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Digital operations: building a business for the future

Introduction

As consumers and employees, we rely on public WiFi and the Cloud to access information and entertainment. 5G is paving the way for Smart Cities and unlocking business opportunities for rural communities. While information collected via temperature and humidity sensors is reducing food waste, helping to meet the UN’s goal of halving food waste by 2030.

This is just the beginning. For every business, digitalisation improves operational efficiency. Technologies inspire the creation of new products and services; and are the cornerstone of business resilience.

This is why, despite global challenges, 39% of companies accelerated digital transformation during 2020, according to our Future Ready Report.

So, how can you build a future-ready business?
 

Investments in Digital Technologies

No one could have predicted the extraordinary pressure companies of every shape and size have faced during 2020 – or the unexpected benefits provided by investments in digital technologies. Over two thirds (68%) of companies that had invested in digital technologies said their business continuity plans held up well during the pandemic.

Find out more about how digital technologies are helping companies to transform post-COVID-19.

Companies have also made the most of employee availability and forged ahead with digital transformation projects. And there have been a lot of projects to consider – from working out how to give knowledge workers the tools to be productive from home, to responding to changing consumer behaviour, especially the huge increase in ecommerce.

In many companies, remote working is now both commonplace and effective, with network resilience and unified communication and collaboration tools changing the way people work together. Supply chains are stable, with companies using end-to-end visibility to better anticipate demand and respond quickly to customer needs. And reliable mobile networks and wearable devices to keep essential field-based maintenance and monitoring teams safe and productive.

But as well as improving operational efficiency, companies are also exploring product and service innovation, using digital technologies to create new connected offerings.

Here are just a few of those stories

Companies are building on their digital knowledge and confidence to add resilience and adapt to a changing world. But where does your journey start?

Data is at the heart of all successful digitalisation projects.

Technologies such as IoT give us access to a phenomenal amount of data – but collecting it is the easy part. The biggest opportunities for business change come from the way you communicate and use it.

The questions below will help guide your digital journey:

  • What does it mean to the business?
  • Who needs it?
  • And what processes can you streamline and automate if the right people and machines have the data immediately?
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For example, wearables, fixed sensors and video technology collect huge amounts of information from factories and warehouses – information about employee activity, stock location, machine performance. But it is the ability to store, analyse and then communicate that information in real time to other machines and people across the supply chain that is supporting the adoption of Industry 4.0.

Businesses also need immediate information to improve efficiency and safeguard workers — which is why cloud-based processing and storage is so important.

When a millisecond response is critical, rather than pass the data across the network to a public cloud, Edge Computing processes data at the edge of the network, far closer to the sensors and wearables that are collecting it. With minimal network latency, data is analysed within milliseconds and actioned immediately.

And it’s helping unlock new possibilities.

IoT data

According to our IoT spotlight report, 81% of respondents are now using IoT data to drive innovation and understand expectations. That’s no surprise when, for most businesses, customer behaviour has changed in recent months.
 

So what is holding them back?

According to the research, the biggest barriers with cloud services include a lack of integration and high latency. Which makes sense – if automated guided vehicles are to work safely and efficiently in factories or ports, they need very low latency access to information. This is where Edge Computing is so important; edge data centres provide very low latency data processing and analytics to deliver incredibly fast actionable data.

The survey also reported that automation, analytics, and edge computing are helping to accelerate business change.

The more advanced companies are using insights from data to improve processes, drive innovation, and continuously adapt to evolving customer needs – something that will be vital as we all adapt to the new normal in a post-COVID world.

But a key question is: just how sustainable are these new technologies?

Climate change has taken centre stage over recent years – and green investment is set to be the foundation of post-COVID economic recovery. Governments are committed to building a greener world and most businesses are working hard on sustainable plans.
According to our Future Ready Report, over half (53%) of companies have a genuine sense of moral obligation, which is driving their sustainable investment. Top priorities include cutting power consumption and reducing waste; while some companies are also exploring innovative materials and recyclables.
These initiatives also play well with customers – most of whom now expect far more than just good products and services. Almost three quarters (72%) of consumers are becoming more demanding in terms of ethical behaviour, or requiring brands to serve a wider purpose than their core business.
For instance, customers want ethical delivery options and more information about a product’s manufacturing history. They want to know what you are doing to reduce energy consumption and how you are supporting local community initiatives. Employees and potential recruits want to be involved in the sustainable debate, so making your activities and position known is beneficial.

How is digital technology contributing to sustainability?

Food wastage is being reduced by intelligently using IoT temperature and humidity sensors.
 
Energy consumption is reduced through building monitoring and control and smart metering.
Even the way we design our IT infrastructures is having an impact - such as using energy-efficient cloud computing and embracing online collaboration tools to reduce travel.
We all have an opportunity to achieve sustainable change, and here are a few businesses that are setting the standard:

Creating the right Digital Culture

We need to shift our thinking to accelerate the digital journey. New processes. New ways of working. New business culture. How will your employees’ day to day working experience change when their jobs are data-driven? For instance, warehouse operatives’ schedules will adapt in real time in response to customer demand, while marketing teams will access real-time data to drive innovative campaigns. It is exciting – but also a very different working environment from one based on legacy systems and much older data.

Creating the right digital culture is the first important step. A Chief Digital Operator can oversee the change in mindset, visualise the new processes and build on each technology success, to create confidence in technology.
 
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There are six key steps to achieving the right mindset:

Have a positive attitude to change and be excited by the future      
Be open and understand the value of technology to solve business challenges
Plan for a technological future – have a roadmap in place for how technology can transform the way you work
Set detailed business strategies that are documented, specific, funded and measured
Keep up to date with emerging trends – understand the forces at work shaping the business and get help from thought leaders
Be adaptable – react quickly to new trends or challenges and be quicker to the market than competitors

When competitors are also waking up to the power of digital technologies to enable business change, it is really important to find the right partner to help drive forward and realise your digital goals.

It is important to understand and address evolving cyber security threats.

According to the Forrester Report, the right data infrastructures, security, and management cycles are key to improving customer experience (86%), followed by becoming better at collecting and using business-critical data (83%) and growing revenues (79%).
 
The good news is that digital technologies such as IoT do not open the door to unmanageable risks. As with any connected solution, security needs to be baked into the technology and the processes, and regular upgrades and reviews are critical.
Companies that have already embraced technologies such as IoT have proved the value of the right approach: in our IoT Spotlight Research, 84% view security as a challenge to overcome rather than an obstacle to innovation.

There are many strong security solutions available to support your business. For example:

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Mobile devices are becoming ever more innovative and more intelligent, enabling employees to work faster and smarter. Mobile Device Management helps you to keep control, ensuring employees have secure yet seamless access to business apps and data through their mobile devices.
A secure private network is a great way to ensure remote working employees are securely connecting to the business. IP-VPN uses the latest fixed and mobile access technologies to support employees at home or in the field. In addition to being secure, Quality of Service means that you can prioritise business-critical applications, phone calls and video traffic.
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With employees increasingly using mobile devices to access the business and collaborate with colleagues, mobile security has become a priority. Encompassing managed services across mobile operating systems and platforms, device deployment, commercial plans, mobile applications, mobile security, managed email services as well as disaster recovery and back-up solutions, Enterprise Managed Mobility helps you to manage security by controlling every mobile device and the connections they make.
With so many people now working remotely, it is important to consider the entire endpoint estate, including desktops, laptops and devices.  Also, end-to-end encryption can be used to protect sensitive calls, conferencing and video.

Security is no barrier to your digital transformation journey – the benefits far outweigh any challenges posed by cyber security.
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Mobile

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Mobile devices are becoming ever more innovative and more intelligent, enabling employees to work faster and smarter. Mobile Device Management helps you to keep control, ensuring employees have secure yet seamless access to business apps and data through their mobile devices.

Private

A secure private network is a great way to ensure remote working employees are securely connecting to the business. IP-VPN uses the latest fixed and mobile access technologies to support employees at home or in the field. In addition to being secure, Quality of Service means that you can prioritise business-critical applications, phone calls and video traffic.
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Managed

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With employees increasingly using mobile devices to access the business and collaborate with colleagues, mobile security has become a priority. Encompassing managed services across mobile operating systems and platforms, device deployment, commercial plans, mobile applications, mobile security, managed email services as well as disaster recovery and back-up solutions, Enterprise Managed Mobility helps you to manage security by controlling every mobile device and the connections they make.

Security

With so many people now working remotely, it is important to consider the entire endpoint estate, including desktops, laptops and devices.  Also, end-to-end encryption can be used to protect sensitive calls, conferencing and video.

Security is no barrier to your digital transformation journey – the benefits far outweigh any challenges posed by cyber security.
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Start and progress on your digital journey

As there are so many ways to start and progress on your digital journey – it is all about finding the solutions that meet your specific business needs. For example, a fashion retailer can transform the customer experience by using RFID chips to improve product quality and availability.

Let’s look at a few of the technologies that can support data initiatives.

Connecting devices

IoT technology encompasses so much more than sensors, wearable devices and mobiles. The right combination of hardware and software will unlock the power of the data captured. For example, a business surveillance solution integrates real-time surveillance with cloud-based analytics to provide comprehensive and cost-effective monitoring for the business – across one or many sites. You can access the data from your mobile at any time and in any place to provide complete peace of mind.

With billions of device connections globally, companies are collecting vast quantities of data. The only way to store and manage that effectively, in a way that ensures the data can deliver real business value is in the cloud. With a strong cloud strategy, companies can maximise the use of data at any time – to support collaboration between remote colleagues, automate and streamline processes and improve customer communication and experience.

Empowering your networks at the edge

For those companies operating in milliseconds, the latest generation of edge technology is a game-changer. By providing IT services and cloud processing at the edge of the network, Edge Computing delivers the same level of responsiveness you get on premise but in a public cloud. Edge processing reduces network congestion and speeds up application performance, allowing mobile and IoT devices to drive new levels of automated performance.

Getting insights across the enterprise

Analytics can unlock another level of value from this data, exploring new levels of insight – including location and mobility information – to allow companies to gain a completely new perspective on everything from customer activity to supply chains.
Mobile Private Networks (MPN) are making new connections possible, providing new information to employees, equipment and assets in previously inaccessible locations. Used in conjunction with Edge Computing to eradicate network latency, you can reach new levels of efficiency and safety.

Both MPN and Edge Computing are enabled by 5G, a networking technology that is moving the digital journey forward, allowing the smart supply chain to evolve from monitoring to control. And growing numbers of companies are exploring their role-based mobile apps to improve employee productivity.

There is no single route to a digital business – every journey is unique.

  • Where are you today and do you have a vision of the future?
  • What digital capabilities do you need to remain competitive
  • And is your business ready for the technology challenges of tomorrow
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Working with a partner that has already helped many companies globally embark up successful digital transformation can accelerate the journey by helping to prioritise goals, select digital technologies and define the roadmap.

For example, you may want to prioritise the creation of a digital workplace that gives people the information and productivity tools they need to work efficiently, in any location. Think about the people, process, technology and space.
 
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  • What information do employees need to do the job?
  • How would the job change if information was accurate and available in real-time?
  • How could people collaborate?
Alternatively, you may want to prioritise creating a smart supply chain – using digital technologies to build stronger supplier relationships by creating and sharing relevant real-time information. What data is required? How can it be shared quickly and securely to enable the agile business model that minimises wastage and responds fast to customer demands?

If you want to take that first step, Vodafone Business Consulting Services can help. Talk to us and we’ll support you on your digital transformation journey.

Connecting devices across the supply chain

Using a managed IoT connectivity platform, Kurita water were able to get flexible, real-time monitoring and reporting on the water conditions at their facilities around the globe.

Low-cost asset tracking

Bayer, a global leader in the Life Science fields of health and agriculture, has been working with Vodafone Business, Arm, Altair Semiconductor and Murata to develop a unique, low-cost smart label. It uses low-power mobile connectivity to monitor products throughout the supply chain in real time and works continuously for up to three years. It’s an affordable and much more sustainable approach to asset tracking and theft protection.

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Data Insight used to support and transform your business.

Becoming a digital business is not just about collecting data from an array of intelligent devices. Nor is it just about creating analytics-driven insight. It is about the way this data, this insight, is used immediately to support and transform your business. It is about creating a strong foundation, to create the interconnected operation that brings people and machines together in a way that can inspire and change.
We provide the fast, resilient communication that is the foundation for your future-ready digital business. So whether you want to develop new applications or services, deliver incredible experiences for customers or ensure you’re ahead of the competition by using the best technology, we can help.