How are the ways we do business going to change in the near future?
The way we do business is already changing. The question we need to explore is how ready are we to adapt to and take advantage of change? There are numerous opportunities for companies to become more productive and drive growth if they are prepared for the shifts that are happening.
Take technology as an example. Many business leaders are becoming aware that the way we do business is evolving rapidly in an increasingly digital world. Mobile computing, cloud and social media are changing the way we do business. And, with the ability to connect pretty much anything to the internet and add intelligence to physical things, we are entering a world that will be increasingly disruptive. These changes do not discriminate; they are impacting businesses of all sizes and across all sectors. Those companies making some of the biggest gains are looking at technologies as a strategic part of business development and not just as ‘equipment’.
The workforce is changing too. More than ever before, the UK workforce is multi-generational, with the working styles of four, sometimes five, generations coming together under one roof. This is influencing how we work together, as well as the skills, processes and tools that are needed. The ‘digital natives’ lead by their natural grasp of technology applications and devices. They have different capabilities, needs, expectations and aspirations to those that are not digital by default. At the same time, long-term experience matters. By acknowledging this, businesses have an opportunity to rethink the strategies, work practices, skills development and support needed to thrive. Collaboration between generations and cross-fertilisation of skills is key.
What trends are driving the urgency to change the way we work?
The desire for growth is at the heart of most businesses. Among other things, this is about productivity. Put simply, productivity is the value of business output per hour. Looking at data on productivity across the whole of the UK, it’s clear that businesses looking for growth need to find new ways to mobilise their resources, skills and talent and ultimately increase their productivity.
The London School of Economics (LSE) has produced a research paper on this called, ‘The Power of Productivity’, which was commissioned by Vodafone UK. The findings highlight three elements to improving productivity – good management practices, strategic use of technology and flexible work practices, where people can work wherever they are. These are the levers some of the highest performing companies are using to drive growth. According to the LSE’s findings, the best results are achieved when all three are used in unison. The LSE also suggests in its research that businesses need to assess themselves and plan more regularly given the pace of change that is happening.
What technologies can be easily adopted by businesses looking to adapt?
Mobile working is a good example of the transformative effect of technology on business. Smart devices and greater connectivity are giving us more freedom on a day-to-day basis to work wherever we are. Not only does this enable people to be more productive, it gives businesses the ability to be more innovative with customers.
Communications technology now makes it possible for calls to be picked up by any type of device – whether a desk phone, a smartphone or laptops. So, teams can be much more responsive to customers. Businesses that are no longer restricted by the traditional desk phone and have greater connectivity can make more efficient and creative use of the physical workspace and the availability of their people. This can generate savings in property costs as well as enable companies to make better use of resources. With this approach, referred to as Unified Communications, businesses can also support the use of collaboration software for internal and customer service communications to create a truly digital workplace.
What is the best approach to take to get the most from technology?
To get the very best out of the vast potential that technology and connectivity can offer, it is critical that management teams take the time to make digital and technology part of the business strategy. And this applies to businesses of all sizes and industries.
Technology has the potential to deliver growth and cost savings as well as higher productivity and improved customer experience when aligned to business goals. Let me give you two examples.
One of our customers, Airdrie-based TOM vehicle rentals, provides vans, trucks, trailers and cars to about 900 public and private sector customers. TOM’s own IT strategy is woven into the broader strategy of the company. Its IT team focuses on efficiencies, revenue creation and the technology and processes that will ultimately deliver customer value.
In its industry, TOM sees more automation and customer self-service. Its customer base is becoming increasingly tech savvy, and has higher expectations when it comes to accessing the company’s systems. A valuable benefit of this is that it keeps the company totally customer focused. Their customer systems actively encourage customers to present ideas for innovations and improvements that add value to the company’s services.
For Aberdein Considine, a legal firm, technology is a driving force in its strategy. The company has considered how technology can be used to redefine its services and workflows, to enhance the experience its customers have during consultations.
Aberdein Considine’s strategic focus on technology ensures they have the best processes in place to support its business activity, both online and offline. This includes security management, business continuity and energy management, as well as the ability for employees to share and manage information. Its approach enables the firm to embrace the fresh opportunities that digital affords, while giving the company the agility to respond quickly to the General Data Protection Regulation, which will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018.
What will the future working environment actually look like?
The future working environment is something to be excited about. Fuelled by connectivity and collaboration, businesses have the ability to enhance the value of interactions with customers, partners and employees.
The first thing is to acknowledge that the way we work is changing. I think Andrew Pratt, head of IT at TOM Vehicle Rental, articulates this well. He believes the ability to work anywhere will become the cultural norm, and this has to be managed smartly both from the technology and people perspective. I agree.
Also, the development of digital platforms and services will open up new revenue opportunities and service delivery models for businesses, allowing local businesses to sell beyond their immediate location and diversify their offerings. So the first step to digitalisation is to make what you are doing even better and more efficient. The second step is to think about how digital can reinvent how you work, how services are delivered, and ultimately your business model. We are in a period of change, but it’s a time of great opportunity if change is embraced.