President and CEO of Vodafone US Inc., leading Vodafone Business commercial operations throughout North America.
In the last two years, businesses of every size have confronted the impact of COVID-19, including supply chain shortages, inflation, the rise of hybrid work and the Great Resignation. If there’s any lesson to be gained from these experiences, it’s that flexibility and agility are vital.
To ensure their resilience, organizations are spending big on digital transformation. Gartner projects that worldwide IT spending will total $4.4 trillion in 2022, increasing 4% over 2021. Gartner also says this aggressive spending isn’t a temporary blip—it’s a long-term trend. It also points to projected double-digit growth in spending on enterprise applications and infrastructure software in 2023.
It’s often pointed out that digital transformation proponents are companies’ intrapreneurs—the employees who champion innovation in development, production and even marketing. They push their organizations to embrace emerging technologies that improve manufacturing processes. These employees want their businesses to become more dynamic and flexible so they’re better able to handle whatever comes next. Intrapreneurs also know their supply chains and logistics need reinvigoration—an area that I’ve pointed out is ripe for digital transformation.
Every Company Is A Tech Company
At an increasing number of small companies, intrapreneurs use technology to reach the marketplace faster. For example, small-scale cosmetic companies have found success by rapidly manufacturing new makeup formulations based on social listening on Twitter and Instagram.
However, legacy SMBs are struggling to keep up. It could be said these companies have fallen into the digital transformation gap. For example, a long-established manufacturer of plumbing supplies probably doesn’t think of itself as a technology company. So, it still uses tried-and-true methods that worked in the past. This means the company can’t support a distributed workforce and is likely saddled with inefficiencies and waste.
Now, this plumbing company is playing catch-up because competitors with a technology mindset have lower prices, higher-quality products, better customer experiences and faster deliveries. The company needs intrapreneurs to help transform the business.
To avoid the digital transformation gap, here’s how SMBs can transform their businesses.
1. Seek Out A Telecommunications Partner
In some cases, large-scale companies collaborate with their downstream suppliers through regular check-ins and process evaluations. Smaller companies, however, can look to telecommunication partners for help. Well-established telecoms can advise these businesses on 5G and mobile private networks (MPN) technologies. For the highest value, SMB intrapreneurs could consider choosing a telecom partner that specializes in emerging technologies and offers training programs that explain their business’ technologies.
2. Focus On Cutting Waste
Of every dollar companies spend, 20% is wasted because of inefficient processes. That’s money you can regain with emerging technologies.
For example, manufacturing waste often happens because of information silos. Telecom solutions like MPN, edge, IoT and 5G can break down the silos by keeping all aspects of an organization in sync. Emerging technology allows businesses to track assets by receiving geofence alerts and checking battery status in a tracking portal. Additionally, all pre-programmed devices can be monitored via machine-to-machine direct communication. All of this can help reduce theft and loss of valuable operational and supply chain assets.
3. Reduce Returns With Visual Inspection
With visual inspection technology, companies can ensure they’re producing top-quality goods because cameras equipped with AI-based sensors are faster than the human eye.
I know a company that manufactures car seats, and it uses visual inspection to check for the slightest manufacturing errors in the product. If a stitch isn’t quite right, the system catches it and sends the item back for repairs. This helps with reducing returns, lowering costs and increasing the number of happy customers.
4. Opt For Predictive Maintenance
With sensors and data analytics, systems can predict when something is about to go wrong and preemptively service equipment before the problem affects the business. This is a significant advance over preventative maintenance that maintains equipment on a rigid schedule.
While the initial investment for predictive maintenance technology may be higher than the preventive maintenance regime, returns improve as the algorithms adjust to the data. According to data compiled by PwC, companies can decrease maintenance costs by 12% and improve availability by 9%. Predictive maintenance also extends the lifetime of an aging asset by 20%, reducing risks to safety, health and the environment by 14%. (It’s worth remembering that as much as half your preventative maintenance budget is wasted.)
While digital transformation isn’t easy, it isn’t just for big companies. It’s an opportunity for companies to reinvent themselves and find new, more efficient ways to produce and sell their products. As long as businesses listen to their intrapreneurs, they can prepare for whatever could be coming next.