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Three ways to power your business into the digital era

Wednesday, 19 February 2014 | By Cara Waters

Global futurist and innovation strategist Anders Sorman-Nilsson says businesses need to adapt in order to succeed in today’s digital times.


Speaking at a Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry breakfast this morning, Sorman-Nilsson says many SMEs are stuck in an analogue way of communicating.


He says SMEs are often run by “digital immigrants” who have not grown up with digital technology and so “speak technology with a heavy accent”.


Sorman-Nilsson characterises the “old school” analogue world as emphasising the offline world, personal touch, nine-to-five hours and word of mouth.


In contrast the digital world is all about online, digital connections, 24-7 operations 365 days a year and the “word of mouse” rather than word of mouth.


“Everything that can be digitised eventually will be digitised for better and for worse,” he warns.


But Sorman-Nilsson believes businesses need to embrace both their analogue past and their digital future.


“I believe that in our increasingly digitised future there is still space for the analogue, the traditional, the face to face because they speak to our analogue hearts,” he says.


“There’s a sweet spot between analogue and digital that adaptive leaders truly understand.”


Sorman-Nilsson identified three practical ways your business can adapt to a digital future.


“When you look at the disruptions and waves of change around you don't look at them as disruptions, rather as opportunities,” he says.


1. Upgrade your technology


Sorman-Nilsson says small businesses need to update their IT systems in order to make employees who are digital natives feel at home.


He warns having inferior technology at work drives disengagement.


“Make sure the talent that comes into your workplaces doesn't have to downgrade from the cool technology they use at home to the old school technology in your workplace,” he says.


“One of the reasons people are choosing to leave their place of work is because they cannot communicate effectively.”


2. Make use of technology and apps staff are already using in their personal life


Upgrading technology doesn’t have to be expensive as businesses can encourage staff to use their own technology with a Bring Your Own Device policy.


Sorman-Nilsson also recommends SMEs take advantage of free or cheap apps which staff may already be familiar with.


His mother runs a retailer in Sweden that is almost 100 years old and is now introducing technology staff members are already using natively.


“We have a Turkish tailor who loves to use WhatsApp and Viber because that’s how he communicates with his grandkids in Turkey. But our 20-year-old intern also uses those apps to communicate with her friends,” he says.


Now the business uses Viber to communicate with staff members on their way to work.


3. Don’t forget traditional communication


“Digital communications don't fix everything; in fact, digital communications can stuff us up,” Sorman-Nilsson says.


As an example, he says in both Australia and Sweden the tradition of sending Christmas cards is in decline and often replaced with an email or dreaded e-card.


But people still love to receive physical Christmas cards and businesses can have great success by taking the time to handwrite cards and send them to key and VIP clients.


“In our rush to digitise, we must not forget about the old school, tradition and experience in our workforces.”


This article first appeared on SmartCompany.