Why do SMEs find it difficult to create a digital strategy? Quite simply, companies are usually not big enough to set up their own digitalisation teams that are capable of defining a digital strategy. This means that they simply lack the expertise, understanding and manpower to keep up with larger companies that can afford to do so. In this blog article, we would like to provide a few insights for companies that do not yet have a digital strategy.

SMEs have a great deal of expertise about their own products and business model. Unfortunately, digital understanding is not as well developed as it could be. It is therefore important to have the digital strategy defined by the right people.

What is a digital strategy?

A digital strategy is a target image that defines where the company will be in 3, 5 or, for example, 10 years’ time and what the digital processes should look like then.

A digital strategy can cover various aspects:

  • Technological infrastructure
  • Customer orientation
  • Process optimisation
  • Risk management and security
  • Analysis & data
  • Change Management
  • ….

A digital strategy should therefore be defined as a target image of where the company should be in the future.

Why do you need a digital strategy?

If you don’t have a digital strategy, you don’t know where to start and what comes next. On the one hand, this leads to completely wrong requirements being placed on possible software solutions, as you don’t even know what’s coming next.

If a company already knows from its digital strategy that, for example, an ERP should store the documents in a DMS for audit-proof filing, then an ERP to be introduced can be selected according to precisely this principle. If the company is not aware of this, then the requirements are set in such a way that you start with the “first best” project and have to go back to it after completion because, for example, interfaces are missing or the processes have not been fully defined.

Who defines a digital strategy?

Ideally, the management should define a digital strategy – but not alone, please. On the one hand, IT is too complex – especially with the speed at which technology is developing these days – and on the other hand, the typical management of a traditional medium-sized company lacks the in-depth understanding of various digital technologies to be able to make professional decisions.

Another tip is the use of so-called shadow boards. Shadow boards allow people who have a certain expertise or understanding of certain technologies to make/prepare decisions on a permanent basis without having final responsibility. For example, digital natives can probably define a B2C marketing strategy based on the state of the art better than “experienced” managing directors can. So why not give existing employees in the company the chance to show what they can do and retain them in the long term?

Ultimately, especially when it comes to a long-term digital strategy, you should also bring in external consultants (we at amberSearch are not external consultants, however) who deal exclusively with digital strategy. Ideally, they should have knowledge of technology and the industry, whereby an understanding of the technologies is preferable in order to position yourself for the long term.

Who implements a digital strategy?

Digital strategies should not be implemented by the consultants who define them. So not your IT service provider either. This would lead to a conflict of interest. The IT service provider will recommend certain tools that they can use to “write hours”, as manual adjustments have to be made. However, there are standard tools for almost everything that are offered as a managed service with little effort and are perfect for SMEs, so that customisation is reduced to configurations. This can save companies a lot of money.

AI in the digital strategy

We say it again and again: don’t buy AI just to buy AI. As with normal software, software must always solve a problem and if there is a solution that delivers comparable or even better results than an AI, then it is perfectly valid to rely on such a solution.

AI is basically only a means to an end. That’s why we want to help companies define the right use cases for deploying AI in their organisation. If you want to do this, you are welcome to consider whether you would also like to define an AI strategy.

Change in the workforce

Nowadays, there are more and more knowledge workers whose task is no longer to come into the company with specific knowledge, but to make the right decisions based on existing/documented expertise. It is therefore primarily a question of using already digitalised know-how in other areas through transfer. In addition, the length of service of young employees in particular is decreasing, so it is becoming increasingly important to make existing expertise more accessible through digital tools. This change should and must be taken into account as part of the digital strategy:

  • How do we want to work in the future?
  • What do employees expect from us?
  • What do customers expect from us and how are their expectations of us changing?

With amberSearch, we would not be where we are today if we had not utilised and transferred our existing knowledge. We were already focusing on large language models in 2020 – long before they hit the mainstream in November 2022 with the release of ChatGPT.

And with our solution at amberSearch, we are supporting precisely this trend. With amberSearch, employees can quickly obtain a good basis for decision-making in order to make the right decision based on this. We therefore see ourselves as an assistance tool that helps employees to make better use of a company’s existing expertise.