Guest Blog: Gary Turner, Xero

22 Mar 2019 | 09.30 am

Guest Blog: Gary Turner, Xero

Developing a small business software strategy

22 Mar 2019 | 09.30 am

Digital transformation isn’t easy but it has to be tackled. Gary Turner of  Xero advises business owners how to approach the process.


Ireland has become a major technology hub, where innovative software startups rub metaphorical shoulders with giants such as Google and Apple. In 2018, the country moved up three places to sixth in the EU’s Digital Economy and Society Index. Key industries such as the agrifood sector are increasingly looking to app solutions to help run their businesses more efficiently.

However, Ireland’s digital savvy hasn’t necessarily translated across the wider corporate world. Research from Microsoft reveals that four-fifths of organisations overestimate their digital readiness, and that almost half are worried about their competitors digitally transforming or using new technology to gain an advantage over them.

Meanwhile, PwC’s Irish Family Business Report indicates that four out of ten  businesses feel vulnerable to digital disruption, compared to 30% across the globe. And a recent survey by Ricoh & Coleman Parkes suggests that only 40% of  Irish SMEs are taking steps to improve their digital capabilities in the next two years, compared to 57% of global peers.

Developing a small business software strategy

Digital transformation is, well, a transformation, and transformations can be either traumatic (i.e. The Incredible Hulk, who goes on a rampage and ruins his outfit whenever he changes form), or rewarding (Spider-Man, who gains superhuman strength, flexibility, and a host of other powers). Even positive change can be overwhelming.

Take your time and ask the necessary questions before you get moving. What do you want to achieve – and how can technology help you do it?

The business owner is the starting point and has to spearhead the strategy. But that doesn’t mean you need to go it alone. Get your team on-board and collect their opinions and concerns.

You’ll likely have concerns about how the technology you’re choosing works, how your information – and customer, client and supplier information – will be protected and accessed, and any costs associated with implementing it.

Before addressing any of those concerns, it’s worth understanding the basics. How does the cloud work? Which data do you need to protect, how can you access it, and how can you protect it? Crucially, how much will it cost?

You don’t need to find the answers yourself, but you do need the answers. Spread the process across your team, and if you’re struggling with the financial side of things talk to an accountant to work out the expense associated with your technological solution.

When you have the answers, it’s essential to work on your cloud priorities.

How to prioritise

Your focus will depend largely on your business’ priorities. For example, if you want to improve customer experience, a chatbot might help you deliver an immediate, effective, and targeted service.

Eventually, you’ll want to digitally transform everything that requires it. But running a business is about managing priorities, and it’s wise to focus on elements in order of their importance and their operational burden. Take it one step at a time.

The finance department is a great place to start. Entering data into spreadsheets and completing manual processes such as pursuing invoices can often fall prey to human error.

Cloud-based solutions can automate these tasks: invoices can be issued and chased without any human intervention, and accounting software like Xero can connect directly to your business bank account to provide real-time financial data and reporting.

This will in turn allow you to develop greater insight into your company finances which will enable you to manage your business more effectively and strategically.

For all the benefits of digital transformation, there’s a certain allure to letting things stay the same, as change can be overwhelming. But when you’re in deep water, it’s just as dangerous to stay still as it is to swim against the tide.

Digital transformation can be a long, and complicated endeavour, but it’s one that will leave you with a better, more capable, and forward-looking business that’s ready for the challenges of today and tomorrow.

Gary Turner is Managing Director and co-founder of Xero





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