Virtually every business today uses digital tools to manage data, communicate with clients, suppliers, and workers, and to advertise products and services. This is the result of the digital revolution that transformed business at the turn of the century. That revolution never stopped, however, and you can still use it to transform your business today.

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Digital technology is evolving so quickly that it’s difficult for many businesses to adapt and incorporate new tools as quickly as they’re invented. For most businesses today, the digital age offers unprecedented new opportunities. Digital technology has redefined the types of markets, labour, information, and data resources that we can access and take advantage of. While the challenge for the businesses of 10 or 15 years ago was “going digital”, we today are facing the challenge of finding new ways to use the digital age to make ourselves more competitive.

Digital technology is the great equaliser

Small businesses can’t match the budget, production capacity, or economies of scale that their larger competitors enjoy. However, in the digital age, small businesses can outcompete larger competitors in a once critical area: versatility. Small businesses can adapt to new procedures and tools much more quickly than larger businesses can. This is extremely important in a business environment where things are changing as rapidly as they are today.

Small businesses can outcompete large businesses by bringing new ideas and innovations to bear. Larger businesses are forced to invest a lot of time and resources in order to make structural changes to their enterprises. Smaller businesses can use that lag to level the playing field and grow in the face of fierce competition. The key is to develop and innovate quickly and decisively.

Today’s digital tools

This approach of relentless innovation is responsible for the emergence of several now widely adopted uses of digital technology. It’s important to note that most of these innovations solved problems and eliminated inefficiencies that their competitors weren’t actively expecting could be addressed at the time. Among many others, a few critical examples include:

Cloud technology

Data management in the digital age has been nothing short of revolutionary, even without considering more sophisticated ERP or data automation software. Workers can easily access and manipulate the same cloud-based spreadsheet or other data file, which allows both management and workers to access real-time data, anywhere in the world. This decentralised approach is unimaginably more efficient than even previous web-based practices, where a responsible individual would be forced to periodically update and email out new versions of a given file.

Remote employment

The digital age is in the process of revolutionising where we work. Since so much of our labour is done digitally today that small businesses can now hire skilled workers in other countries or cities without being forced to relocate them. Moreover, this also means that businesses no longer necessarily need to open offices in central and expensive locations, where their labour pool is located.

Online financing

Traditionally, getting business financing required piles of paperwork, in-person meetings, and most critically of all, time. Today, financing is far more accessible, streamlined and competitive. Financial institutions like Fifo Capital can approve applications online in less than a day, and offer a significantly wider variety of financial services than was available in the past.

While most businesses were resigned to hiring locally, negotiating with their financial institution the old fashioned way, and sending memos, innovative businesses from every industry have used and modified these and other digital tools to suit their needs. As these technologies develop, different modifications and combinations of these tools become possible. By keeping abreast of the latest tools both in and outside your industry, you can seize the initiative by innovating entirely new and better solutions to problems that your industry didn’t even know it had.

Innovation is key

The digital revolution is still only in its infancy. Using new computers, following the advice of industry leaders, and running the latest industry software is good, but it doesn’t make you inherently competitive. To really get ahead, you need to push boundaries and experiment with what is possible yourself, so that you can become an industry leader, rather than a follower.

There are uncountable unique applications for the digital tools that are available right now, and more are being developed every day. Finding that problem that you didn’t know you could fix, and circumventing it with new technology can not only give you a competitive edge, it can push your entire industry forward.