Are small and medium-sized businesses missing out on digital trends?
Numbers do not lie: Only one in four small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has invested in improved digital technologies in recent years. The situation is somewhat better for larger SMEs with more than 50 employees, where almost every second company has completed such projects.
Some of our customers are also skeptical at first when it comes to new digital business models, marketing automation or data-based approaches. In many cases, however, this scepticism is not fed by ignorance, disinterest or a lack of daring, but by caution, deliberation and a healthy business sense. In the end, every investment remains a risk with an uncertain outcome. And the implementation and necessary changes are not easy and hold high frustration potential.
In our work with customers, we see how the expectations placed on us are changing. It is no longer a question of simply setting up a digital service, but primarily of successfully operating it. Here, we rely on co-creation – development of the solution together in an overarching team that brings our know-how to where it is most effective: the heads of the responsible employees. We arouse passion, curiosity, and the will to develop. And answer the question: Where does it make sense to invest in digitisation?
Trend 1: Design Thinking finds its way into medium-sized businesses
Strictly speaking, the first digital trend for medium-sized businesses is not digital at all, but Design Thinking. However, this method for generating ideas and product development has become standard practice in the digital environment – and is seen by SMEs as a way to become more innovative again.
What makes Design Thinking so interesting for SMEs? Traditionally, innovation and creativity are said to be for experts: engineers, scientists, and developers. Design Thinking focuses on pragmatics. Experts come together with the customers, with sales and marketing personnel, and develop an overall picture of the problem: the customer journey. In the end, only what really reaches the customer – and works – is built.
This makes the method a good antidote to the proverbial service desert in Germany: For example, the IHK Middle Ruhr Area uses Design Thinking to involve as many employees as possible in the change process towards self-organisation.
Trend 2: VR is dead, long live VR!
At first glance, the big VR/AR hype finally seems to be over. VR Oculus Rift, Vive and Playstation VR have found their way into living rooms and children’s bedrooms. And with Oculus Quest, again this year autonomous all-in-one VR goggles that no longer need a powerful computer will come out. However, the Big Bang is yet to come. VR/AR is extremely healthy – especially in the B2B sector. The technology is now mature and highly professional.
Especially in B2B, VR/AR technologies are being successfully used in the training sector, in continuing education and in marketing. Complex medical interventions can be practiced, safety training can be conducted, or emergency situations rehearsed, and entire industrial complexes can be visited virtually. The “holodeck” effect – the feeling of really being in a different environment, is impressive – and it will remain the best option until we can “beam” ourselves somewhere else.
Trend 3: Internet of Things leaves the house
The IoT continues to attract. Devices equipped with sensors and networked via platforms are conquering not only production lines and smart homes, but increasingly entire buildings as well. Bosch is really highlighting this situation in its “Like a Bosch” campaign well.
The future belongs to learning, innovation-friendly rooms that can be adapted to the respective usage situations. With Enertiv 360, the start-up Enertiv offers a digital twin solution for buildings that can record and optimise the current usage data of all rooms. And with its Connected Spaces pop-up store concept, Samsung also offers its POSs an analytics solution for measuring user flow and behaviour in improvised sales rooms.
Trend 4: Robots now available for small budgets
Robots are becoming affordable: In 2018, robotic vacuum cleaners, lawnmowers and window cleaners finally found their way into the home – at low prices. This is also true for industrial robots. In 2017, more than 380,000 industrial robots were sold worldwide – almost 30 percent more than the previous year.
Inexpensive smart robots like the Panda from the Munich-based start-up Franka Emika are also affordable for smaller companies. Since November 2017, some 300 SMEs have used this robot to relieve employees of boring, repetitive tasks.
Toothbrushing robot: Why useless can be useful
And if you want to see what robots can be used for – but maybe shouldn’t be – we recommend the YouTube channel “Simone’s Robots”. A good start is her TED Talk “Why you should make useless things”.
Trend 5: Artificial intelligence in operations and logistics
Supply chain management, i.e. the control and optimisation of supply chains, offers – besides marketing and sales as well as manufacturing and production – the largest potential for AI solutions, according to the study “Notes from the AI frontier” by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI).
Currently, only 15 percent of all small and medium-sized manufacturing companies (SMEs) use AI technologies (BMWi study).
Digitalised processes avoid storage and delivery bottlenecks. Artificial intelligence recognises relevant figures amidst the data chaos, which allows analysts to make risk assessments. Sensor data from IoT devices are evaluated and can predict the failure of important machines by means of Predictive Maintenance. It’s no easy task, but one with great potential: With the Luminate Control Tower, JDA offers a software as a service solution (SaaS) that puts artificial intelligence in the supply chain without the necessary infrastructure having to be built from the ground up.
How we can help
Curious? Is there a topic you’d like to address? We’re happy to help. We’ll sit down with you, define the desired business objective and then team up to develop a pragmatic and customer-oriented solution. Together we’ll make it work – and help your employees operate it and continue to develop it in the future themselves. Simply contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.