Most businesses are operating in rapidly changing and evolving environments, where new technologies and market supply convergence are causing industry disruptions that force them to not only adapt their business model, products and services, but most importantly, how they win and hold on to the hearts of their customers. This requires more data and profiling of customer’s preferences and targeting customers appropriately without overstepping the boundaries of their personal space.
To succeed in the headwinds of the speed of technological change, increased competition and demand for personalisation, businesses require more speed in decision making and execution and a “change fit” team culture.
The foundational layers to succeed in the execution of effective personalisation requires a clear customer journey moving from automated (self-help) to human interactions seamlessly. These interactions need to be supported by a good customer relationship management system (CRM), strong digital strategy, and the ability to seamlessly move between multiple modes of communication like social media, text (e.g. WhatsApp, website, e-mail), voice and sometimes visual. Due to the sheer amount of data, the use of Intelligent, dynamic tools to analyse the data becomes a prerequisite, and there are many AI tools at hand that could assist.
A broad shift to team-based decision making is particularly important because if it is well executed, it is a way to gather more speed and quality in decision making and increase the ability to better execute those decisions – this isn’t a tide or season, it is increasingly cementing itself as the new way of work. Fast, quality decisions are hardly a competitive advantage anymore – it is the permission to play. The ability to tap into team-based thinking to boost creativity is crucial. If a team has shared ownership and understanding of a decision, the execution tends to be more precise and effective. AI engines themselves can be utilised as team members in appropriate situations and with an understanding of the context of the input received. Insights from something like Chat GPT may well be sensible and suitable to support team thinking and further problem solving.
Around the world, and specifically in South Africa, there is a drive towards greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This extends beyond demographics to the ability or need to include ad-hoc team members in decisions. For example, a business may need to be able to bring a technical expert into a sales meeting when required. This would not be possible in the old paradigm, where people were not always physically in the same space, whereas today, they can be beamed into a team meeting almost instantaneously. This trend extends to include cross-functional projects – where expertise is drawn from various quarters – and team-based delivery in dynamic environments. While the objective is increased collaboration and synchronicity between team members, the efficacy of team-based decision-making and collaboration relies largely on the quality and right use of collaborative digital tools a company has at its disposal. Ensuring the right balance between digital and face to face engagements is important as most communication is non-verbal, and what is not said or seen often becomes the likely points of failure – the ability to “read” the team and “stage” them for input is best serviced face to face – it also better overcomes the suppression of the voice of the introverted person. When creativity is required for key business decisions, face to face is probably the best “go to” as it allows better for the dynamism of iterative thought. Face to face better caters to the nuance of agreeing, disagreeing, uncertainty, disappointment, disengagement, and much more. This means that in order to harness the power of a team, the members need to be able to see and hear each other, a “camera on” policy should be a prerequisite for virtual meetings.
It is worth noting that Zoom – whose name, along with some others, almost became synonymous with the remote working mass migration in the pandemic – recently requested that teams return to their offices. This is an interesting nuance as it speaks to the need to find a balance between a remote and hybrid model suitable for each business.
It becomes evident that building an effective team-based working environment relies less on the actual tools implemented and is more related to the human factor. The culture needs full buy-in from the board and must be driven by the CEO and executive team. Effective communication and collaboration are part of the culture of an organisation, and creating a cohesive and productive environment requires a collective effort and commitment from all stakeholders involved.
The trend towards cloud-based systems that are already integrated is gathering pace and adoption is growing fast, which mitigates against the effort to try and integrate legacy systems. We are seeing a host of innovative integrations powered by AI and machine learning. However, it could well be argued that the first innovation businesses require is to build a change-fit culture, from the leadership down to every member of staff. Innovation in the collaboration technology landscape is either an immense competitive opportunity or a threat if you are not prepared for change.
By David Meintjes, CEO Telviva