7 Guiding principles of digital transformation for SMBs

Organizations everywhere, from traditional tech giants, such as Google and Facebook, to SMB and small startups, are wondering which industry will be disrupted next. Banking, insurance, marketing, and retail have been changed drastically by technology and continue to change.

News of the tens of millions being invested by Fortune 500 leaders in their company’s digital future is everywhere. Although digital transformation may look expensive and possibly unreachable for SMBs, in many ways digital transformation is easier for them. They can move faster, usually have fewer obstacles within the company, and many startups focus on making the latest technologies affordable and ready-to-use for smaller companies.

Going digital has lots of benefits for SMB (see research), but, as with any new approach, you need to plan your strategy first.

Here are 7 guiding principles that can help your company move faster and be more ready for inevitable disruption.

1. Digital transformation is never-ending

Digital transformation is not a one time action, it is a process.

It’s not about new technology or a new platform, it is about a new approach for every process of your business. It’s about day-to-day experiments, research, innovations, and ideas.

You need to recognize that the process is endless. You can’t stop at any point and be sure that the digital transformation of your company is done, because change is the only constant.

Technology develops and changes so fast that you need to constantly keep your finger on its pulse.

2. Culture beyond technology

While you can’t control how technology changes the business landscape, by cultivating a “culture of innovation” in your organization you will be prepared to meet the changes and challenges.

Transformation won’t happen without people moving out of their comfort zones and overcoming their “we’ve always done it this way” attitude.

You need to create a culture/environment/system that sees change as opportunity, as opposed to a threat. While doing this takes time and effort it is essential if you want to be ready for disruption.

3. Smaller teams for better results

One characteristic of today’s technology is that it permeates deeply into every business process in your company. So it’s no surprise that smaller, cross-functional teams deliver better results than huge, dedicated IT departments with strong hierarchical structures. (See the full Deloitte report here).

That is another advantage of being a small and nimble business, small teams are your normal approach, whereas big companies need to adapt and reorganize to take advantage of smaller teams.

Cross-functional teams for digital transformation


4. Experiments as fuel for transformation

A big part of that innovative culture is constant experimenting. You won’t accomplish digital transformation by adopting a single technology, even the most innovative.

True transformation happens when you work step-by-step to improve your day-to-day workflow. This is an all-around good approach: it’s cost effective, time saving, and less stressful for the staff. And as you redesign every aspect of your business for better performance the results will be truly remarkable.

5. The rules of competition have changed

It used to be that keeping tabs on in your own industry, analyzing the competitive intel, drawing conclusions, making predictions and acting accordingly was the road to success. But that approach won’t suffice in these days of Amazon. You have to look further as technology shifts the playing field, competition is global and disruptive threats come from unlikely directions.

Apple Pay is a good case of how a traditional market was changed by an unexpected new player. Apple’s new technology combined with its huge user base and enormous cash flow, allowed it to disrupt the mobile payments industry.

It’s not just new technology itself, but the new business models they beget that you need to keep in mind when preparing your company to compete in the digital world.

6. Look around corners

Focusing on what to do tomorrow to remain competitive may seem logical, but doing so could cripple your company in the longer-term.

You need to think about and plan for the likely changes over the next five years. As you plan for newly introduced technology, you also need to consider tech that is almost here and how it will affect your business.

And you need to accept that, even as you write it, parts of your plan are already obsolete and it will need to be continually updated.

7. Cast a wide net

While SMB have many advantages when it comes to speed in adopting new technologies, large enterprises have access to more resources, financial and otherwise.

They have access to bigger databases, tools to crunch the data, and the experience to make informed decisions. They have more money to woo candidates with rare new technology skills. They can run more experiments in less time to get insights.

That’s why it’s so important for smaller companies to connect with experienced professionals. Doing so allows you to take advantage of best practices from a wide array of companies and industries.


Digital transformation is a trend you can’t ignore. The final result is the ability to stay competitive in a world that is changing at the speed of tech.
That doesn’t mean you need to be the major innovator in order to win your market

It does mean that if you are not ready to intelligently adapt and adopt the newest technology you will be left in the dust.

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