The pandemic has accelerated the digital transition, with most Portuguese companies already investing in their transformation. However, of all Portuguese companies, SMEs are still at the end of the race.

A study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Google and Nova SBE, the Digital Acceleration Index (DAI), released in July this year, concluded that, of all the funds that were made available in funding instruments for Portuguese companies in 2020, to assist in this digital transformation process, 51% remained unallocated. That is, 5 out of every 10 euros remained unspent, revealing a great difficulty in accessing financing instruments, either by not knowing them or by lack of experience in the sometimes complex application processes.

On the other hand, this study also found that, of the 1047 companies interviewed, 33% already had digital empowerment initiatives in place for their teams. However, small businesses were those that launched the fewest (28%). Why is this? At first glance, to a cash flow problem. Organisations feel that they do not have the availability to make the necessary investment in technological tools that would enable the improvement of their business.

However, if we look deeper into the problem, we find other answers: the difficulty in attracting and retaining staff with the necessary qualifications, who participate and lead digital transformation processes, means that companies are often unable to create and implement the necessary transformation initiatives. The incipiency of executives in the areas of innovation and transformation also leads to a lack of global approach and critical spirit about the processes that are intended to be digitised. Quoting Daniel Traça:

"Digital change is not about doing the same things using technology"

To change this paradigm in SMEs, it is necessary to invest in the development of talent in technological and digital leadership areaswhich undoubtedly involves training.

Education is a powerful tool to empower the human resources of a company: it promotes the creation of an authentic digital literacy, which serves a culture of constant adaptation of technology to the new challenges that companies feel in the global market and promotes the necessary skills for leading digital transformation processes.

In the times we live in, no organisation can remain on the sidelines of this global wave of transformation. With growing customer demand and an increasingly competitive market, the use of new technologies can be a key factor for differentiation and business performance. As an example, today we have data analysis platforms, onboarding services and payment solutions that can favour market penetration, customer satisfaction and retention. Our reality is constantly changing, thanks to the combined potential of so many technologies available to us today, and so many others that are being created, in an exponential evolution curve.

Keeping up with reality is no longer just the responsibility of top management layers: it is essential that all employees act as agents of digital transformation. And for this it is necessary to expose them to different use cases and examples, thus creating a "visual culture" of technological solutions that will serve as a facilitator for identifying the right tools for the reality of each organisation and the most appropriate strategies to implement them.

That is why education is a fundamental and urgent investment, bearing fruits in the short-medium term. The classroom is a privileged space to promote the debate of ideas and the sharing of experiences, both with expert trainers and with peers from other organisations, empowering each participant to better lead the digital transformation processes in their organisations, which, in turn, will bring economic return, solving the two biggest barriers for digital transition. This is the key to trigger the transformation in small and medium-sized enterprises.

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