The COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated consumers’ demand for digital-first platforms, regardless of industry. But as much as we talk about digital tools and resources in the business world, many entrepreneurs continue to lag behind.

Needless to say, if digitization wasn’t a key priority in the past, it should definitely be top of mind now. Successful digitization can minimize your business’s risks and help you better compete with others in your niche.

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Taking steps to fully digitize your business will better allow your company to weather another crisis–like a pandemic.

1. Establish Clear Internal Protocols

Successful digitization starts with sound planning. It’s one thing to say you’re going to digitize a business process. But do you fully understand how this will affect your employees and customers? There is a learning curve and commitment of resources required with any digitization effort, and if you aren’t prepared, it could be more than your business is equipped to handle.

As Alyce L. Scott, a professor at San Jose State University explains, “The success of digital projects hinges not on expensive technology, but rather on sound project planning. Technology should never drive digital projects. Goals should be determined first, and only then should the appropriate technology be selected in order to meet a project’s objectives.”

While every company should have a website these days, most of the time, a particular digitization tool or technology isn’t going to be universally applicable to all businesses. By focusing on goals first, you can establish clear protocols that help you and your team evaluate your options and implement appropriate digitization changes.

2. Unleash The Power Of The Cloud

Most of us already use some form of cloud technology in our daily lives. Whether you’re binge-watching your favorite show on Netflix or streaming music through Pandora, you’re utilizing cloud technology that gives you access to this content without the need for any equipment other than an internet-capable device.

The same technology can do wonders for your business, as became clear during a recent conversation with Ajay Serohi, a supply chain and logistics expert, as well as a staff product manager at Tesla.

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Serohi explained, “Cloud technology enables business leaders and their employees to access and update crucial information from anywhere in the world. Cloud apps and systems can help you manage everything from payroll to the supply chain to enhance your efficiency. Customer relationship management programs can be particularly helpful in offering a centralized location of key information for sales teams. Because data can be updated in real time from multiple sources, cloud platforms give you truly accurate information for better-informed decision making.”

Best of all, cloud technology allows for platforms and software to scale alongside your business, without the need for expensive investments in new equipment.

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3. Identify And Leverage Digital Partnerships

Cloud technology naturally means that your business will begin using third parties to help facilitate your digitization efforts. While this can seem like you are simply adding to your business expenses, strategic use of automation tools and other digital service providers can greatly decrease your costs.

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As Lisa Schwarz, Senior Director of Global Product Marketing for Oracle NetSuite writes, “Automation projects can lead to increased engagement by shifting to technology the sort of rote tasks that keep people from picking up more interesting work or devoting time to skills development exercises that may boost productivity. McKinsey estimates that, in about 60 percent of occupations, at least one-third of workday activities could be automated. When considering productivity and time management, not to mention payroll, tax compliance and reporting and AP, ensure automation is part of the conversation.”

As part of your planning efforts, you should give special attention to tasks or processes that could benefit from automation. Of course, there are several automation tools and SaaS platforms that largely perform the same functions.

To make the most of your budget, carefully evaluate the various tools that could automate desired tasks. Don’t just look at the initial pricing. Tools that offer the ability to scale as your company grows will likely be better equipped to handle your needs for the long run. Checking third-party reviews is always a plus, too!

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Start Now To Come Out On Top

So what’s the best way to ensure that your digitization efforts pay off? In addition to following the aforementioned guidelines when digitizing your brand, the number one solution to ensure you get the desired results is to start now.

While this may sound simplistic to some, the truth of the matter is that many businesses fail to unlock the full potential of digitization because they are dragging their feet. Whether they are reluctant to digitize a paper filing system or are wary of SaaS, they miss out on opportunities to improve their efficiency and profitability.

In reality, you probably aren’t as far behind your competitors as you might think. McKinsey reports that 31 percent of businesses have fully automated at least one of their functions or processes — but that means the majority still haven’t done so. You’re not necessarily playing catchup. You’re positioning yourself to get ahead.

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A famous Chinese proverb states: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Even if digitizing your brand feels daunting, or you feel like you’re behind your top competitors, the best solution is to start your digitization efforts as soon as possible.

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