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Digitalisation for SMEs

Digitalisation can be daunting for SMEs but we can help.

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By, Kathryn Cullen Programme Director at Technology Ireland DIGITAL Skillnet 

It can be difficult for leaders of SMEs and micro companies to see the entirety of what digitalisation can do for their business. Of course, they are aware of it but digitalisation is complex, and they have a lot on their plate.

With so much going on, it is tempting for business leaders to go for the quick win – to attempt to solve one pressing problem without considering whether that solution is going to be compatible with the future needs of their business model.

The consequence of this more piecemeal approach is that they can get burned. Companies can find that they invested in expensive technology that is not a fit with the other digital moves they have to make down the line. This can cause them to be cautious and to refrain from further digitalisation.

But the reality is that digitalisation is no longer an option. It’s an imperative but must be managed with a long-term focus. Companies that embrace it in this way can expect to experience better access to new markets, innovation and competitiveness. Companies that don’t embrace it will fall behind.

"But the reality is that digitalisation is no longer an option. It’s an imperative but must be managed with a long-term focus."

Overall, Ireland as a whole is in a good position for embracing digitalisation. According to the European Commission’s Digital Economy & Society index, it is the fifth most digital country in the EU. However significant numbers of our SMEs and micro companies still lag behind. The argument for seizing the initiative is compelling – SMEs dominate the Irish economy and McKinsey forecasts that a full embrace of digital could add €550 billion to Irish GDP by 2030.

As was the case in other countries, the Covid-19 pandemic forced Irish businesses to accelerate their digitalisation. However, it was a reactive response to an extreme situation and may not have been optimally implemented for the longer-term. For many it was purely survival and maintaining existing custom rather than generating new value generators. Moving to digital was the answer to business continuity in a crisis, but for digitally progressive SMEs digital is really a journey that should help foster resiliency and enable them to generate and capitalise on competitive advantage, innovation and access to new markets.

The problem is that digitalisation can be daunting for many businesses. Companies can be overwhelmed by the jargon involved and struggle to know where to start their digitalisation journey. They don’t have the expertise or resources to build up unique digital capacities and have a fear of wasting time and money on technologies that aren’t future-proofed to sustain their business.

The feedback we get at Technology Ireland DIGITAL Skillnet is that SMEs are looking at digitalisation, that they are aware of it and are trying to make changes, but they have been quite disparate in adopting digital strategies.

We recommend that they are clear in their overall framework and in the strategy that they are pursuing. They need to assign a step plan and priority of how they are going to change their strategy. They need to flesh out the core values and mission of their company and the service that it is giving to customers.  They then need to start evaluating the complexity of the changes they want to make to get to their desired end state– whether that be internal technical development or buying third party applications and integrating those into their organisation. It may even mean adopting a completely new business model.

"Enabling digitalisation is a priority in Ireland and Technology Ireland DIGITAL Skillnet is there to support SMEs on their journey."

Once they create a taxonomy of everything they do and how they do it, there will be quick wins where they can create efficiencies or eradicate or automate. However, companies on this journey must always work towards foundational strategic goals.

The good news is that there is support. There is a clear mandate coming from the Irish government, from Europe, from Technology Ireland and from Skillnet Ireland that SMEs need to be looked after and supported on their digital journey.

Digital Skillnet has two strategic programmes that will support and inform your digital transformation – Transform, which is a digital transformation and innovation programme, and a Master’s programme in Electronic & Computer Technology (IOT).

Transform is a part-time foundational programme that explains to leaders the digital mindset they need to have to grasp what is happening in the digital economy, where it is going, and what culture they need to create in order to be successful in a fluid and rapidly changing environment. 

Transform is open to in-company training all through the year and is totally flexible and customisable for each organisation. It also has an open programme for leaders and employees starting in September 2022. It is perfect for SMEs to get their heads around what they need to do first and to support them as they go through their transition. Amongst other things, SMEs will learn to understand the potential for AI, robotics, automation and other technologies for their organisation.

Enabling digitalisation is a priority in Ireland and Technology Ireland DIGITAL Skillnet is there to support SMEs on their journey. Our next two blog posts will go into detail on how our Transform and Master’s in Internet of Things (IOT) programmes can help your company manage its digital transformation.



Transform Link IOT Link