Keeping up with the Joneses
Running a modern business is rather like being Keanu Reeves in the film Speed: slow down for a second and you’re in trouble. Everything has accelerated. Customers are better informed and more demanding than ever before, and their expectations are constantly evolving.
How on Earth do you keep up?
As Facebook puts it: you need to move fast and break things.
A whole new world
Almost overnight, every business has become a digital business. From ordering in pubs to complaining about deliveries, customers increasingly turn to digital and mobile solutions. They expect to pay with Apple Pay, PayPal, or contactless cards instead of cash. They place their restaurant orders through dedicated apps. They choose where to go via Yelp, social media recommendations, or hyperlocal websites. They choose what to wear from Instagram.
As our annual trends report demonstrates, in both B2B and B2C businesses customers want more: more insight, more reporting, and a more personalised product or service that offers a unique experience rather than a cookie-cutter, one size fits all offer. And of course, they want it yesterday, or even sooner: it’s clear that many customers expect businesses to work out what they want before even they know what they want.
Keeping up with that requires speed, flexibility, and scalability, which aren’t always associated with legacy IT systems: as we’re all too aware, many businesses have their work cut out just keeping their existing systems running. That’s particularly tough if the systems don’t play well together: many IT managers are all too familiar with the complex collections of systems that businesses can accumulate over time.
That’s why many businesses are turning to the cloud.
Ahead in the cloud
IT managers aren’t keen on change for the sake of it: better to have stability than the latest toys. But the trend among businesses of all kinds is to move as much of the IT infrastructure to the cloud as possible, because it changes IT’s role from fire-fighting to business intelligence.
Whether it’s restaurants using cloud-based booking systems, businesses embracing cloud-based collaboration, or entirely digital businesses serving up media from cloud-based servers, moving key processes to the cloud gives businesses time and space to learn more about their customers, developing insights into customer behaviour and preferences.
The other key benefit, of course, is flexibility. Cloud services can be turned on or off as they wish, enabling business to react instantly to changes in demand. It also gives them the freedom to take risks, to experiment and to make mistakes. The cloud enables businesses to fail fast, to take risks secure in the knowledge that they won’t be left with redundant hardware or worse, redundant staff.
Taking risks is crucial, because the businesses that don’t try to anticipate and deliver what customers want in the future risk being left behind in a fiercely competitive world where customer loyalty can’t be taken for granted. Some experiments won’t work out, but that’s okay: As Edison allegedly put it: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” The 10,001st idea might just be the one that supercharges your sales or identifies a whole new business opportunity.
Another key benefit of the cloud is that businesses need only pay for the services they actually need: as we’ve seen in recent years the long-term trend is away from packaged software and local hardware to software as a service. If the business needs change it’s just a matter of checking the menu and adding the necessary component to meet those needs.
Find out what you already know
Big data is a really big deal in all of this, and it’s something that legacy systems often frustrate: many IT managers have experienced the way that incompatible, unconnected IT systems create “data silos”, where data from one department doesn’t leave that department. By uniting these disparate data sources and analysing all of the data instead of a small selection, IT can uncover valuable insights about customer behaviour.
It can improve customer satisfaction too: freeing data from the silos and sharing it across the business can deliver a seamless customer experience irrespective of which department the customer is dealing with. The more you know about your customers now, the more you can not just meet but exceed their expectations – not just now, but in the future too.
- Speed, flexibility, and scalability are needed to meet customer demand.
- By leveraging the cloud, businesses have more time to learn more about their customers.
- SaaS means companies only pay for what they use, which keeps them leaner and more agile – ideal for adapting to customers’ needs.
- Sharing data business wide gives customers a joined up experience at all times.
- Customer knowledge is power, and can be used to improve performance and meet core business objectives.