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Three key issues for businesses looking to thrive in a digital world

03 June 2019

Erik Brenneis

Erik Brenneis

CEO, Vodafone Global Enterprise

Shifts in customer expectations driven by the rapid adoption and development of technology have characterised the past year in business. In this environment it has become increasingly clear that businesses need to adjust their approach and vision in order to survive and remain competitive; intelligently leveraging technology to achieve their goals, influence perceptions and build trust.

Some of this change is already underway, and over the next year we will see these efforts crystallise. What, then, should businesses focus on to make the most impact and thrive in this environment?

Success starts with putting people at the heart of the business

Business is essentially about people – employees and customers alike. How they behave, their preferences and what they aspire to be will affect the choices they make. Organisations must understand this and how these needs change in order to forge a deep connection and instil loyalty.

According to the Vodafone IoT Barometer 2019, 85% of business leaders agreed that the needs of customers are changing rapidly, with 93% believing that customer expectations are increasing. In response to these changing demands, businesses need to take a people-centric approach which directly addresses their needs in a market that is being reshaped by technology – and do so at speed.

Digitalisation has brought disruption to the way people live and work. Organisations must understand what this means for their customers and respond with solutions that solve the new challenges that arise. A culture of “now” has emerged and success in 2019 means adapting and keeping up with the new pace of change demanded by the market.

This means that businesses must constantly examine the way they work with customers and adopt new technology which enables them to build and maintain strong relationships.

Commercial success is tied to purpose, ethics and trust

Trust and ethics are two of the most important factors for both businesses and customers, according to our Trends Barometer. Although references to ‘trust’ tend to be about how businesses keep sensitive data safe, it goes beyond this. Organisations must have a greater purpose and vision that they aspire to, which aligns with the people they engage with. This is the key ingredient to building and maintaining the critical relationships which translate to future success.

However, challenges relating to trust are rife. To overcome this, business leaders need to identify what is threatening or preventing customer trust and assess where the opportunities to develop it are. Customers, partners and employees are continually looking to develop new relationships with businesses, and it is up to those at the top to build quality, transparency and reliability into the foundations of their organisation.

Alongside this, prioritising ethics is central to staying ahead of competitors in business, especially as the market begins to see the value of companies who have a true purpose. Businesses have a responsibility to constantly evaluate the social benefit that new technology will bring, and answer the questions: what good will this do? What positive impacts can this have?

A balance is being struck between human and machine

Automation is already making a significant positive impact on businesses and the potential benefits are evident. Tasks considered to be time and resource intensive can be completed with improved accuracy, in a fraction of the time.

However, in practice, implementation can cause concerns for employees, who worry about its potential impact on the way that they work. To take advantage of the benefits of automation and artificial intelligence, there needs to be a fine balance between human and machine, being careful to make the most of the key skills that each bring.

Businesses must ensure they are creating an environment in which employees can thrive, supported by technology. This begins with business leaders fully understanding the role of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) in their organisation and foreseeing how this will impact their people. The Trends Barometer has revealed encouraging results, showing that businesses are largely optimistic about the opportunities AI can bring to their organisation, with 83% thinking jobs will be more productive. Building automation and AI into processes requires a strategy that focuses on the benefits it brings to both employees and the business.

Although the potential associated with emerging technology is exciting, success in the next 12 months relies on a renewed focus on the people behind the business.

Organisations need to be aware of the challenges customers and employees face and adopt new technologies to address these, utilising relevant services and solutions to help navigate the uncertain path ahead. Fortunately, of course, uncertainty can inadvertently reveal opportunities for innovation and creativity, to help drive the business forward and strengthen relationships.

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