An important lesson that we learnt in 2020 with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic was that digital transformation and innovation in companies is inevitable. Even though most of the companies did not plan to “move so quickly” into the digital world, they still had to undertake steps to adapt to the new reality and apply digital technologies in their business so that they could continue operating in the new circumstances.
The business plans companies had at the start of the year changed radically in many instances because the corona crisis had a permanent impact on the enterprises and economies around the world. The pandemics and quarantine spurred digitalization on and accelerated the companies’ transfer to digitalization of work processes. Even before the pandemic it was clear that digital transformation is an unavoidable process that leads to a more efficient business, not only for companies, but for state institutions and public administration as well, and now it is clear that this transformation is necessary and inevitable for those enterprises that were caught unprepared.
Digital transformation is still an abstract idea. It does not mean only connecting the team remotely or making work from home possible, using project management tools or ZOOM, opening online shops or using social media, but it refers to a complete change of operations – in the entire business context. It means organizational and operational, as well as digitalization of all processes, including transformation of the culture in a company. It should be stressed that transformation is a process, not a goal with a specific end, but constant progress and change to ensure maximum staff efficiency and productivity, i.e. optimization of user experience (UE), innovation and flexibility.
For many companies, making the first step is often a major problem, i.e. when and how the transformation should start, what changes should be introduced first, what needs to be done at the start. To help the companies with the digitalization of their processes, there are guides for digital transformation (link to the guide on the Masit website) and consultants who can share best practices and point the enterprise to the easiest way to do it. Also, for the best start, the company should analyze and evaluate the level of digitalization it has achieved and identify the bottlenecks, the doubling of processes, which result in major inefficiency. This analysis could help the companies to better understand and assess their situation and level of digital transformation, and based on this develop a plan for digitalization and asses what can be improved with its implementation.
Also, in order to demystify the process itself, the plan lists the technologies that are mostly used/implemented in the process and that can completely change the business. The Cloud is always taken as the basis and starting point for introducing digital transformation. Today the Cloud has become indispensable to almost all companies, whether they are small enterprises or multinational corporations with many employees. Cloud technology has become key for the process of digital transformation.
What is CLOUD and why do we hear this word so often? CLOUD is basic IT infrastructure and means storing data on the Internet instead of locally on a hard drive. Not only data, but entire systems are stored and maintained on the CLOUD platform for security reasons. It is server infrastructure of a specific DATA CENTRE, with many advantages because professionals are in charge of the infrastructure, unlike storing data on local computers/servers where it could be destroyed overnight. Using Cloud allows the company flexibility and agility. Other technologies include: Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Big Data, Business Intelligence (BI), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), 3D Printing and all of this is mainly done on a cloud service, such as: Infrastructure as a service (IaaS), Platform as a service (PaaS) and Software as a service (SaaS). It is important to mention two contemporary principles – Digital‑first and Mobile‑first, as well as the application of top-of-the-line IT security measures.
In addition to the abovementioned technologies, this year brought new trends and options that the companies can apply. The first such trend is, of course, the new generation of mobile networks. The impact and the significance of 5G will not be related only to mobile devices, but almost all industries will feel the strong and positive impact of the development of 5G – for example, it will influence the development of smart cities, smart vehicles and production. Another such trend is advanced data analytics. It was not possible before to collect such big quantities of data as today, and now it is possible to analyze and turn them into specific information for customers and markets. Industry notwithstanding, advanced analytics is a key element in the process of digital transformation and one of the focal points of the transformation itself.
Another trend is artificial intelligence. Namely, in order to collect and process increasingly bigger quantities of data, it is necessary to make additional investments in artificial intelligence and machine learning; thanks to these technologies it is possible to analyze complex databases in a time much shorter than two years ago.
Current situation with companies in North Macedonia
According to the only research in the country about the digital maturity of small and medium enterprises (conducted by Macedonian Telecom in cooperation with IPSOS), which covered a representative sample of 530 companies, only 28% of the companies are digitally mature.
The analysis aimed to investigate how much the Macedonian companies implement the following digital segments: online communication, online marketing, security services, confidentiality services, use of software and server services, and are they aware of their importance as a condition for business development. Big companies in the country have a much higher digital index (level of using digital services), which is not the case for small and medium companies. As many as 37% of the companies with 1-9 employees do not apply digital tools, 93% of them do not have online payments for their customers nor use online protection. The research showed that a large number of companies in this segment still do not have websites, social media profiles and are not concerned with data safety.
About the Author
Biljana Severinova is an independent management, strategy, marketing, and business development consultant, specializing in the SME sector, with over 18 years’ experience.
She is an experienced consultant with a strong background in banking and finance, communications, marketing, and sales.
She does access-to-finance, appealing strategies, innovations, marketing, branding, and market export projects for small and medium enterprises in Macedonia, especially experienced with companies involved in local production, agriculture, and ICT.