This is a contributed piece from Don Grantham, President of Central and Eastern Europe, Microsoft.
Technology is significantly re-shaping society and business dynamics, disrupting industries and changing the way we live, work and communicate. A Forrester/Odgers Berndtson Survey found that 64% of companies with 10-249 employees expected their business to be disrupted in some form by digital technologies over the next 12 months, increasing to 79% for businesses with over 10,000 employees.
With small businesses increasingly important to the economy in Central and Eastern Europe (Business risks and opportunities in Central and Eastern Europe), it’s time to get on the front foot. Across the region, 70% of enterprises embracing digital technology say that it has had a positive impact on their business according to recent research by Ipsos Mori. It means they can innovate faster and exploit new opportunities that drive growth to improve their business outlook.
Proactivity is key. I believe businesses can ask themselves three things to make sure they are digitally transformed rather than disrupted in the future:
1. Your customers crave personalisation - how can you please them?
Gone are the days of a one-to-many approach. Customers want, if not demand, one-to-one interaction with the businesses they deal with. In a recent survey we commissioned, we found that across 6,200 information workers and 482 businesses, 1 in 5 are willing to pay a 20% premium for personalised products or services. The successes of both Marketo, a SaaS company that creates lead generation software and The Chapar, a personalised online fashion retailer, point to the positive impact personalisation has on the bottom line.
Over in the Czech Republic, iBod runs the largest customer loyalty program in the country. Working with 60 plus partners, customers earn reward points for each purchase they make. Smart data analytics allow the company to provide a more personalised service for its customers, tailoring deals and offers based on previous transactions. As a result, it has gained a sharp competitive edge.
2. Your employees work differently - can you empower them?
One in four people now work outside of regular hours because their customers expect them to be responsive. Your employees can no longer clock off and assume it can wait until Monday morning – every second counts when keeping customers happy. With a smartphone in nearly every pocket, businesses are finding ways to stay ahead and empower employees so they can best serve customers without losing morale and importantly, motivation.
Providing your employees with tools that allow them to work anytime, anywhere and not be restricted by time, place or on premise technology can make a difference to your business output. Greece-based travel company Tripsta started in 2005 with two employees and has now grown to be one of the biggest agencies in south-eastern Europe. In order to maintain regular communication with its teams in Istanbul and Bucharest, the business adopted a cloud-based solution for employees to share and collaborate in a much easier way. Lorenzo Pauwels, Business Performance Manager at Tripsta states, “The file load had started to become too large to handle by our IT department. We required a solution that allows access from anywhere and needed to automate our basic and every day business processes. This frees up significant time to allow our employees to focus on activities that really matter to the company.”
3. Your operating models need a refresh - where can you optimise them?
Every business I speak to, tells me that its people and processes are becoming more reliant on technology. Whether it’s enabling real-time collaboration among offices across the world, booking international travel, announcing new product updates or delivering presentations to prospects and clients, there isn’t one aspect of a business’s operating model that hasn’t been touched by technology.
We have to take a closer look at these processes and find proactive ways that technology can have a positive impact. GEN-I Group, a Slovenian energy company, was expanding rapidly and needed a technology and support system that could help sustain growth. With 120,000 customers and over 170 employees it needed an operating system that could support internal processes across multiple markets. A fully integrated software system has allowed the company to be much more collaborative and flexible meaning the organisation can continue its expansion plans.
I believe if every business can find answers to these simple questions then they will build a forward-thinking, proactive strategy that will allow them to succeed. An organisation that moves from being an analogue to a digital company means everyone in the workforce has the tools and digital skills to drive business innovation. We have to realise that digital transformation is not a passing trend – it is really the new norm.
Today businesses stay competitive by adopting a systems-approach to intelligence; combining data insights from connected sources and utilizing them to make best business decisions. It’s really a combination of technology, people and processes that will allow businesses to secure their competitiveness and change the landscape of industries.
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Phil Muncaster reports on China and beyond