All companies need technology roadmaps

Sometimes it’s all too easy to think that digital technology is the preserve of large companies. With names like Amazon and Apple, Facebook and Google dominating the landscape, small businesses could be forgiven for believing, “That’s not for the likes of me”.

Darren Auld, CEO of ClearSky Logic
Darren Auld, CEO of ClearSky Logic

Yet it’s often the ambitious and innovative smaller companies that have the biggest impact on our working and home lives. Deliveroo and Just Eat have revolutionised the way we order the takeaways that we eat while we’re watching the latest film or box set on Netflix, or listening to a new band on Spotify as we wait for the food to arrive.

Booking meetings, ordering hire cars, having the toner magically appear on time for the photocopier without ever having to order more – the list of mundane jobs around the office that have been transformed through digital technology keeps longer and longer. And that’s just for starters.

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Figures from management consultancy firm McKinsey showed that companies had accelerated the digitisation of the way in which they interact with their customers and suppliers by three years during the pandemic, while the pace at which they rolled out digital products and services raced ahead by seven years. Processes and services that were previously offered in-person have been switched online, taking months instead of years to roll-out digital transformation.

Edinburgh-based start-up Fresh Car Valeting is one of the many companies to have already started harnessing the power of technology. Last week, it launched an app ahead of raising £1 million in investment to fuel its expansion from its heartland in the Central Belt and northern England to locations in the Midlands and further south.

Underpinning that app is a host of clever back-office functions. Fresh had a cumbersome manual booking system, which had put the brakes on the car cleaning company’s growth, but we created a bespoke system that processes bookings automatically, which has resulted in a dramatic acceleration in sales.

For example, the company processed almost 1,500 automated bookings in April, compared to just 121 in December. Instead of filling in a form on the website that then had to be processed by back-office staff to find a suitable time for a valet, customers can now choose a time, day, and location online and receive booking confirmation and appointment reminders.

The secret to enabling small firms to get the most out of digital transformation is to build a technology strand into their business plan. While companies quite rightly focus on finance, recruitment, and sales and marketing in their business plans, having a technology roadmap woven into their strategies can help all the other aspects of the business plan to come together.

Far too often, poorly-implemented technology holds back businesses from achieving their objectives. This is widespread, with the vast majority of companies not scaling as quickly as they could if they implemented the correct technology strategy.

When creating a technology roadmap, it’s important to ask the right questions – what technology does my business really need? That can be a challenge for some companies, and so working with experts can help to bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the table.

After all, technology giants like Amazon and Apple don’t work in isolation. They’re part of the rich ecosystem of companies that are finding how digital transformation can become financial transformation too.

Darren Auld is co-founder and chief executive of ClearSky Logic

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