Connectivity and data have never been so important. The business landscape has never been so competitive, and consumers have never been more demanding in terms of immediacy and innovation. With this in mind, businesses must boost efficiency, improve customer processes and transform the consumer experience wherever possible.
Connectivity has been a hot topic for several years now and the focus on it is only set to increase – with the use of new devices and new technologies continuing to alter our day-to-day lives. Tim Berners-Lee, famous for founding the World Wide Web, has even talked about the ‘human right’ to connect. And with 29 billion connected devices forecast by 2022, of which around 18 billion will be related to IoT, the discussion is set to continue. But how can businesses make the most of connectivity, and how will operating as a truly connected business effect their bottom line?
Going forward, the key to success will be creating, what we call, a hyper-connected enterprise. Many businesses realise the importance of connectivity, especially around data, but many are failing to use it effectively, let alone become truly connected. Some companies may even fall into the trap of thinking that ‘connectivity’ only refers to the ability and speed to connect to the internet, it’s of course so much more than that – it refers to how we collect, store, share and analyse data, how machines communicate with other machines and how we integrate applications across a business, as well as how our staff communicate with one another via technology.
This kind of connectivity will be a key enabler of strategic competitive advantage going forward, particularly as we are now operating in what we call the NOW Economy. This is an economy of instant interaction, not to mention highly individualised customer and employee experiences. These experiences are increasingly context-driven across the devices, tools, and applications that are revolutionising the way people consume, communicate, collaborate and engage in both their personal and professional lives. It’s an economy where people want to extract more value out of what already exists, and create more value where none had previously existed. And the key to success in this economy, is for businesses to become hyper-connected.
Taking steps in the right direction
If businesses can indeed become hyper-connected, they can lay the foundations to bolstering their bottom line, driving innovation, while gathering important operational insights across the company.
It's an urgent challenge, but one that can be readily met if businesses connect data, intelligence and experience on one platform, integrating all core processes together. Many businesses think they have achieved success when it comes to connectivity when they have synced up their payroll function, for example. But silos cannot exist anywhere in the organisation, customers do not care if your payroll function is connected – they expect the whole business to be.
Some organisations have taken steps in the right direction – beginning to integrate some of their applications. But, here, what we are really looking for is a completely open and integrated business. This means gathering data and insights from internal sources across the business, from customers and from partners, all in one place. We call this ‘infinite’ connectivity and know it’s the only way to unearth those ‘hidden’ insights that will help a business differentiate from its competition and create new value opportunities. The great thing is, anyone can become connected – it just requires the right applications and mind-set to bring everything together.
A lot of organisations think creating a connected enterprise is something limited to technology companies, but this is far from the case. We’re seeing banks connecting all their systems to help offer better retail propositions, tyre sellers pulling data from car retailers to know when a customer is due for a rotation or replacement and retailers directing in-store customers to items of clothing they know they were browsing online. The key to making the most of being connected is to use your information to understand what the customer wants and then work back from that to meet their needs.
But when companies reach the stage of understanding the importance and making steps towards infinite connectivity, they are still some way off successful transformation.
A new mindset
A critical step in building an organisation that’s hyper-connected means engaging employees and getting their buy in. As soon as your organisation decides to become connected, your people need to be told why it’s a necessity, what’s going to change, why they’ll benefit and what’s expected from them to help make it happen. This strategy must start with the leadership team and needs to find its way through to connected talent and skills, as well as informing a connected culture.
After all, becoming connected will require your people to change too. And that means you’ll need their buy-in from the start. If your people aren’t told what’s expected of them to support the initiative, then they’ll start guessing. Misinformation spreads quickly, and it can lead to employees wondering what will become of their role and even how secure their jobs are, especially in a newly-powered AI environment.
With hyper-connectivity comes a new mindset around company structure. Even if the change isn’t physical, staff and their behaviours will need to adapt accordingly. As connectivity takes hold across the workplace, it is up to business leaders, supported by their HR functions, to ready the organisation. That can mean anything from proactively recruiting people with the necessary skills through to retaining and training employees with the qualities needed for them to take full advantage of the new way of working, the new technologies and, ultimately, the new business models. Being connected relies heavily on your employees knowing what to do with new business insights – and understanding that they’re part of this new, innovative, agile setup and that it’s their expertise and skills that will bring it to fruition.
If a company puts all these processes in place, we can truly see the economics of interaction in play. Using technology to connect can have a massive economic impact on a business, increasing efficiency, improving the CX, and driving innovation – but only if done correctly. As the famous industrial designer Charles Eames said “Eventually everything connects–people, ideas, objects. . .the quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.”
Debbie Green, Vice President of Applications, Oracle UK