The world has well and truly bitten the digital bullet.
From farming to pharmaceuticals, hospitality to healthcare, almost every company in every industry has entered the digital world to some extent – hastened, of course, by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Paul Drake, director of operations at Teesside-based software firm Sapere, said: “In truth, the race for digitalisation has been happening for years but it’s now taking place at a much more accelerated pace.
“This is thanks in part to the pandemic but also due to huge facilitators like Google, Amazon and Facebook, who set the standard in digital efficiencies and, in doing so, drive change in consumers’ and businesses’ behaviour and how they expect to transact and interact with each other.
“Over the years, this has of course had a direct impact on how businesses need to position themselves digitally by trying to introduce better and more efficient ways of working.”
But who is responsible for these digital innovations, especially in smaller companies?
As Paul points out, more often than not, nobody – and this needs to change.
“When we look at small businesses, they don’t tend to have the traditional boardroom setup,” he says.
“They most likely have an accountant to advise them on the financials, an external HR expert to help with staff and potentially a business advisor to assist with the growth of the business.
“But what they won’t have is a digital expert to recommend the strategic digital direction of the business – why not?
“If the world is moving more and more towards automation and digital, this is surely a key role to add to the advisory team of a business?”
Indeed, research has shown that a digital presence in the boardroom has a positive impact on a company’s overall success.
A University of Westminster study examined the relationship between digital expertise on boards and its impact on companies, concluding that there were correlations between their presence and a number of success factors, including boosting overall performance by as much as five per cent.
Even without taking the benefits into consideration, the risks of not having an appropriate expert on board speak for themselves.
Paul adds: “Most small businesses won’t have a digital expert working for them, so for a business owner to understand what digital solution they need and how to implement them will be a huge challenge.
“Implementing the wrong solution can be almost as detrimental as doing nothing in the first place.
“We understand that investing in digital solutions can be expensive, but implementing the wrong solution without a well-thought-out strategy and roadmap will almost certainly negate the benefits that digital solutions can – and should – bring.”
To truly harness the power of digital, change needs to come from the top down, Paul argues.
“All of these challenges can easily be eradicated with the help of a digital expert advisory board, which will put businesses on the best possible footing for digital transformation for years to come,” he says.
“Just like an accountant, the digital expert should be there to help formulate and oversee a digital strategy to improve the efficiencies of a business.”
However, it’s important to note that businesses for whom digital isn’t integral to their entire operations do not need to keep up with every advancement – the basics are enough.
Paul adds: “For many businesspeople, the digital world can seem like a scary place and it is certainly fast-paced.
“In reality, it doesn’t need to be intimidating and nor does a business need to keep pace with the rapid pace digital change.
“The fundamentals of software development haven’t radically changed over the past 20-plus years, there are just different ways of doing the same thing.
“With a digital expert on the board, businesses can sort the wheat from the chaff, instead being lured into buying the Emperor’s new clothes without any thought into how or if this will fit with the way the business needs to work.”
A digital strategy needs to be built into every business, new or old, to truly harness the opportunities presented by advances in technology – even if a full-time role is out of the question.
As Paul says: “At Sapere, we can only see the need for digital advice increasing. We would advise companies of every shape and size to bring in a digital expert once a month to add to the boardroom discussions.
“It could be the best investment they’ll ever make.”
For help on adding a digital expert to your advisory team, get in touch with Sapere on 01642 955645 or email firstname.lastname@example.org