To digitise or not to digitise? That is no longer even a question. Social distancing, online shopping and various levels of lockdown are going to be our reality for many months to come.

You need to get on with evolving your business to not only trade digitally but to run as efficiently as possible behind the scenes writes, Kojo Baffoe.

For years, it felt as if the digital transformation of a business has been the realm of big business. As we transitioned from major IT infrastructure to a mobile app and digital driven world, the opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses to get in on the act has increased but the uptake hasn’t necessarily been resounding. For many entrepreneurs, trying to build your product or service while learning all the other aspects of running a business often results in very little time or energy to decipher and decide on how digitisation would look, specifically for their business.But, now, with the current climate globally, entrepreneurs cannot keep putting digitisation on the back-burner.

Digitisation is defined, by Technopedia, as “the process of converting analogue signals or information of any form into a digital format that can be understood by computer systems or electronic devices.”

In this instance, I use digitisation and digital transformation interchangeably and go beyond simply digitising and/or automating some of your processes and explore how you can use technology to completely transform your business.

Efficiency is the new order of the day

The reality is that, while the benefits to digitisation are numerous, with how technology has flipped the world on its head, not going this route will result in your business simply being left behind, especially at a time in history when your continued operations depend on creating processes that are as efficient as possible. Firstly, digitisation can make your support services more efficient. For example, when it comes to managing finances and invoicing, the process continues to be cumbersome for many entrepreneurs. Platforms such as Quickbooks and Sage make it easier to manage and, in some cases, automate the process. In addition, a lot of the banks also provide accounting services. It can be a little time-consuming to set things up on the front-end, but once done, it becomes smoother. No more looking for a customer’s contact details or trying to remember what their tax number is to include on the invoice. Beyond invoicing, these and other solutions can assist with payroll and, therefore, HR, amongst other things, especially as you are scaling your business. They also enable you to see, in real time, how the business is doing financially, which is even more critical today because data drives decisions.

Digitisation is more than having a website

Personalisation has become a catchphrase in recent years with consumers looking for products and services that speak to them. To keep up with each customer’s needs as well as to ensure that your sales funnel is effective and efficient, there are various Customer Relations Management (CRM) solutions available online, which enable you to keep track of your customer interactions, storing information like contact details, logging calls, tracking emails, reminders to contact, tracking campaigns and managing your sales team, even if it is just you.

What digital transformation of your business does is improve productivity, enhances efficiency, streamlines operations, ensures that your business is flexible, agile and responsive and frees up energy and focus by removing cumbersome tasks from yourself and your staff. The next level of digitisation is in terms of using technology to expand your reach when it comes to the products and services that you provide. We cannot depend on people walking into our premises or going out to them, with face-to-face interactions being restricted in one form or another for the foreseeable future.

Small business has not taken as much advantage of the opportunities and possibilities of going online and, while these are increasingly abundant, it is not just about creating a website and hoping for the best. Key, especially with physical products, is packaging, consistency/quality control, delivery/distribution and awareness.

Now is the time to:look at the products/services that you provide and determine how to package them for online supply.

Explore platforms through which you can sell your products online, such as Takealot, Loot, Jumia, Bid or Buy, Olx, etc. If you are considering creating your own e-commerce platform, it could be through your own website – with, for example, Google My Business, GoDaddy or WordPress – or through a platform like Shopify. Consider payment gateway options, from a MasterCard and Visa to a Payfast and Yoco. Yoco also enables you to process payments online in various cost-effective ways. Digitisation was already a necessity, but the global coronavirus pandemic has made it even more critical. It can be overwhelming so taking a phased approach is probably your best bet, but you have to start if you want your business to flourish in years to come. Digital transformation is no longer an option.