose a product based on its functionality and features. However, when you’re investing in new technology, you should approach it as you would any other business partnership.

For Asad, that means working with a technology partner that will help him get the most of the solution and help him understand how it fits into his broader technology ecosystem. A trusted technology partner should be there every step of the way to help you troubleshoot issues, maximize use and plan for the future.

“Go with a partner whose product will make an immediate impact on your business in today’s world and who can help you get the most value over the long-term.”

PREPARE YOUR WORKFORCE FOR THE FUTURE
Once you’ve laid the technology foundations of your business, it’s just as crucial to continue investing in the talent and skills of your workforce to help them keep up with this new digital world. This can be as uncomplicated as attending a webinar or online workshop hosted by your solution provider or industry association.

Keeping up with industry trends and best practices should also remain a priority. Most importantly, digital transformation doesn’t need to be difficult: just remember to simplify, to start small and to continue learning.

Get the free guide on how to adapt: Beyond Survival: A Resiliency Guide for Small Business