Technology, the change agent of our generation, is transforming the business landscape by enabling small and midsize businesses to streamline processes, improve productivity and get ahead of competitors.
In a recent study conducted by SMB Group and my team at Vistage, 218 CEOs from small and midsize businesses shared their approach to digital transformation. Nine-out-of-ten CEOs reported that technology is changing their business in significant ways: reshaping their industry, evolving their business practices, transforming their workplace and culture, and ensuring their survival and growth.
Despite this, only half (51 percent) of CEOs have a digital business strategy underway.
Why is this a problem? Without a well-defined strategy, CEOs end up learning lessons about digital transformation the hard way. This is especially true when it comes to technology integration, which many CEOs are ill-equipped to handle; only 37 percent of respondents said they have dedicated IT staff.
Spare yourself the pain. Follow these five technology truths shared in our latest report.
1. Get used to this pace.
Technological advancements won't ever slow down. They'll just continue to get faster. Blockchain, artificial intelligence and 5G networks are already here, ushering in the next seismic wave of change. The reality is, you'll always be under pressure to keep up with the next best thing -- but a clear strategy will help you know where to direct your investments.
2. Expect to spend.
It's not a good idea to short-change investments on infrastructure, applications and IT talent that are critical to your business. Technology isn't cheap and will usually cost more than you think. Accept the fact that quality comes with a cost, and the alternative is automating chaos.
3. Realize that transformation is hard.
IT projects will always take longer, cost more and be more difficult to complete than you originally thought. The combination of shifting to digital-first thinking and transforming ingrained processes will test you, your team and your employees in ways you never considered.
4. Tighten up your cybersecurity.
The benefits of using data to manage your customers, employees, operations and financials carry significant risk in the form of cyber threats. Every day, cybercriminals are working to exploit vulnerabilities in your digital security, and they'll never let up. If you have digital IP, your business is all about your data, so you need to protect it as vigilantly as your cash and investments.
5. Remember that it's still about people.
Technology can do amazing things. But it's only powerful when it empowers leaders, managers and workers to make better decisions, and when it provides information that improves productivity. It's how customers use technology to engage with you -- and how your people use technology to get closer to your customers -- that propels a digital-first company into the future.
Remember, digital transformation is not an IT project; it is a leadership initiative. It will only succeed if you can create the behavioral change required to embrace and fully capitalize on digital-first processes and systems. You can measure adoption by looking at logins or usage statistics. But the true potential of technology is only realized when everyone adopts and embraces it.