‘’Digital Transformation Is Expensive’’ and Other Similar Nonsense Puzzling the SMBs: My Twopence

‘Digital transformation’ — a haughty term, redolent with the fragrances of bow-tied Bay Area: detox-teas by the water cooler, squeaky-clean whiteboards, and oak-paneled meeting rooms.

You’d need more than a hop, skip, and jump to find any credible webpage that studies digital transformation (DX) through the spectacles of a small or medium-sized business owner.

Names of the big boys of tech — Deloitte, McKinsey, IBM, Microsoft, Amazon, and the lot — are seasoned heartily over every report on the successes (or failures) of digital transformations.

The result…

SMBs Aren’t Excited About Digital Transformation, And We’re To Blame

“When you use this term, I’m scared you’ll send a dozen consultants to my office, to make life impossible for my team, telling them they’re doing stuff the ‘old-fashioned’ way, and eventually wave a fat invoice at my face,” quipped one of my regular clients, an insurance company of 100+ employees.

And this one comment has a world of wisdom flourishing under a layer of top-soil. It reveals that mid-sized business owners:

● Are skeptical of the vague-sounding term

● Believe it’s too much trouble for unexciting rewards

● Fear it’s a ploy to overcharge for routine technology services

Similar objections — sometimes worded in clear words, and sometimes veiled amidst cold “we’ll talk about it”s — rear their ugly head in hundreds of discussions every day.

This post is my two-pence on the sensitive matter of the misgivings among SMB owners about digital transformation. And I’m motivated equally by a desire to serve these businesses, and to remove the mist preventing them from locating and plucking the juicy apples of digital transformation.

The Half-Formed, Hazy, And Debilitating Ideas About Digital Transformation Keeping SMBs Off The VIP Stands

“It’s too expensive for us.”

I don’t blame an entrepreneur for quibbling about costs.

Reports suggest that 70% to 84% of digital transformations fail. Reports also suggest that companies are spending (or planning to spend) 7-figure amounts on their DX projects within a fiscal year.

That’s selective representation.

I know from experience and observation that SMBs in Australia have benefitted from digital transformation projects, and haven’t emptied their coffers in doing so.

Within 2020, when even the staunchest of naysayers were curious about the digital ways of doing business, Neuronimbus (my full stack digital solutions agency) signed off more than a few projects, two of which are now past the go-live.

Also, I recall Australian brands that have zoomed in, identified critical business processes, digitized them, and in essence, transformed their entire business. Among them are Trust the Process, Shut the Gate Wines, and Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action.

To every business owner who’s reluctant to inquire about digital transformation services, I say this:

● You don’t have to hire the bigwigs of DX

● A mid-sized DX service company can deliver the same results at a fraction of the cost

● A full-stack technology services company with access to affordable yet cutting-edge skills from emerging economies like India and China will be even better.

● Start small; identify business workflows you can begin with. Need my help? Submit your query, and I’ll respond within a couple of days.

“Perhaps my business isn’t big enough for digital transformation.”

Isn’t it heartbreaking that enterprising business-owners are intimidated by the terminology we use? Why else would a business owner claim they have no need for digital transformation?

What if I call it ‘fuss-free, lightning-fast, always-on business with the help of code’? Better still, let’s call it SmartBiz. Interested? Sure that sounds less intimidating.

If you’re on board for making your business leaner, faster, safer, you’re on board for digital transformation already.

And it doesn’t matter whether your annual revenues are 5-figure or 8-figure. Success stories are out there by the dozens, and come in all shapes and sizes, for instance, Archer Locksmiths — an Aussie locksmith service company, Breast Cancer Network Australia — Australia’s leading breast cancer consumer organization, and Xtreme Lashes by Jo Mousselli® — an Aussie eye-lashes treatments company.

My point is:

● The size of digital transformation right for your business, of course, depends on the number, importance, and complexity of your processes.

● Again, you need a technology services partner who has experience working with SMBs.

● Take a cue from the solopreneurs who’ve embraced digital transformation (albeit tiny avatars of it) and re-invented — and in some cases, lockdown-proofed — their businesses.

“It will take awfully long.”

If you’re the CTO of a Fortune 500 company, perhaps an organization with 50,000+ employees across all the continents (except Antarctica), indeed a digital transformation program will run into many months, if not years. You could be forgiven for issuing a blanket statement about the expected duration of a project.

For almost every other business, it’s near impossible to estimate a timeline for a digital transformation program without understanding the answers to the whats and the whys.

Even then, I’ll stick my head out and say that even if you were to demand the successful go-live of a DX project within 3 months, it’s doable, if you identify a process with defined boundaries, and establish crystal-clear project goals.

My brethren from Silicon Valley may pour scorn on me for my claim. A project delivered in 3 months may not reconcile with the unsaid rule that a digital transformation can go on for years.

To a business owner, what matters is speed, results, and a no-nonsense transition from the ordinary ways of business to the digitally supercharged ways of business. And as long as a client has these, the pedants are free to twitch their noses and furrow their brows over matters of definitions.

So, Business Owners, Summon Your Curiosity, It’s The First Step Of A Journey Worth Embarking On

The tragedy of these times is that most organizations have been over-sold and under-served on DX projects.

In 2018, of the $1.3 trillion spent on digital transformation projects globally, $900 billion went to waste. The Australian GDP for 2019 was also $1.3 trillion, so imagine the scale of these numbers.

If you are a business owner, I urge you to turn a blind eye to these lofty statistics. They do little other than present digital transformation in the halo of an elitist light. The reality is steeped in the first principle of successful business management — common sense.

Get curious, find a tech services partner who shares your vision, and you’ll be alright.




A digital evangelist, entrepreneur, mentor, digital tranformation expert. Two decades of providing digital solutions to brands around the world.

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Hitesh Dhawan

Hitesh Dhawan

A digital evangelist, entrepreneur, mentor, digital tranformation expert. Two decades of providing digital solutions to brands around the world.

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