Published on May 21, 2024, 1:40 am

To drive change, motivation is key, and motivation equates to an advantage: the user must see that, in exchange for their effort, they will achieve an improvement compared to the previous situation. Embracing this philosophy, Giuseppe De Vivo, CIO and ICT Manager at Rinaldi Group (a mattress manufacturing company), successfully tackled one of the main challenges of digital transformation in the small business he works for: mental resistance to change.

According to De Vivo, the challenges of digitalization in a Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) are both technological and cultural, with the latter prevailing. Innovation is crucial for SMEs to remain competitive; however, implementing projects is not always straightforward. The latest study by Istat highlighted that Italian SMEs still lag behind in specialized digital activities in 2023. The digital transition faces obstacles due to two fundamental reasons: lack of skills – particularly in advanced capabilities like data usage and artificial intelligence – and the difficulty in transitioning from simple technological implementation to cultural and organizational change.

Small businesses often struggle with digitalization due to factors such as limited budgets or lack of necessary technological resources. Despite the push towards digitization prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic, many SMEs continue to face challenges. For instance, Rinaldi Group is currently facing budget constraints hindering projects related to industrial robotics and artificial intelligence applications.

In cases where employees are resistant to change imposed from above, it falls on the Chief Information Officer (CIO) to emphasize the human aspect by highlighting the benefits of technological innovations such as improved work quality or increased efficiency. Successful instances like replacing an old ERP system with a modern one at Rinaldi Group involved reassuring colleagues whose work processes were impacted, leading to acceptance through communication and collaboration between IT and Operations teams.

It’s crucial for small businesses transitioning towards digital maturity to attract talent and invest in employee development despite limitations compared to larger firms. Offering smart working options, training programs, and emphasizing work-life balance can help drive cultural transformation within these organizations.

Effective Change Management spearheaded by CIOs plays a pivotal role in navigating challenges during digital transformations within SMEs. By aligning technology investments with business goals and fostering dialogue between IT and business units, CIOs can ensure sustainable growth through technology utilization while maximizing value creation.

The landscape for CIOs in SMEs involves orchestrating efficient communication between technology initiatives and business needs while instilling a forward-thinking technological culture within organizations. With strategic planning encompassing both infrastructure management and application integration alongside proactive decision-making on technology investments for future-proofing operations—CIOs can steer SMEs towards a digitally empowered future.

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