Digital signatures, accounting software, surveillance cameras, big data; these are but a few examples of digital services that businesses can use to streamline or boost their work processes. You probably already use quite a few digital services, like email, an automated hrm administration system, barcoding for your inventory, or digital invoices. What are your options, what are the benefits, and which regulations are in place to avoid misuse (or even abuse)? And who can you turn to for support and help?
Find the right supplier
Over the past 10 to 15 years, there has been a big increase in the number of companies specializing in software to help you with any given business process. Many of the players in any given field, be it CRM, bookkeeping or barcode warehousing, are experienced specialists, who can improve your business processes. But there are also still cowboy companies out there, that will promise mountains, but fail to deliver. To find out who to trust and whom to give a wide berth, gather data:
- Ask around in your network: professional acquaintances, friends and relatives may have experiences with the company you’re looking at;
- Check the Commercial Register to find out how long the company has been in business, and how well it is doing;
- Go to trade shows where several suppliers of the service you are looking for are present; speak to the salespeople, attend presentations, and don’t be afraid to ask exactly what you need to know;
- Use search engines to find out as much as you can about the company and the product you’re considering, to find out if it suits your needs;
- Don’t just ask one company for an offer, ask several. Compare the offers, list the main pluses and minuses of every supplier, and ask any questions you have.
Adjust your business processes
Digitizing your business processes can be a step forward in your business management, but only if you have got your business processes in order. Especially if you want to buy an ERP system, your departments will have to be ready for changes. ERP, or Enterprise Resource Planning software, incorporates several of your business processes, for instance your warehouse, purchase and sales. Before you decide to start using ERP software, you should think carefully about how it affects your operations. What does the new method of working mean for the several departments on which it will be used? Which departments, that were ‘independent’ up till now, will have to collaborate (more) closely? Don’t underestimate this – be sure to have a plan that involves testing and training for your employees.
There are several trends in the digitalization process, such as cyber security and smart industry. It helps to know what these terms mean, and how they might relate to your business process.
Cyber security is relevant to every company that has dealings online, you cannot ignore it. Is your business protected against cybercrime and hackers? It takes more than a spam filter and a virus scanner to protect yourself. A study in 2018 showed that companies in the Netherlands still don’t take cybercrime seriously, but it poses a real enough threat. More about cyber security:
Working in the cloud is convenient, because it enables you and your employees (and, if you want, your clients) to access your services anytime, anywhere. But there are risks involved with online services, server downtime the least one of them. And it is important to realise that the information you store in the cloud is actually stored on one or multiple physical servers. By using the information, you are bound by the laws pertaining to digital information in the country where the servers stand. Will working in the cloud work for you? Consider this carefully, and choose which business services to use online and which to keep strictly to yourself. More about working in the cloud:
- ICT Informatiecentrum information on cloud computing (in Dutch)
- There are many online resources about cloud computing. Computer magazines are usually reliable sources.
Blockchain was originally invented to secure transactions conducted in bitcoin, but has since evolved to a tool that can be used to compile sales and usage data of, for instance, online music services. The cutting up of data into blocks makes the system less sensitive to misuse, but despite the promise of great possibilities, few businesses so far use blockchain as part of their core processes. This in itself means that, for small and medium-sized businesses at least, blockchain remains an interesting method of working, but not one to immediately adopt. More about blockchain: Dutch Blockchain Coalition (part of Dutch Digital Delta)
Smart industry is a container term for all the ways in which you can digitalize production processes. See the Nederland ICT-website (in Dutch)
Big data is the term used for the increasing amount of data that can be harvested and stored – products about clients, for instance, and their behaviour. If you run a sales operation, chances are you store information about your clients: information you need to process and conduct transactions, but also information on their interests, their sales history, and so on. Thanks to the growing possibilities to process large amounts of data, it is increasingly possible to aggregate customer-specific information into anonymized and generalized patterns. This is called big data, and it can enable you to streamline your sales operations. Big data is also used in scientific research, for instance for finding treatments or even cures for diseases, and for social and economic research. The list of possibilities is endless, if the data quality is good. More information on big data:
Privacy and digital services
If you automate (one of your) business processes that involve personal (customer or employee) data, you must make sure that you comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Our step-by-step guide can help you on your way. Rules and regulations also apply to the use of camera devices, such as drones and CCTV cameras.