When asked why it’s so important to go digital, Stéphane Bousquet, Senior Manager, Digital Strategy and Operations at National Bank, had a clear answer: “I think it’s obvious. Doing this represents a beneficial change for all entrepreneurs. You can’t bury your head in the sand; your business will need technology regardless of your sector of activity or industry and whether you’re an artist, restaurateur or labourer.”
1. Evaluate your current situation
“This situation in 2020 has significantly restrained access to exclusive points of contact between entrepreneurs and their clientele. Within the Bank, for example, we quickly observed a sharp turn towards online channels to both oversee transactions as well as to communicate with our colleagues and clients,” the expert explains.
“This unprecedented situation turned a concept that many entrepreneurs saw as theoretical and avant-garde into something more concrete. Some were hesitant for a long time to adopt a digital strategy. Of course, there are others for whom it’s second nature, particularly among millennials, who are very familiar with e-commerce. However, this reflex isn’t as widespread as people think; a significant portion of Canadian entrepreneurs seem less comfortable with the idea of doing business online. But customers expect businesses to go digital.”
“Going digital doesn’t mean at all that the human aspect is taken out of the equation,” Bousquet illuminates. “Some entrepreneurs seem to hold this false belief. However, you can’t hide that the relationship angle may be affected in some situations, like within the context of social distancing, for example. One of the challenges we wanted to tackle at National Bank was how to maintain close relationships with our customers. Videoconferencing is a perfect tool for this.”
2. Do your research and find support
“Education is crucial,” the expert admits. “When talking about digital strategy, there’s a risk of falling into the trap of buzzwords like cloud computing, blockchain or cryptocurrency. But don’t let that dissuade you. I encourage you to find the right support. Find a partner or a mentor who will be able to help you learn about digital strategy. The goal here isn’t to turn you into a computer whiz; it’s to arouse your curiosity about information technology. Together, develop a digital transition plan focused on growing your business.”
“Online management tools, like National Bank’s Internet banking solutions for businesses, are increasingly simple and intuitive in their use. In fact, this platform is constantly evolving into an improved and refined product. Many accounting platforms have broadened their reach to integrate widgets that allow you to manage your invoicing and your accounts payable and receivable, or even view your transaction history without having to log into your financial institution’s portal. With good support, and by implementing the right tools, you’ll be able to grow your business and manage your cash better. You’ll be more productive, which means you’ll be able to devote more time to your daily activities.”
3. Take action
“Once you’ve established an environment conducive to change within your company, it’s time to take action. To do so, I recommend an iterative approach, meaning one that follows a well-structured plan divided into different steps. When adopting something new, if you take on too much at once, you’ll get overwhelmed. And in my opinion, this applies to both SMBs and major companies.”
“Start by identifying an area to optimize – a sector of your day-to-day business that you’d like to automate. This can be your payroll, your accounting or your marketing, for which you could consider an approach called growth hacking,” Bousquet suggests. “Get your mentor to help reorganize and restructure everything under a viable digital ecosystem. Together, choose the platform and the tools that are best suited to your business’s size and budget.”
4. Adopt new behaviours
“You can dedicate one person or a single team to your digital strategy. In any case, be careful that this doesn’t preoccupy the rest of the organization. Make sure that everyone is on board with your action plan. This will help create an environment that’s conducive to change. It shouldn’t be solely the responsibility of IT to implement new, stronger habits. It should be on management too. If necessary, come up with a strategy to change practices and mindsets in a positive way. Your challenge will be to maintain these behaviours over the long term to ensure that this isn’t just one wind of change. You shouldn’t view this as a one-off project; rather, it should be a continued effort to improve. I suggest you treat digital transformation like a case study. Allocate a budget and benchmarks to the project.”
5. Measure performance
“Once your action plan is up and running, take a step back,” Bousquet advises. “Given the benchmarks you’ve defined, measure the performance of your digital strategy. Analyze the results in terms of efficiency, profitability and cost reduction. Take a look at whether it increases your employees’ productivity. Usually, you can expect it to improve quality of life internally and to have a positive impact on work-life balance. Most importantly, pay attention to your employees’ and clients’ comments and suggestions. If necessary, apply these retroactively to change your strategy.”
6. Stay curious
“Finally, stay curious. Keep up with technological developments and the way they can impact your business in a concrete way. Don’t content yourself with delegating this strategic responsibility to an expert. As a leader, you have to be an agent of change and inspire your employees to progress as a company. Your clients will be happy about this too,” the expert concludes.
Schedule an appointment today with a business expert to transition to digital and propel your business strategy.
Legal note: The information that appears in this article is provided for illustration purposes only and are not exhaustive. For advice on your finances and to determine whether the features described in this article are right for you, please speak with your National Bank advisor or, if applicable, a professional (accountant, tax expert, lawyer, etc.).