Digitalisation, a source of immense opportunities for SMEs
For several years now, digitalisation has been meeting the growing needs of large companies that want to improve efficiency and meet the expectations of both customers (e.g. automated appointment scheduling, online information and sales platforms, interactive terminals and tablets, etc.) and employees (e.g. e-learning, intelligent production of Information 4.0 documentation, tablets, mobile devices, collaborative project monitoring tools, etc.).
These companies have really moved up a gear by taking the step from thinking about it to implementing a digital transformation.
However, the situation is different for small and medium-sized enterprises.
In Luxembourg, the 32,000 SMEs all too often neglect digitalisation, despite the fact that numerous advantages – optimisation of internal processes, improvement of the customer experience, online presence, accessibility, accessing new markets, new personalised services based on the sharing economy – are emerging thanks to digitalisation.
To improve their competitiveness and ensure their sustainability, these companies can no longer avoid the digital transformation of their processes, but how can they achieve this?
Reasons for. the low rate of SME digitalisation
The main obstacle for SMEs in the face of digitalisation is the lack of technical digital skills and the low level of familiarity with digital tools among employees.
Also, many business leaders may be reluctant to consider the costs associated with such a transformation and the lack of awareness regarding the potential benefits does not facilitate the launch of such a digitalisation process.
It is not easy for SMEs to think about change management, the transformation of information systems and management tools, and the necessary investments, and they could therefore use help and support to make their digital transition a success.
The advantages of digitalisation for SMEs
First of all, it should be noted that there is a multitude of offers in terms of digitalisation and that there are currently solutions adapted to SMEs (which represent 99% of businesses and 67% of employment on a European scale).1
To strengthen their competitiveness, SMEs must integrate digital tools into their internal processes, including management and production, as well as into their external processes, concerning the marketing of their products or services.
From the internal point of view of the organisation, digitalisation offers the opportunity to increase efficiency by equipping SMEs with digital tools facilitating daily operational processes such as planning, project management, recruitment or invoicing.
In addition, employees have professional expectations towards new technologies. The introduction of these new technologies in companies will not only simplify, but also automate the execution of certain tasks. This will allow employees to concentrate on value-added tasks. In the long term, these tools will help retain and attract talent, while at the same time providing a transcendent force for innovation.
Digitising for the benefit of customers
On the other hand, digital transformation promotes connectivity between SMEs and their customers through the use of digital tools that facilitate access to consumers and allow even the smallest companies to sustainably improve their operations, ensure better data management, innovate to better meet demand and take part in the country’s growth and the global economy.
As Michèle Detaille, Director of the ALIPA Group, which is active in the field of lifting equipment and industrial packaging, points out: “Digitalisation will help companies in a traditional field like ours to maintain their competitiveness and improve their results.”
The benefits of digitalisation are now widely proven. Numerous studies have shown that companies that go digital, experience a high rate of growth2. In France, for example, according to the Observatoire du numérique, the digital economy has become the main driver of productivity and growth in the globalised economy.
Luxembourg has also understood this: the challenge of digitalisation encourages entrepreneurship and helps to improve the country’s economic competitiveness.
The Luxembourg government has launched a number of initiatives in this direction to encourage SMEs to go digital, thereby highlighting the importance of the role of SMEs in the country’s economic growth for employment and economic activity.
Francine Closener, Secretary of State for the Economy, said: “We want to reach out to the VSEs that are lost. Between those who have a successful business and those who think it’s not for them, they are wrong. Many entrepreneurs don’t know they are entitled to aid, or they think it will be too complicated. We have simplified things so that this necessary support is accessible to everyone.
This aid also aims to eliminate the (sometimes psychological) barriers to the digitalisation of SMEs by raising their awareness and by providing a simplified approach and support accessible to all.
As the development of a genuine digital strategy has now become essential, several supports are made available to SMEs to enable them to begin their digitalisation phase in a less perilous way. Indeed, such a strategy can be vital for gaining efficiency, acquiring new customers, attracting and retaining talent and increasing visibility.
With the growth potential offered by digital technologies, SMEs can no longer afford to neglect their entry into the digital age.
Digital transformation IS a key element for their growth and competitiveness, as well as for the economic growth of the country.