Strategies for efficient growth in the era of digital transition

transizione digitale

The digital transition has revolutionized business management in significant ways, creating new opportunities for business growth while at the same time presenting new challenges. Access to a wide range of advanced data and technologies enables companies to expand faster and more efficiently, but doing so requires acquiring the skills to fully leverage these tools in the direction of one's goals.

Concrete and orderly digital transformation of this kind requires investment: in technology, in training, in processes. But another characteristic of the digital age is speed, which requires keeping up with the pace so as not to be left out of the game and lose competitiveness, then making changes quickly.

Businesses that want to grow today therefore face the dual challenge of seizing all the opportunities of digital and doing so quickly and efficiently. Money and time, however, are resources typically characterized by chronic scarcity, especially in today's changing and demanding society.

Therefore, on the one hand, it is necessary to define a dedicated budget for business digitization and identify possible sources of funding, and on the other hand, it is essential to have a figure or figures specifically designated to lead the transformation.

Why you can't give up on the digital transition

Faced with the difficulties identified in the previous paragraph-and the many others that can be presented to a business when faced with the challenge of digitization-so many businesses may be tempted to give up. By now, digital at a basic level is part of the everyday life of any business, so one can make that basic level suffice, get as far as one can, put a few patches here and there and just make a few superficial changes, right?

It may be enough perhaps to stay afloat, but probably for many economic sectors not even that. Not growing often means dying. Doing the same things today that were done yesterday often means spending more and succeeding less well than others-in two words, losing competitiveness. But also credibility and visibility.

Integrating digital into business processes makes it possible to make them more effective, identify and eliminate weaknesses, discover new points of view and new ways to reach the same goals, expand one's market share and services offered to customers, improve corporate image and internal and external communication, and thus become more competitive.

This does not mean that all companies should become high-tech, dematerialized or hyper-connected overnight: digitization needs are different depending on the type of company, product or service offered, structure, etc. Sometimes it is precisely the more traditional companies, for example agricultural or artisan companies, that have the greatest need to invest in this path, even though they seem the most distant from the concept of digital. Digitization can affect even gooonly some of the business processes, the most common of which are internal and external communication, human resource management and budgeting.

That is why it is important to have a point person or persons who can understand business needs and guide the digital transition. Their role includes indispensable tasks:

- Identify actual needs so as not to waste resources unnecessarily;

- Define the best strategies to address those needs specifically for each;

- Coordinate changes to integrate what is new with what should remain the same, always keeping the big picture in mind and with a fixed eye on the budget;

- Fostering the adaptation of corporate culture to new developments.

New management figures in the digital age

The role described in the previous paragraph is identified with a managerial position, in terms of decision-making power, authority, viewpoint placement, and type of duties.

However, it is common to find the situation in which managers in the various departments of a company do not have sufficient time or expertise to lead a digital transition that is consistent and coordinated with the rest of the business. The risk is always to implement half-hearted changes that do not harmonize with pre-existing processes, are not fully acquired by the staff, and end up not being beneficial, when not confusing and making the situation worse rather than better.

Especially in low-tech companies, moreover, there is often resistance to digital change, which needs to be managed comprehensively without resorting to imposition, a more hasty method, but rather by working on corporate culture from its foundations.

Clearly, depending on the starting situation and the areas on which action is needed, specific figures are needed, specially prepared and not improvised. The training of internal resources, while indispensable for any company, is also expensive and time-consuming.

A somewhat more efficient option is to hire ad hoc management figures already trained in digitization and new technologies. Depending on the development stage of the company, this may be a viable option if there is budget and flexibility in the organizational chart. One needs to do a thorough search based on competencies and provide for a phase of induction into the pre-existing team.

The path to growth is hardly easy and linear, and it is inevitable to have to make investments of time and economic and human resources. In this scenario, however, in addition to the procedures just listed, there is an alternative offered by the new fluid and dynamic configuration of the world of work.

In a labor market where the cost of hiring staff is high, the mismatch between supply and demand makes it difficult to find the right skills at the right time, and training must be continuous, different conceptions of work and new professional figures are emerging, especially in specialized fields and on managerial floors.

Smart working, goal-oriented work, flexible schedules, consultative work, and high specialization are the main characteristics shared by many of the most qualified figures in the new labor market and which meet both the needs of professionals eager for more freedom and more stimulation and those of companies in need of expert resources to support important changes for efficient growth.

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The temporary manager

Here, then, is the meeting of these two needs in the temporary digital manager, who intervenes in a targeted but holistic way in the areas of business that can be improved with digital, eliminating the costs of recruitment, hiring, and training, and guiding the company toward agreed-upon goals.

Specialized agencies have sprung up to analyze the needs of companies and select for them the most suitable temporary manager depending on the area of focus (e.g. HR, commercial, financial administration, but also overall digitization), who can manage the activities of an agreed strategy and coordinate the various operations. It is not only an activity comparable to that of a highly specialized employment agency, because the selected manager is supported throughout the process by experts who provide structural, technological, and strategic support, as well as a network of referral partners.

In the presence of a suitable and open business structure, this allows for targeted expertise, defining an effective strategy and clearing the field of all the practical tasks and obstacles that can slow down its implementation, putting the manager in a position to create a fruitful relationship with the company and achieve result goals in less time.

The budget for growth: from problem to opportunity

The other big issue for growing companies is capital. Again, the key to dealing with it is to outline a dynamic strategy that acts on multiple fronts and takes advantage of digital opportunities. There are many possible sources of funding for a company, and the most efficient way to tap into them is to combine them, selecting those most suitable for the company's stage of development and considering the possibility of pursuing them in parallel or leveraging one to access another and so on. There is also no shortage of government incentives for digitization, a theme dear to the European Union.

Considering only the more traditional sources of funding, such as banks or investment funds, is limiting and certainly not in line with the desire to be in step with the times that we mentioned at the beginning of the article. 

Alternative finance and the fintech world now offer valuable opportunities that enable people to achieve goals beyond the availability of economic resources. They certainly require learning something new, perhaps relying on new professional figures, rethinking some processes: as we have seen, all of these are indispensable for growth.

Perhaps the best-known example is crowdfunding, the online capital-raising system that takes the form of many different tools, all based on the mechanism of raising funds on dedicated web platforms from a "crowd" of people who become investors or backers of the company. The particularity of crowdfunding is that, more than a financial operation, it is a marketing operation aimed at increasing brand awareness, effectively communicating the company's vision and mission, creating involvement, building a network of loyal contacts, offering something unique to potential investors, and getting in touch with stakeholders useful to the company's goals.

An operation that aims at convincing people to participate in a crowdfunding campaign by investing their own money in the company, but has as decisive positive side effects the building of a robust multichannel marketing process, the increase of the company's visibility, the acquisition of new skills for online activities and a network. All this remains even after the end of the campaign and has a far greater and lasting value than the capital raised.

The digital transition, in conclusion, should be considered a means as well as a purpose, an opportunity as well as a challenge, because only in this way can it become both the goal and the path to efficient growth. A path that is never finished and always has new goals.

The author: Stefania Montemurro, founder di Maia Management

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