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Embracing digitalisation: why Irish SMEs must champion digital to compete

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According to the World Economic Forum, more than $3.1trn (€2.6trn) in productivity gains could be added to the global economy through digital initiatives by 2025.

Conor O’Donovan, Head of Client Digitalisation and Marketing Communications for Enterprise Ireland, says as companies look towards growth and recovery after the pandemic, and finalise their business and investment plans for 2022, they would be wise to ensure that digitalisation is high on their business agendas.

“Our research shows that one of the challenges many businesses face in adopting digital tools is not knowing where to start on their digitalisation journey,” says Conor. “And also, not knowing who to speak to for advice.

“Accessing strategic and technical skills within a company is another challenge. Building a strong culture across the business is an essential component of the effective implementation of a digital plan. It must be led at the top and championed across the organisation.”

Embracing digital

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Conor O’Donovan, Head of Client Digitalisation and Marketing Communications for Enterprise Ireland

Conor O’Donovan, Head of Client Digitalisation and Marketing Communications for Enterprise Ireland

Conor O’Donovan, Head of Client Digitalisation and Marketing Communications for Enterprise Ireland

Digital tools bring many significant benefits for firms. Digitalisation reduces transaction costs by providing better and quicker access to information, and communication between staff, suppliers, and networks. Automation enables companies to make repetitive tasks more efficient, and data analytics is used to improve production decision making.

This is why Enterprise Ireland has launched a Digital Ready Scorecard. Available to any company, this online diagnostic tool allows enterprises to take the first step on their digital journey by allowing them to self-assess the gaps in their business across important areas. It also signposts them to digitalisation supports available across Ireland.

Enterprise Ireland also offers the €9,000 Digitalisation Voucher. This enables manufacturing and internationally traded services companies, employing more than 10 people, to assess their digital capabilities. The voucher can be spent on independent advice, particularly in the areas of Lean (a business that maximises value while minimising waste) and process optimisation, enhancing customer experience and cybersecurity.

Conor says, “We advise companies to start by putting together a digital plan, aligned to their business strategy and to understand what the business driver is for digitalisation in the first instance. Is it to source new customers, automate processes, or develop new products and services? Upskilling teams within the business is a vital part of the digital adoption process. Having that digital mindset is vital.”

Supporting businesses in their digitalisation journey

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One successful example of a business developing its digital strategy is Revive Active. The Galway-based vitamin supplements firm is the number one brand in Ireland in the vitamin, minerals and supplement category, according to the Euromonitor report.

Founded by Daithi O'Connor in 2011, with one vision in mind, to be the leading health supplement company globally, the company produces a range of Super Supplements that are sold in more than 50 countries worldwide through retail partners and the company's online store.

Peter McNally, Head of IT for Revive Active, says the reason for their digitalisation strategy was to simplify their processes. And also set a path for their future growth plans.

“When we started 10 years ago, we used manual processes,” says Peter. “But around two years ago, we started on our digitalisation journey.

“The company installed an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) package called Oracle NetSuite. This manages our manufacturing, procurement, order fulfilment, finance, inventory management, and so on. We also added an e- commerce site through Shopify Plus. And of course, payment through PayPal, Stripe, and others, and having that recorded in the financial system. All of this is integrated within the NetSuite platform.”

Revive Active’s offering now includes 10 products. So, moving towards digitalisation allowed the company to have a fully automated workflow for its larger product offering; from the customer order, to order fulfilment.

“Digitalisation helped us drive through continuous improvement, and a lot of different initiatives, including digital marketing, all of which has made our processes much more efficient. Now that we’re on that journey, we are looking at more advanced processes to further our digital strategy.”

The Revive Active team used Enterprise Ireland’s Digitalisation Voucher to assess their digital capabilities, as well as the Spotlight on Skills programme. Peter says this has helped to identify the critical skills gaps that they need to foster within the organisation.

“We went from being a small business with 30 staff to 70, and we are focusing on international markets as well as domestic. So, in order to mature as a business, we needed to bring the whole organisation up to a certain level in terms of skills, and capabilities with technology. We wanted to drive these technologies to provide us with real business value.”

Future plans

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David Hayes, Head of Digital Marketing and Sales at Revive Active

David Hayes, Head of Digital Marketing and Sales at Revive Active

David Hayes, Head of Digital Marketing and Sales at Revive Active

Revive Active has a new digital project to help them develop and grow into the future. The scope of this project encompasses two key areas:

  • The customer service experience
  • Leveraging customer and company data sources using data analytics and artificial technologies (AI)

David Hayes, Head of Digital Marketing and Sales says, “Going forward, we are looking at our data and figuring out how to leverage it, while being mindful of GDPR compliance as well. We’re figuring out how we can use digital platforms and tools to make our lives easier and allow us to find opportunities to better serve our customers.”

From automation of production facilities to the integration of workflows, managing inventory, and ensuring reporting systems are up to date, digitalisation has improved Revive Active’s operations in many ways. David says having the support of Enterprise Ireland has been vital to not only getting on the path to digitalisation, but continuing to mature this digital project going forward.

“I think you need that third-party expertise, separate from the company, so they can offer advice and consultancy and be impartial. Digital technologies are always changing, and somebody out there will always know more. That’s why it’s so important that businesses keep their eyes open for the people who can help them grow.”

To help Irish businesses develop a digital roadmap, Enterprise Ireland has launched a new Digital Ready Scorecard, and offers eligible companies a €9,000 fully-funded voucher when developing their digital strategy. Find out more about these offers on globalambition.ie/digital


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