Digitalisation for SMEs: a smarter approach to work

Do you send invoices online, or do you sell your product(s) on social media? These are just two examples of digitalisation. Some possible benefits of digitalisation: more turnover, saving time, or returning customers. Discover the opportunities provided by digitalisation and how to use it.

What is digitalisation?

Digitalisation is a way to adopt a more efficient or smarter approach to work. You leave manual jobs, such as creating invoices or submitting sales orders, to a computer. When you digitalise customer or revenue details, this is referred to as ‘data’. Computers are able to process data more accurately and more quickly than human beings. While the start-up process takes some time, once this is completed digitalisation saves you considerable time and money.

Reasons for digitalisation

Digitalisation helps you to do smarter business: there is less probability of error, and you can achieve the desired outcome more quickly. A survey conducted by KVK revealed that the main reasons to make progress with automation and digitalisation are that the work is conducted more efficiently (31%) and that this is convenient for the business itself or its customers (30%). Digitalisation of processes also ensures that businesses can cut their costs (cmweb, in Dutch) by approximately one quarter. Enough reasons, in other words, to get started!

Starting with digitalisation

The ABC model allows you to identify opportunities for digitalisation in your business: supply, business operations, or commerce. You decide in what areas digitalisation will be most useful. The various components of the ABC model do not rule each other out: they complete each other and impact one another.


Your supply is the product you create or manufacture or the services you provide. The question is whether your supply aligns with your customers’ needs. Keep in mind what your customers want now and in the future. Opportunities for digitalising your supply include:

  • Launch an online shop in addition to your brick-and-mortar store, to ensure your product or service is available online as well.
  • Provide your services online, through webinars or an electronic meeting.
  • If you also already operate a website or online shop, look at the visitor statistics and sales data and improve your website’s performance.

Business operations

‘Business operations’ refers to all activities and processes within your business. Digitalising these activities and processes could potentially save you a lot of time. There are different ways of digitalising your business operations:

  • Set up an online accounting system and a cloud-based cashier system. This ensures you can keep track of your data at any time.
  • Send digital invoices. This is inexpensive and works efficiently.
  • Automate stock counting, purchasing, and sales orders (in Dutch). This reduces the number of errors you make and saves time.
  • Work in the cloud. This makes it easy to access your files anywhere and anytime.


‘Commerce’ refers to the sale of your product(s) or service(s), including interaction with your customers, marketing, and actual sales. Digitalisation in commerce tends to mean e-commerce: doing business online. Examples:

  • Managing customer relations with a Customer Relationship Management system or simplified CRM system. This enables you to provide better services to your existing customers and makes it easier to recruit new ones.
  • Creating an online marketing plan.
  • Retaining customers through a business websitesocial media (in Dutch), email marketing (in Dutch), or a podcast.
  • Increasing your income through access to your business data (in Dutch).
  • Selling your product or service through QR codes and cutting down staff hours this way.

Schemes and grants

The Dutch government provides a number of different schemes and grants related to digitalisation – learn more about them and save money.

  • If you manage development or research projects, reduce the costs through the Research and Development (Promotion) Act (WBSO). This is an innovation scheme that reimburses a portion of the costs and expenses of your project through taxes.
  • If you are an SME owner who does business internationally, you can use the kickstart voucher. You can use this voucher to receive an 80% discount if you hire the services of an external consultant you choose yourself, subject to a maximum of €2,500. The consultant will help you digitalise your business.

Digitalisation in practice

If you are curious to find out what kinds of steps other businesses in your sector are taking, ask your trade association for tips and advice. For practical assistance, you are better off working with a MKB DigiWerkplaats (in Dutch). They provide students and experts who support you in digitalisation projects, such as starting an online shop or email marketing campaign. You will find inspiration in the KVK Innovation Top 100 (in Dutch). This includes innovation stories about 100 Dutch businesses that use a variety of digital resources.

Watch the video (in Dutch) to see what approach others are taking.

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