Last week, the SmartCom Summit Winter Series 2021 kicked off with a 3 hour live stream from our studios in Utrecht, The Netherlands. In 7 sessions 12 moderators and expert guests from Microsoft, Enreach, Anywhere365, Audiocodes, Logitech, Poly and Mavenir came together to discuss Leadership, Organisation, Modern Work, Customer Engagement and Ecosystems in this new age.
Here are my five main takeaways from these first 7 sessions.
1/ Hybrid Work is here to stay
Work is no longer a place you go to but a thing you do, and it’s time we all accept that. Cubicles are a thing of the past, the office is mostly online, work times and locations have become personal choices, and management has to find new ways to, well, manage. The future of work is sometimes in the office, and sometimes at home. Or at the local Starbucks, in flexworking offices, in the train, in the backyard, in the gym, or while walking the dogs…
Our office spaces need to be redesigned to accommodate team meetings, and to cater to employees that need or like to do their online meetings from the office, because of personal circumstances or individual preferences. Home offices need to be fitted with proper cameras, light, microphones and backgrounds, plus of course ergonomical desks and chairs. Employers need to make sure employees are well provided for, have the right tools, and are, well, happy and productive. And it’s the results that count, not the hours that are put in.
2/ The great resignation
This change in work culture, combined with the scarcity of skilled workers in many industries, is causing as much as 40% of workers to be actively looking for new jobs. Or going back to school, travelling, taking a break, starting their own business… The great resignation is a serious issue, and companies are struggling to stay (or become) attractive.
Diversity is a big opportunity, and a challenge at the same time. Companies need to be attractive to all sorts of people, male/female, young/old, different backgrounds/beliefs, etc. With online work it doesn’t matter (as much) where employees live, so companies can recruit globally – but also employees can look globally. The traditional 10 mile radius around the office is much less important, it’s all about culture and attractiveness now.
3/ Leadership & organisations are challenged
Making an organisation attractive for the right employees, and creating a strategy, purpose and structure that produces sustainable results, is a huge challenge for leaders and managers. This has nothing to do with technology but is all about vision, empathy, support, coaching, connecting.
Online or hybrid working is creating additional challenges. Many organisations have only digitized their meetings by transferring them to collaboration platforms like Teams, Zoom, Meet or Webex. The next step is to actually transform them by taking advantage of new features like recordings, transcriptions, translations, automatic note or action item taking etc. Meetings have become ‘messy’ these past years, running online in 30, 45 or 60 minute slots but often without structure or connection to some kind of workflow. Here’s a huge opportunity for collaboration/meeting platforms to add value and help organisations really digitally transform and improve their ways of working!
4/ Customer engagement redefined
With our work and life taking place more and more online, accelerated by lockdowns restricting traditional business, online commerce, shopping and customer service have become the new normal. Why go to a physical place of business if you can just order online from the convenience and safety of your home, 24 hours a day and using whichever channel you prefer…
This challenges companies and brands to be easily accessible online, communicate with their cystomers on whichever channel they prefer, and use automation where possible for efficiency and customer friendliness. Depending on the product and the customer’s personal preference in a given situation, text, voice and video should all be supported. Successful brands and companies win their customers’ hearts by outperforming the competition and embracing new communication technology, including cloud contact centers and programmable telecoms.
In Adrian Swinscoe’s “Punk XL” keynote he talks about the importance of the complete experience, and about experience leadership that makes the difference in this new age. This is a slow cooking process that simply takes time and requires attention and dedication for leaders and everybody involved.
5/ Businesses need trusted advisors
With all the changes going on, and innovation roadmaps announced, it’s no wonder that many organisations and leaders are confused and hesitant. While the general direction may be clear, they need help to start implementing next (small) steps. The situation we’re in is akin to the first horseless carriage which still looked like a carriage without a horse, not like the cars we know today. The digital transformation of our work and business is just getting started, and anything is possible.
Now we need inspiring leaders to take the first steps.
Technology providers and channel partners play a crucial role in helping customers take a next step in the right direction. The first requirement is accepting that we will never return to the way things were. Then we need trusted advisors and providers with a thorough understanding of their customers’ business processes and workflows – and how these can be optimized. Successful channel partners make sure they provide business value first, and deliver technology second. Focus on verticals or specific customer segments helps here, as does selecting the right technology providers that support open platforms and integrations.
Over the next weeks all of these subjects will be covered in more detail, so stay tuned!
About the author
Rob combines a strong technical and commercial IT background with 18 years of cloud communications experience as an entrepreneur, consultant, trainer/coach, analyst and business developer. His heart is in innovation and growth, working with scaleups and corporates to bring new technologies to market.
In 2016 he co-founded The Next Cloud because he believes the exciting world of business communications, with programmable telecoms, APIs, CPaaS and AI, is too important to leave to the Big Tech companies and deserves a local and people first approach. Optimal customer experience, new business models, but also solving our society’s real challenges by combining the strengths of corporates and innovators in new ecosystems.
Over the past 30 years Rob (co-)founded various technology companies, including one of the leading Dutch hosted voice providers (before hosted voice became the new normal). Today, he works with some of the world’s leading technology providers on innovation and growth, especially in the rapidly changing world of cloud communications.