By Pete Ellis, Head of Enterprise ICT, Telefónica UK
Over the past few years we’ve really begun to see a step change in how organisations operate. From bring-your-own (BYO) to flexible working, there’s no doubt that technology has changed the way we work. And as we continue into 2014, the line between the physical and digital worlds will become more blurred than ever before. We’re expecting a 60% year-on-year increase in mobile data usage1. In the workplace, we’ll see mobility and enterprise social networks (ESN) come into their own. From customers we’ll see a greater demand for stellar customer service – whether that’s in store or online.
The year of workforce mobilisation – thanks to 4G
We’ve been talking about mobility and consumerisation for some years, but the predicted uptake of 4G in business means that mobile working will finally come into its own this year. And with this shift will come the need for more defined mobility management solutions, including (BYO) policies, mobile device management and managed mobility. According to Gartner: “By 2018, the size of the mobile digital workforce will double or triple and companies are going to have to set policies and architecture to keep data safe”2.
And it’s no wonder, when you learn that 37 million work hours could be saved in the UK each year thanks to 4G3. It’s because users will be able to get faster connectivity on the move with 4G – so people working on building sites, from roadside services, at big events or from home will benefit from instantaneous connectivity and less time spent in the office, travelling or on admin. You can read more about 4G for business here.
The year of the social enterprise
We expect to see a proliferation of ESNs and instant messaging tools like, Yammer, Chatter and Lync in 2014, as businesses look to mobilise their workforces, improve communication, increase project transparency and share internal expertise. And of course, social media can also be a powerful tool for communicating with customers, crowd sourcing information and managing your organisation’s reputation. IBM reports that by 2014, nearly four out of five companies plan to invest in social technology to foster internal collaboration and to listen to customers 4.
The change will also be driven by the new wave of Millennials joining the workplace this year, who demand better, more intuitive communication tools to match the experience they’ve come to expect as ‘digital natives’.
And perhaps most exciting of all, the new social enterprise could lead to the rise of ‘corporate democracy’, flattening corporate decision-making like never before, and giving all employees a voice.
Remodelling the customer experience
The rise of mobility and connectivity has probably had the most obvious effect in retail. The traditional bricks-and-mortar high street store is becoming a rare sight. Instead, retailers are innovating to reduce the impact of showrooming, where consumers visit stores to browse for products but then go online to find the product at a lower price. In 2014, we’re expecting to see retailers embracing technology to provide a differentiated in-store customer experience. We’ll see more wifi, mobile apps, tablets with full product catalogues and stock information, video screens, and even virtual makeup counters and changing rooms. And it’s not just retailers who are giving customer experience the focus it deserves. Passenger services organisations are onboard too. And so they should be. 75% of people would be more likely to flag a cab that had free wifi5.
4G Britain predicts that mobile shopping could boost the economy by £4.5 billion by 20163. And, according to Econsultancy, 43% of UK shoppers now use smartphones while on the move to compare prices and read product reviews (up from 19% last year)5.
2013 was a big year for business technology in the UK, but I think that we’ll see even bigger changes in 2014 as 4G, mobility and the social enterprise come into their own. I‘ll be keeping a close eye on other sectors too, especially retail, passenger services and the public sector as organisations continue the search for new experiences to draw people in and to create holistic in-store and online experiences to keep them there.
1 O2 UK
2 Gartner Top 10 Technology trends for 2014
5 Ubiquitous, July 2013