Digital Transformation in SMEs

Mann der mit Stift etwas auf einem Tablet schreibt
Rapid progression of digitalization presents SMES with opportunities as well as challenges. The following insights provide a starting point for how these can best be mastered.

The digital transformation presents SMEs with various challenges: For example, many SMEs find it difficult to plan and implement the digitization of their business at a strategic level in a goal-oriented manner. SMEs also often lack digital skills or have limited resources.

It all sounds a bit intimidating, but there are also solutions that open new opportunities, as Bramwell Kaltenrieder, Professor of Digital Business and Innovation, explains. At Rochester-Bern’s online lunchtime talk, he gives some input on how to successfully deal with digital transformation as part of the “CAS SME Management” program.

There are various ways in which SMEs deal with digitization on a strategical level: One option is to make the existing business more efficient and customer-friendly (Digitally Enhanced Business). However, SMEs can also develop additional business models that address the same market (Digitally Expanded Business). An example of this would be Hilti, which no longer just sells tools but now also offers an all-round service. Another option is to establish a new business field oneself or through an investment (New Digital Business). This is what SBB did, for example, when it entered into a collaboration with the car-sharing company Mobility.

“It is impossible to drive all three strategies as an SME. You must decide what is the right path for your company – focus is relevant,” says Kaltenrieder. Thus, an important factor for success is to clearly define the thrust and not try to do too much at once. “Better to do less but do it right – and involve cadre and employees in the process,” Kaltenrieder adds. Once the direction is set, measurable goals can be defined so that everyone can see where the journey is going, and progress can also be monitored.

Of course, it is also important that the necessary competencies are available in the company. For this purpose, a competency model can be introduced, which among others defines the new digital skills relevant for the company. On this basis, the actual situation can then be surveyed, and further training and recruitment measures planned. Support programs can also be useful in this regard. “In Switzerland, there are many attractive offers, especially for SMEs and startups,” says Kaltenrieder. Innosuisse, for example, offers support for innovation projects with support partners from the university sector or credits for preliminary studies.

Anyone who wants to learn more about the topic of digital transformation and management in general should have a look at our Programs.