You can’t change anything overnight, but it’s important to start
If you continue to lag behind the rest of the world, you won’t be able to catch up even if you run. Contemporary trends entail the digital transformation of business. Large companies have adopted this rule a long time ago, but the situation in small and medium-sized enterprises is not so uniform. The companies that feel are still wandering around in the field of digital transformation can contact the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia (CCIS) and receive concrete assistance in this process Filip Mrdak, Project Manager at the Centre for Digital Transformation at the Chamber, told us what small and medium-sized enterprises could expect from this program.
How much are small and medium-sized enterprises in Serbia are interested in digital transformation?
— The first thing the Centre, upon its establishment, was to research the SMEs sector in terms of their engagement in digital transformation. The results generated from over 350 companies surveyed were such that as many as 60% had no digital projects in the past, and had no plans to have them in the future. Of the 40% remaining companies, as many as 90% plan digital projects in the form of setting up a website, opening an e-mail account, or implementing simple SW. By definition, this comes under digital transformation but it’s nowhere near what it can provide. Over one year since the CDT’s establishment, we have done a lot to raise awareness among SMEs about the importance of this topic, which is validated by the fact that a significant number of companies have applied to participate in our consulting programme and in the events we organize on this topic.
What is the first thing that you say to companies that ask you for help?
— Digital transformation is an ongoing process. You can’t change anything overnight, but it’s important to start. The CDT offers to companies a complete set of co-financed services related to their digital transformation. To begin with, we provide them with certified consultants (a unique base in this part of the world). Each consultant has passed serious selection criteria, extensive training for external lecturers, and finally certification according to ISO standard 17024. They work with companies on professional analysis and develop a digital strategy. They then support the company in the implementation of the solutions defined in the strategy. I should point out that digital transformation of a business involves not only automation or insertion of technology into an existing process (digitalization) to optimize the current value chain, but also the modification of the business model. Customers also want to see modernization, streamlining and simplification of current business processes. Digital business transformation presents huge opportunities for innovation and competitive advantage, which all require a change in the organization: cultural, strategic, technological and operational changes, where processes play a fundamental role along with data. Lastly, it is important to underline that digitalization is not sufficient for a complete digital transformation of a business; it is also necessary to respond to new business models supported by new automated business processes that ensure an offer of new product and services to customers. One of the key strengths of companies that embark on digital transformation is tighter control of business processes and activities. It is also a mechanism to measure changes in revenue, costs and profit, help win and retain customers, prevent customers from leaving and assist in acquiring profitable new customers as efficient management of available resources to achieve company goals.
How many businesses have attended your programme so far? What are their impressions?
— About 50 companies have gone attended the CDT programme in one year. We aim to have 200 companies by mid-2020. After that, we can sum up everything we have done so far and define guidelines for improving the processes. We expect all companies that have undergone consulting processes to start implementing the defined solutions and only after that we will measure success and their impressions. So far, we are very pleased with the response and impressions of the companies which went through the programme.
How much are our SMEs lagging in digital transformation relative to the region and the world?
— It is difficult to explain it verbally, but let me just say that there is a lot of talk about industry 5.0 in the world and that we, in Serbia, are still at industry 2.0. Of course, this is devastating but not unattainable if we immediately turn to digital transformation and tackle the world and their way of doing business as soon as possible. Otherwise, Serbian companies will not last long both in our country and let alone in the foreign market. A year ago, we were at the same level as the region, and now we have 50 companies at an advantage.