Level 3 Communications

Steven Anning

How is technology changing your business in 2016?

Simply put: Technology has changed, and is changing, everything (“#digitaltransformation”).

One of the headlines from the PwC 19th Annual Global CEO Survey, PwC’s seminal release to the global market giving insight into what’s top-of-mind for CEOs, is “74 percent of CEOs are concerned about geopolitical uncertainty.” There are some particularly significant events this year which underscore this, but beyond that headline, technology is changing our world and impacting CEOs’ strategies.

Per PwC, Global CEOs are steering their businesses to achieve “growth in complicated times,” meaning they are evaluating how to manage and mitigate the risks impacting growth. Let us analyse four of the top risks to growth prospects that CEOs cite in the survey and weigh the impact on technology.

Social Instability (concern to 65 percent of CEOs)

Technology is fuelling this, but can also be a remedy to the discord.

Technology helps connect remote individuals in a positive light. For example, ahead of the British Referendum or ‘Brexit’ in June this year, social media is full of messages from people across Europe encouraging Britain to vote to stay in the EU.

Technology is obviously the platform for this connected collaboration for good and bad, but for your business it’s a fantastic way to reach your consumers directly – more effectively and more regularly.

Take Nike, where through the NikeID service you become the designer by customising your trainers, receiving tips and news from the latest sponsored sport star, order on the website and then, if you choose, you can try out your trainers and collect them at your nearest store. From there, you can show them off on Pinterest, Facebook or your blog. By empowering you in this way, you’re compelled to show off your creation. Having the right platform in NikeID encourages the consumer to become an ad-hoc advertiser for Nike.

Cyber Threats (concern to 61 percent of CEOs)

You already know the ever-increasing list of financial, retail and manufacturing companies that have had their brand damaged by a security breach, and now every industry and company is at risk – even the smallest business is likely to be handling online transactions, or sending sensitive information via email.

Each business and individual is going to have to take more responsibility for managing this. As I write, London’s Metropolitan Police chief suggested individuals take more responsibility to make their data secure and in October last year, one banking giant revealed 70 percent of its customers who fell victim to a scam did not get a single penny back. Extend this to global enterprises and the losses are in the billions.

Enterprises need to think about cyber security as not only an IT problem, but also as a brand equity problem, a financial problem, a competitive problem. It’s one of the top agenda items in my discussions with clients at Level 3, but, ironically, although it’s seen as one of the top challenges to growth, investments in threat prevention and mitigation rarely match the inherent risk to business.

Shift in consumer spending and behaviours (concern to 60 percent of CEOs)

People are 1) buying more online and 2) doing it more via mobile devices. I’ve already talked about NikeID as a great example of how a brand is capitalizing on these trends. But what about the individual’s behaviour in relation to the types of products they buy? Organic, Fair-Trade, ethically sourced are all service sectors growing exponentially. From a technology standpoint, leveraging social media or SEO to enhance your connection to the consumer is part of your purpose. But is your enterprise truly embracing the opportunity this offers? Today’s consumers have more options to choose brands with a conscience and at the heart of this evolution in values lies technology. Using mobile apps to provide access to services more conveniently, e.g. – online banking or shopping – securely (see previous point) enhances brand value, consumer engagement and builds trust.

Lack of trust in business (concern of 55 percent of CEOs)

Three years ago this figure was only 37 percent. I think it’s increased partly because of the prevailing factors in terms of cybersecurity breaches, which have put a heavy dent in the brand perception of affected enterprises. Also, the changing expectations of the consumer who want on-demand services, to see the product in store and buy it online. Whatever it is you’re looking for as a consumer, if you’re not getting it right now, you will lose trust in that company and go elsewhere.

For CEOs, technology doesn’t just add security or improve the experience, it’s also a great way to enhance trust, which may make it easier for consumers to purchase your products. Take NFC or near-field communications devices. Paying by electronic device has been around for a while, but has actually been slow to find consumer acceptance. With Apple and Android Pay, people are finally beginning to adopt this as it makes payments more convenient – and you must absolutely trust the technology if you’re going to use it. When the iPhone first launched in 2007, would you have believed me if I told you you’d be doing your banking and buying your lunch with your phone in less than 10 years’ time?

This is relevant to everyone, because technology impacts the company you work for and often holds the key to being more productive, engaging or cost effective.

I echo these trends in my business conversations and look forward to updating this blog in 2017 when it all changes again.

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Steven Anning keeps pace of the latest technology and digital trends through his customers, and helps them understand how to match them with the business objectives. Outside of that, he tries to keep in touch with being an Englishman in a US company by playing cricket and drinking real tea!