Jonathan Sharp, Director, Britannic Technologies
After a year of lockdown and life being turned upside down businesses will need to adopt a mindset like a start-up, being more open to change and doing things differently. One advantage to the pandemic even though it was enforced were the accelerated changes that occurred such as digital transformation, customer experience and people working from home. These things were happening already to some extent but now businesses have finally realised that these alterations to the way we work and do business are required in the modern world and life after lockdown.
Start-Ups Leading the Way
The pandemic has triggered record number of companies created, with an extra 84,758 businesses setting up in 2020 compared with 2019. This is equivalent to a 12.3 per cent increase year on year, which is the highest percentage growth since 2011 and the highest actual growth on record.
Traditional companies are often set in their ways with rigid hierarchies, boundaries and processes. After this year, businesses need to recognise that if they don’t press the reset button and start to behave like a start-up then they will suffer as result. Now is the time to be agile and adapt your strategy and culture accordingly so you can respond to the changing environment and market
Back to the Drawing Board
A survey conducted by Futurum Research in North America and Europe revealed that 57% said their entire business model needed to be reconsidered in the wake of COVID-19.
During the last year a lot has changed in how we work, how we do businesses, dealing with customers, partners and suppliers, and maybe even adapting the products and services we offer and internal and external processes. It is time to tack stock and evaluate what has and what hasn’t worked over this period of time.
Disrupt and Innovate
Start-ups disrupt the market with innovative products and services that consumers demand. However, today it is not just about the revolutionary idea it is about the execution which needs to be integrated into the business’s operations and processes to deliver a seamless customer experience.
Over the last year businesses have been propelled into action by lockdown restrictions and have made the relevant changes including deploying unification communication solutions to enable employees to work from home and making changes to the customer processes. Businesses have discovered that digital transformation solutions do not have to be a lengthy and cumbersome process and can be designed and implemented at speed. It is vital to acknowledge they must be part of a digital transformation strategy rather than implemented in isolation to deliver greater benefits.
Mckinsey & Company study reported that businesses have on average accelerated their digital offering with 7 years of progress in a matter of months. They were reacting to the first lockdown, ensuring business continuity was in place and now companies need to focus on how to optimise their remote teams and develop leaner business models.
The last year has demonstrated that businesses have acted with agility because they had no choice in responding to the environment and the market. The takeaway here is that they must continue to be agile and flexible and not return to a fixed mindset of being stuck in their ways in order to not only survive the aftermath of lockdown but to thrive.
The Hybrid Challenge
It is expected that when lockdown ends employees will want to work from home and the office therefore adopting a hybrid working approach. CIPD and YouGov survey in March 2021 stated that some 40% of employers said they expect more than half their workforce to work regularly from home after the pandemic has ended. According to data from the Office of National Statistics, prior to COVID-19 only around 5% of the workforce worked mainly from home before the pandemic, 65% of employers either did not offer regular working from home at all or offered it to 10% or less of their workforce. After the pandemic, that 65% is expected to fall dramatically to 37%. This represents a significant shift in ways of working which businesses need to be prepared for.
Businesses will be confronted with the challenges of implementing and managing hybrid working which will call for new management skills further to managing the remote workforce over the last year. Communication will be key to its success and when not managed well it will result in poor information flow producing knowledge gaps, barriers to effective team working and isolating team members who are not present in the office. Within hybrid teams the communication will need to be scheduled and effective team communication should be everyone’s responsibility.
The Beating Heart
Naturally, technology is crucial in the facility of hybrid working where employees need to work and communicate seamlessly between home and the office. Technology is also essential to transform internal and external processes such as communication, operations and customer service.
In order to successfully deliver these businesses will require a robust and reliant infrastructure to withstand the capacity and capabilities required for hybrid working and other areas to ensure they have the desired connectivity and security.
IP all the Way
The industry is set for a big digital shift in 2025 when businesses will transition from ISDN to IP. The transition has been accelerated due to the pandemic and companies that still have legacy PBX technology on-premise should look to migrating to IP sooner rather than later to be prepared and to reap the benefits to assist them with the new demands of lockdown recovery.
Hosted in the Cloud
By moving to cloud-based telephony solution businesses will be able to scale up and down, facilitate the management of communications, save costs and provide the flexibility to add on new technology and applications when required. Cloud solutions also deliver analytics on data usage which can be utilised for business decisions and understanding more about the employees and the customers to add value and intelligence.
Security is Paramount
Security has been a hot topic during lockdown and even with cloud solutions it is vital for employees working from different locations that each employee is protected by a layer of security to supress cyber-attacks. This could include firewalls, single sign-on or multi factor authentications on the user’s device where the IT team are alerted if the security is compromised.
For employees working remotely we would advise a remote VPN to deliver a secure encrypted connection to the business network which provides an additional layer of security and enables them to access the corporate network from anywhere using a public internet connection.
Seamless Unified Communications
Businesses then need to look at deploying a unified communications solution so employees can communicate and collaborate wherever they are. This is a step up from quickly implementing a remote working solution to moving to a comprehensive unified communication solution enabling employees to communicate and collaborate with each other ensuring that it is integrated to your front and back office, such as contact centre or CRM system to deliver improved communications, operational processes and customer experience.
Improve with Automation
Customer experience is what is driving competition today not product or price, Gartner forecasts that 89% of businesses expect to compete on customer experience. The pandemic has fast-tracked customers’ expectations demands increasing the need for a personalised and seamless service as online shopping as increased dramatically and competition is tougher than ever.
Businesses need to get creative with AI and automation technology to improve the customer experience by optimising processes. Automation solutions can be designed to handle a multitude of digital interactions, self-service options via web chat or AI solutions can deal with customer enquires reducing the cost to serve from £4.00 a phone call to £0.20 using AI. A Solutions Provider will work closely with you to identify your problems areas and what objectives you want to achieve to re-engineer your process enabling you to save costs, improve efficiencies and customer service.
A New World
We must remember as Bill Gates famously states, “Success today requires the agility and drive to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, react and reinvent.’
We believe that when lockdown lifts businesses will embrace a new culture where creativity, innovation and shared ideas are welcome. Employers and employees will operate in a transparent environment where no one is scared to fail after all if we don’t fail then how we will evolve. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us to be agile and accept change and that we need to keep moving and not to stand still.