Mark Saunders, Marketing Director at leading Gloucestershire based communications service provider, 9 Group, reflects on the advent and progress of digital transformation and how their new disruptive cloud based communications and collaboration platform, eve, is poised to participate.
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Over the past few months, my business radar has become saturated by only two topics. If it’s not the advent and perils of GDPR, then it has to be Digital Transformation. I will leave the former to my more learned and diligent compliance colleagues, but the way we all do business, with our staff, our suppliers, our partners and our customers, is changing forever and this is falling under the catch all banner of digital transformation. A hugely broad topic this one, so I just wanted to share a few ideas and maybe provoke some feedback.
Across my formative years, I recall a plethora of similar catch-all phrases that were going to dominate our thinking and impact the way we conducted business for years to come. Who else recalls that world changing benefits promised by the “Information Superhighway” of the Nineties? I am trying unbearably hard not to file digital transformation or “DX” on the same shelf where all hyped marketing jargon for non-events with no real meaning, goes to die – do you remember The Millennium Bug or “Y2K?”
Refreshingly, I have yet to meet a single customer who is begging to be digitally transformed, so why are we all knee deep in this hoopla? Well, the way that customers consume information, make purchase decisions, acquire goods/services and utilise them, has been changed dramatically by the development of reasonable speed internet access and resilient cloud based services. Add in some Millennial employees (another phrase that nobody can tightly define) and there is obviously something afoot.
On a grand scale, we have seen nuclear level disruption to traditional business models characterised by examples such as on-line banking, Amazon, Netflix and Uber. The high-street estate agent is not so much endangered as simply warding off the end game for now and I would not recommend that you invest in the building of shiny new traditional car showrooms anytime soon, but what does this all mean for our business?
We must all recognise that customers and suppliers, staff too, are looking for frictionless, agile interactions with us. They don’t want to listen to a questionable choice of classical on hold music, because their millennial lives are all way too busy for that. Being able to self-serve and self-solve is pivotal for the modern consumer and if they want information, then that has to be available on online, digestible, probably through the medium of infographics and/or video, while definitely being consumable and sharable on a mobile, maybe even wearable, device. Ensure that you recognise the insatiable hunger for insight and information that Millennials consider to be “table stakes.” Attention spans are short and the need to transact immediately is high, so align your systems and sales process with these factors, or be prepared to fall behind. The recent sad high street news about the demise of both Maplins and Toys R Us is topically illustrative here.
For our business at 9, it is recognising how the communications and IT services we provide to our Partners and Customers can help them to be successful in this digitally transforming landscape. We have adopted the mantra of, “Free to Perform,” believing that our role is to do our job well, so that they can get on with theirs and be successful, without having to worry about the phones or the internet being fit for purpose.
Although the recent snow has placed this issue into sharper focus, it is entirely possible that office based working has reached, or even passed its peak and flexible mobility is a key criteria for younger candidates assessing employment opportunities. Organisations need high calibre collaboration, mobility and communication tools that can reach outside their business, but don’t require another stand-alone system to operate them. Integration and single platform systems will increasingly be “must-have.” The advent of cloud based communications is the great enabler here. We have probably all used Skype or FaceTime and hence perhaps questioned their viability as a business tool, but industrial grade versions are available and really are transformative.
Analysts tell me that the majority of readers of this business article will have a traditional phone system, encourage staff to use their own mobile phones for work, use a workman-like internet connection, with little or no security or resilience, have a premise based office software and storage, while being an occasional user of an audio conference service. Rightly or otherwise, their focus is on profitable widget manufacturing, not leading edge communication solutions.
The traditional phone system could be considered as the equivalent of a CD machine – relatively modern and digital, producing an ergonomically adequate solution, but increasingly overtaken by cloud based streaming services, which use voice over IP (VoIP) and are often described as hosted telephony. Note that, as yet, there is no evidence of a hankering for the purity of an analogue retrograde vinyl equivalent in the phone system world.
We have developed our own hosted communication platform at 9, in conjunction with globally proven vendors, such as Mitel, Cisco and Oracle. We have added integration and collaboration capability, so that voice or video contact can be made and business information accessed and shared on any fixed or mobile device, irrespective of location. A modern tool for the modern office. When we were searching for an identity for this new product, we eschewed the ABC 456X nomenclature beloved of the traditional communications hardware world and gave our product a name, a personality and a female gender – why not meet up with eve, short for exceptional voice everywhere, here www.iameve.co.uk
Change is generally fantastic for business, because it creates opportunities. The increasingly digital business world which we operate in is no exception, so do not be alarmed, but do be informed and prepared.
Finally, why not share your thoughts on what digital transformation means for you – DX is a very broad church after all, so let’s all start evangelising.