Although the German economy consists largely of small and medium-sized enterprises, there are still many gaps in terms of digitalisation compared to large corporations. Although most SMEs now recognise the importance of a digitised enterprise as an essential and absolutely necessary step, this area is often characterised by strong doubts.

What is the point of digitalisation in SMEs?

In particular, it fails to achieve this in particular because of the financial aspect, in which many small and medium-sized companies consider the digitization of internal processes to be too complex and, above all, costly. After all, situations such as those in the following graphic often arise.

In particular, the fact that digitalisation is not a self-sufficient one makes many SMEs shy away from this. The management floors of small and medium-sized enterprises often fear the seemingly long-term and cost-difficult burden of digitization. As a result, many SMEs are lagging behind in direct comparison with the competition. But is this fear really justified?

What measures can SMEs take to digitise themselves, but also cost-effectively?

Even if digitalisation is a costly and costly step for SMEs, each company can take some options to adapt to the new challenges without going beyond the financial framework.

A first step is to try out free trial versions (often 30 days) of software or install open source community editions. There is no expense except for a little effort. If these software components prove useful, the license can be converted into a paid enterprise version.

In this context, SMEs can now, for example, use software to automate certain processes and work steps, which can lead to a permanent cost minimisation.

Digitisation projects in SMEs are often implemented in addition to day-to-day business, thus creating an additional burden. Another possibility is to distribute the expenses through cooperation between SMEs. At the same time, additional knowledge and resources are accessed.

In addition, SMEs often receive orders from customers to identify new processes, services or products, which are also paid directly by the customer (e.g. large companies). This type of digitisation is therefore easy for SMEs to implement and, incidentally, low-risk.

Another advantage of cooperation is that SMEs are often highly specialised and require special knowledge. However, small and medium-sized enterprises can generate this through global collaboration and the digitisation of knowledge processes. With the help of new locations and appropriate IT, experts can be accessed worldwide. In the context of recruiting, SMEs can also fill vacancies.


Full automation is often not useful for SMEs due to the less complex process landscape. Nevertheless, cooperation with suppliers can increase volumes and improve the synergy effects of Industry 4.0 applications and reduce costs

Basically, for SMEs, digitization does not always have to be complex and often initial successes can be achieved with existing tools, free trial versions or open source software. You often have more digitization and data in your company than you think.

Tip: Read my book: SMEs in digital transformation at Springer Gabler orbook me for a lecture.

Gender note: I have used the male form for easier reading. If no explicit distinction is made, women, miscellaneous and men as well as people of any origin and nation are always meant. Read more.

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I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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