by Shankar Venkat, Founder/CEO, Azure Digital

Digital Transformation is the new buzz jargon in the world of business. It sounds esoteric and mystical for the uninitiated.  Digital transformation is a business imperative, that businesses – large or small, simply cannot ignore in this digital age.

What is Digital Transformation ?     

Digital transformation involves using digital technologies to remake  processes and operations  to become more  efficient, effective and nimble.  The idea is to use technology not just to replicate an existing service in a digital form, but also enable business transformation, so as to be able to compete with digital start-ups  which are ‘Asset Light’ and ‘Technologically Agile’ . AirBnb, Homeaway, Oyo Hotels, are all digital start ups that are   upping the ante for established hotel chains like Marriott, Hilton, Accor Group. Uber, Lyft and Ola with their ride sharing Apps have upended the taxi business globally.  Amazon Prime and Netflix  are redefining how entertainment content is consumed, almost rendering movie theatres as a legacy of a past era !   

 Digital Transformation is an imperative of present times that Small & Mid size Businesses (SMBs) cannot afford to ignore. Digital Transformation initiative, if well executed, can enable small or mid-size businesses to become  nimble, efficient and scalable as well as achieve robust growth !  

A genuine digital transformation project involves fundamentally rethinking business models and processes, rather than tinkering with or enhancing traditional methods. It is not, as commonly suggested, simply the implementation of more technology systems and services. Digital transformation should create something new : that might be an improvement to customer experience (for example allowing customer self-service), streamlining the supply chain, or using insights from data to offer new products or services.

We illustrate digital transformation for small and mid-size business with a case study, where Azure Digital provided a ‘Digital Transformation ’ roadmap for a client who was in the business of providing renewable energy solutions for both residential and commercial purposes.

The client, a small business providing Solar panel installation for both residential and commercial purposes. The business was started by a Renewable Energy Engineer about 8 years back in New South Wales, Australia.Over the years grew to 18 employees, and installation work were sub-contracted.  The business grew steadily, and was expanding to provide sales and service to other regions and states. The firm had developed good reputation for providing quality installations and prompt service.

In early 2019, the firm appointed a Sales Manager to manage their growing team of Sales representatives. Sales Manager, who was few months into the role, felt that the information system and business processes in the firm were archaic, rudimentary and disconnected. The firm was using a popular accounting software, installed on a local server. All customer related information was running of a simple database system installed on desktop PC. The firm had a simple website, from which, it received inquiries. A Customer Services Administrator, whose primary role was to handle Inbound phone queries, as well as queries from the web-site managed the marketing and CRM (Customer Relations Management)  related tasks. The queries received were routed to the Sales Manager who assigned them  to the Firm’s  Sales reps and Sales agents. The Sales Manager did not have a comprehensive view of the sales pipeline,  sales inquiries, order bookings, order backlogs  etc. The information required to effectively manage had to be collated from multiple sources and managed manually, which was time consuming.   In his previous job, the Sales Manager  had a  CRM system which made his job relatively easy. So,  he discussed with  the firm’s CEO/Owner to consider implementing a CRM system. Based on a business reference, Azure Digital was invited to propose a CRM system.  

Azure Digital proposed a different approach. Rather than analyse CRM requirements and recommend a CRM system,  Azure Digital  proposed conducting a ‘Digital Readiness Assessment Workshop’ (DRAW) , a  proprietary discovery workshop, which dived deeper into the business, its processes and operations, rather than focus just on CRM. DRAW is an interactive session with Key Executives.

Diving  into the discovery process, Azure Digital’s consultants uncovered issues related to business processes and operations, which may not have been addressed, had the focus been only on CRM.

Listed are a few :

  • Quotation preparation was a cumbersome process, and as this was done manually.  Sometimes it took, couple of days to complete a quote  due to lack of relevant information.
  • There was no inventory system, providing real-time, Online status of inventory items to determine shortages and stock-outs
  • Marketing and Lead generation activities were executed manually
  • Customer database was woefully inadequate
  • Visibility on installation projects under execution and those completed were manually collated and presented. Most often, the information was outdated !   

At the conclusion of DRAW, a Digital Readiness Assessment “Spider Chart” was  prepared by Azure Digital and presented to the CEO/Owner and Sales Manager. The chart provided an assessment of ‘Digital’ priorities for the client’s business, outlining  :–

  • What aspects of the business operations need to be improved
  • How should these improvements be effected – by modifying the existing systems or implementing a new system.
  • There was consensus that a new ERP system be implemented, replacing the existing Accounting package, as the accounting package lacked many sophisticated features and functions beyond just accounting.
  • The Client also wanted Mobile App capabilities for Field Sales Reps, to access information or look up data, while out in the field
  • At the CEO’s level, there was a need to have a ‘Dashboard’ view of various Key Performance parameters

Azure Digital also demonstrated to the client how cost effective digital marketing campaigns can be executed with the new CRM system.  

There were other aspects that were addressed such as deploying the future system on Cloud, adopting pre-built features and functions and changing business processes in line with the solution’s pre-built functionalities.

Azure Digital presented a comprehensive and structured framework for digital transformation,  which will put the business firmly as a robust, nimble and scalable ‘Digital Enterprise’ . With the proposed system most of the business processes and operations will be automated, and will provide the ability to access information – anywhere, anytime ,with any device ! In the foreseeable future, AI and Machine Learning capabilities can also be leveraged to help for ‘decision making’ queries !  

The overall purpose of taking a ‘Digital Readiness’ approach was to demonstrate that small businesses should take a ‘Strategic’ approach in managing the business  rather than ‘Tactical’ approach. ‘Strategic’ approach’ enables managing the business holistically, unlike ‘Tactical’ approach’, which focuses on tackling day-to-day issues.