Powered by the rapid rise of growing economies like China, India and Southeast Asia, the world is increasingly shifting economic weight to the Asia Pacific region. This part of the world stands as a beacon of growth and opportunity for entrepreneurs. With this growth also comes the emergence of new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, promising to bring about even greater development. However, while these new technologies are dominating headlines, the foundation of a secure IT infrastructure and technology to enhance productivity and overall business growth must not be overlooked.

With all the promise that technology holds, one might be led to believe that businesses, particularly small enterprises hungry to grow their market share, would hop on the bandwagon to leverage its potential. Many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are doing so but there’s also the gap in some SMBs which are not digitalizing fast enough. According to the Cisco APAC SMB Digital Maturity Index (Index), 43% of SMBs in the Asia Pacific region recognize that competition is transforming and they must keep pace.

However, the reality is that digitalization remains a challenge for most. According to the Index, over a third (39%) of SMBs across the Asia Pacific region are stuck in a state of digital indifference – the lowest form of digital maturity, with little understanding of and have no digital strategy in place. Meanwhile, half (50%) were deemed digital observers, putting them in the earliest stages of transformation. This leaves only a handful of expert digital challengers and digital native SMBs, which have mastered the art of technology integration. While there are varying levels of digital maturity, here’s how SMBs can level the playing field with competitive advantages:

– Talent is a covetable asset: It’s a competitive hiring market. With everyone vying for the same digital skills, all of which are notoriously short in supply, SMBs shouldn’t underestimate the importance of company culture and employer brand, as well as, the advantage of flexible work practices in attracting talent. Cultivating a culture that attracts and promotes diversity and inclusion will open up hiring opportunities and attract talent that support the company’s growth priorities.

– The power of data and analytics: Cloud and analytics solutions must be integrated in the company’s digital strategy. Ensure there’s visibility into customer and operational data to strategize, inform and influence business decisions. Agility, simplicity and insights are competitive advantages in this complex world.

– Invest strategically: Customer experience is everything. A digital and seamless customer journey should be guiding principle of a business’ digital strategy. SMBs need to have a well-defined digital transformation strategy and roadmap. They need to use this as a guide to make strategic technology investments, ones that help them address their key challenges and leverage specific growth opportunities.

The Index also revealed that 61% of SMBs have started on their digitalization journey and transitioned to the cloud. With the transition to the cloud and challenges, SMBs face challenges such as a lack of IT resources, which also makes cybersecurity more important than ever. They are also at risk of cyberattacks and the threat shouldn’t be underestimated just because of their size.

We have worked with SMBs across various industries, including a technology start-up which develops and manufactures purpose-built Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV or simply put, drones) for the defence and commercial industry. Security is a big deal for this company since they supply drones that store classified information. Secure connectivity will help to fuel its future growth and achieve its ultimate goal:  To become the frontier for manned and unmanned space exploration from Australia.

Another example is the food manufacturer of the Camel brand of nuts, which is an example of a traditional SMB that saw the added value that technology could bring to business. Seamless wi-fi connectivity supported a more efficient inventory management process for the company. Another technology they looked at was virtual meeting solutions to facilitate communication with their overseas facility, eventually reducing travel costs without compromising on the experience of a face-to-face meeting, albeit achieved virtually. A focus on these two areas of the business helped to boost productivity and cost efficiency, also solved resource challenges, especially given the organization’s geographic span across markets around the world.

Business strategy, governance, talent and technology adoption are parameters of digitalization that business leaders must review and keep up with, in the face of an ever-changing market. Digitalization is no longer a forward-looking strategy, it is a reality for businesses to evolve their business and operational models as the world’s economic center of gravity shifts towards Asia Pacific.


This article was also published for Bastiaan Toeset by e27.

Find out more in the Cisco APAC SMB Digital Maturity Index and watch the replay of Cisco Live! Melbourne 2019 Innovation Talk: Small Business is Big Business

Originally Posted at: https://apjc.thecisconetwork.com/site/content/lang/en/id/10396