At the start of 2020 I was thinking about our customers, our partners and the market. I was trying to identify the key trends that are, or will, impact all these areas. In the course of that reflection, I came up with 4 key words describing this complex dynamic. Those four words were Velocity, Vulnerability, Sustainability and Experience.
What I hadn’t foreseen or accounted for was Covid-19, and the impact this would have upon our customers, our partners, the market and the wider world. But when I think about the past 5-6 months, I think there’s a context (somewhat different to that which I’d intended!) that gives those 4 words a powerful relevance and meaning.
That aside, as this isn’t another blog about Covid-19 – I see people, and businesses starting to plan and look towards their future. These trends feel as relevant now as they ever did, perhaps even more so.
I thought I would share my view of how I see the market, expressed through these 4 words. But before you read on, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then this short video should hopefully set the tone for what I’m about to write:
Industries are changing at an incredible pace. Look at the technology market as an example, but the same applies in retail, manufacturing, public services and beyond. We used to call this “digital transformation”, that term is fatigued now – but nonetheless it’s true that the pace of change is un-abating. What this means to our customers (or ourselves) is that the ‘time to follow’ is so much reduced from what it was before – literally in some instances from months and years to days and weeks. This creates tension and challenge, as much more that we must deal with is “new”, and there’s no established blueprint or playbook. This does however create the opportunity in co-creation and partnerships, identifying and leveraging specific expertise to unlock value and creativity to deliver the innovative outcomes that our customers demand and that offer us competitive advantage…. for the short while that that lasts!
It would be easy to presume that I mean Vulnerability as a proxy for Security. Security is paramount, particularly in the context of the changes we see in the world and in the technology landscape. But I see vulnerability as a far more profound issue. It covers the full breadth of impacts and disruption that organisations face, that they did not choose nor often foresee (look at Covid-19). Every business, every person, everything is vulnerable, so the mitigation to this is to be flexible and adaptable. Those that are flexible and adaptive can potentially thrive, whilst those that appear strong today, but are inflexible will not. Time has offered us many examples that prove this to be true – Blockbusters, Kodak etc. You cannot eliminate vulnerability, but it can be managed and reduced.
This is SUCH a huge topic now. Sustainability/CSR or whatever label you wish to apply has, in recent years, moved from being a peripheral consideration to something that sits at the heart of businesses’ identity and values. Consumers, partners, suppliers are no longer expecting, they are demanding that organisations operate responsibly and in a value driven way within their communities and ecosystems. When it comes to partnering, businesses will choose to work with organisations that share similar visions and values and will penalise those that do not. This topic is not just about “green credentials” – sustainability is about supporting communities and people – themes of equity and inclusivity start to be introduced (check out the concept of the “Triple Bottom Line“).
I speak to many large organisations with “big visions” for their future, and for the world. Being aligned to these visions and supporting them is not optional anymore.
I have spent a lot of time talking about experience from the perspective of Workplace solutions. This is still relevant, providing great Employee Value is key in the ongoing war for talent we see across markets and industries. It has been proven that providing a great place to work leads to better customer satisfaction, leads to better returns, and the cycle continues. The trend of experience also encompasses the experience of the consumer of the services. Providing compelling and engaging services and touch points is imperative in the battle for the consumer. We all see, experience and act on this in our home lives – we are increasingly intolerant of poor experiences or those that do not meet our expectations. A relentless focus on experience, both internally and externally is key to success.
When I think back to all the conversations I’ve had with customers, they anchor back to one or more of these trends. There are nuances by industry as you would expect, but they form a bedrock to help understand the challenges and opportunities businesses face as they look towards their future.
Coming next…. Our response and role in helping to respond to these challenges will feature in upcoming blogs. In the meantime, check out the insights from our UK Chief Technologists in our latest publication.