We’re well into a new year, but one thing remains very much the same for businesses in 2023: they need to change.
Let me be clear: that’s not because they’ve done anything wrong. Rather, businesses are under immense pressure, and we’re all feeling that. What are you supposed to do as your gas bill doubles overnight, for example?
Despite the pressure, driving the change required is an overwhelming prospect and many businesses are unsure about where and how exactly they’re supposed to transform. As a result, we’re seeing companies holding onto cash flow, because in this environment, no one wants to invest.
The thing is, holding onto cash right now doesn’t benefit anyone. 2023 is shift or die territory: we need to act, not stand still, and we need to act boldly. The status quo is not sustainable, and your business will be totally redefined by macroeconomic conditions – if you let it.
What I mean by that is there’s clear opportunity for you to be the author of your business’ future, rather than just a victim of circumstance. But it requires you to pivot.
If I were to summarize exactly what businesses need to be doing right now, it’s find value and amplify it.
It’s all about focusing on the essentials, economies of scale and doing more with less; identifying gaps in the market, challenging the norm and getting more bang for your buck. Those that take the time to identify their core business strength, work out how to do more of it, and let go of the rest will ultimately win out, even in challenging times.
So let me explain how to do just that.
There’s clear opportunity for you to be the author of your business’ future, rather than just a victim of circumstance.
Seek out the value-add
We all read the business press and see that in uncertain macroeconomic times, it’s the out-of-the-box thinkers who really thrive. But their secret isn’t really a secret. When margins are tight, they streamline, and they innovate. Every organization can do this, but it requires a proper, honest assessment of your business: what do we need? What don’t we need? What are we missing? Where is our true unique value?
For many businesses, honest assessment isn’t as easy as it sounds. The sheer amount of data flowing around in businesses is extensive, often collected for the sake of it rather than necessarily doing anything with it.
Take manufacturing. There’s endless data stemming from your average plant: it needs cleansing, storing and it needs to be made available 24/7 for reporting. But are all of these measurable criteria necessary and do they add any value? We need to think critically about what we measure, how we do it, and where we put it.
Imagine you have a good that needs to be kept at a stable temperature, for example. Keeping track of the temperature at all times creates a lot of data, but it doesn’t actually tell you anything. All you really need to know is when the temperature exceeds or goes below maximum and minimum. That’s the key essential ‘trigger’.
Starting to identify what is and what is not essential will make a big difference in your business. But you also need to ensure it’s then stored properly so it can actually be used and compared. It’s no use keeping it in well organized but ultimately useless piles, files or siloes.
Reassuringly, you don’t need to rebuild all of your systems and business architecture. What you need is a tool that brings everything together, commonly a single data layer that will push and pull to all the relevant sources and tools you already have.
If you get these steps right across your business, you’ve successfully found your value. Now, you just need to amplify it.
Proposing value at scale
What is amplifying value, you might ask?
Put simply: taking calculated risks about which revenue streams will deliver returns and prioritizing the resources that will ensure these thrive. It’s all well and good knowing what’s going on in your business, but that’s just the foundation to actually improving it. Amplifying value is putting the right data to work.
Holding onto cash right now doesn’t benefit anyone. 2023 is shift or die territory.
The good news is, having reliable data that’s easily accessible and all in one place is a goldmine for technologies like automation and AI, which can take this data and turn it into real value, be it clear insights, smarter workflows or even predictions.
This automation layer is where businesses can really drive savings: first of all, it may reveal insights into current operations or strategies you may not have considered before. Secondly, if machines are doing these calculations and joining up the dots, the people we use to sift through data manually now can do something else far more valuable. Finally, these speed and efficiency savings also allow you to be far more agile and quickly spin up or wind down your activities, depending on your needs, drastically reducing your time-to-market. That’s four benefits in one for businesses: better intelligence, saved time, saved costs and more agility.
What we’re doing is enhancing human capability to interpret large sets of data in a different way. Humans still play a vital role in training, improving and sense-checking – as well as validating the data AI provides to secure new insights.
What this looks like in reality
I’ll give you an example of what this could all look like for a business.
Imagine you’re running an airport dealing with massive queues at customs… which is leading to missed flights and many complaints.
Sounds bad. But on the plus side, you have plentiful data at your fingertips: you know who is in the airport terminal and roughly where they are; you can measure the lines at customs and the average waiting time; you know the capacity of all the flights on offer and which flights are missed.
If you join this data together – and then automate it – you can start to trigger solutions: alerts when queues are too long and passengers are missing flights, alerts to the necessary teams to create more capacity, and you could even communicate directly with passengers to keep them informed about the situation and apologize for any delays – all without human intervention.
The piles of data your business already has are just two steps away from becoming functioning workflows and business-critical insights.
We’re already seeing this in action at scale in real life – from Manchester Airport Group to BT Group – and there are potential similar use cases in every industry imaginable.
What this example shows is: the piles of data your business already has are just two steps away from becoming functioning workflows and business-critical insights that will cut costs and unlock capacity in your workforce.
What you choose to do with those benefits – well, that’s up to you.
Break it down
Once you have the data, it’s connectable and can provide the insight you need to pivot and create true value that can carry you through this crisis and into future growth.
The question remains: are you going to hope this little crisis just passes you by, or are you going to get the data insight that defines your value and be bold enough to pivot your business for future success?