Digital Transformation for SMEs

The term 'digital transformation' means different things to different people but essential it typically means the removal of manual processes and the adoption of digital and automated processes within a department, business unit or organisation. The main drivers for this often include (not in any order):

  1. Improved efficiency
  2. Improved scalability
  3. Cost reduction
  4. Improved service
  5. Increased value

This a very high level walk through one approach to digital transformation.

Where to Start?

It's not uncommon for a department or an individual to seek out digital solutions for specific requirements but this can lead to problems. An assumption is often made that the software will do what you need without first understanding what it is that you need. We would recommend mapping out your internal business processes before; choosing a solution, building your own solution or choosing a partner to help you build a solution. In larger organisations, documenting the business processes would the job of a business analyst but in smaller organisations any person or group of people who understand the business can adopt this role.

Business Process Modelling

In the digital transformation projects we work on we will often use Bizagi Modeller (, it's a free process modelling tool and it uses an industry standard modelling notation (BPMN 2.0) to capture the processes. Anyone can learn how to use the tool which is very easy to pick up.

All you need to understand is that processes are made up of events, tasks and decisions and that different roles in the business are responsible for those events, tasks and decisions. There are a multitude of videos and free courses online (for example, We often work with organisations using, PowerPoint or Visio.

Why Process Modelling?

Apart from helping you to understand your exact requirements (if that wasn't important enough), the models themselves can be used for staff training (they are really easy to understand), they also document where the handover is between different staff and more importantly, different departments. This means you can ensure nothing slips 'between the cracks'.

A common approach for process modelling is to start by modelling the 'as is' model, this is, a model of the current process, warts and all. Once done, the 'to be' models are captured, documenting the processes as you want them to be in the future. Whether these two stages are necessary is discretionary, we sometimes do and sometimes don't. Reasons as to why I'll leave for another article but time (therefore cost) can be an influence and also complexity.

Staff Involvement

Getting the right people involved and the right number of people is really important. In any investigation or discovery sessions to gather the information you need to produce the 'as is' or 'to be' models you don't want more than 3 or 4 people if you can help it. If you can conduct one-to-ones then that usually gets better results (but it is more time consuming). In team meetings, rather than being a 'free-for-all' where the loudest and most dominant voice will likely take over, make sure you make time for each person to explain their perspective on their specific role and how they interact with other staff, departments, supplier, clients and any other stakeholders that are relevant. Make sure you find out and document what works well and what doesn't work well. Ask for ideas they might have had that would improve their role or make the business more efficient etc.

It's important, when 'business change' is an outcome to bring staff with you rather than work in a closed environment and then present the results after you've done your work. Schedule follow-up meetings to present back on a one-to-one where possible to confirm what you documented was correct. Treat it as an iterative process.


As well as the process models themselves it's essential to be able to present your work back to the business and you'll need to be able to do this at several levels. Team members who will be affected by change will need to see the detail. How the new process will work, what systems will support them, etc. Senior Managers or Board Members will not be interested in the detail and will only want to see a high-level summary of proposed improvements, cost savings, etc.

  1. Executive Summary
  2. 'As Is' Process Models
  3. 'To Be' Process Models
  4. Detailed process documentation with comments and descriptions
  5. List of change recommendations (process, systems, roles)