Vodafone: Why disruption is an advantage in business transformation
2020 has been a tumultuous year for businesses as we ride out the pandemic. We’ve seen large and small businesses take dramatic steps to survive.
Every New Zealand business has changed in some way due to disruption – many of these businesses will have been caught off guard.
“It amazes me how resilient and creative New Zealand small businesses are in the face of adversity,” says Vodafone business transformation manager Paul Bertenshaw.
“The lengths that they go to in order to provide certainty to their employees and their owners, all whilst facing uncertainty, is an impressive display of small business resilience. It has been impactful and hard, but it’s not as bad as some pessimists think.”
Bertenshaw, who contrasts the business pandemic response to the response of the global financial crisis (GFC) in 2008, says that there is more understanding now about how important it is to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) stay afloat.
“There’s an attitude towards businesses being open to extending payment terms and making efforts to ensure accounts payable to small businesses happen quickly. Some landlords have also been generous towards their tenants. In contrast to the GFC, there has been a real push in the business community to help each other out.”
Even between the first and second lockdowns, SMEs have embraced resilience – they are more ready to trade in a way that changes with safety requirements.
For many businesses, that means embracing modern ways of working like collaboration tools and cloud technologies. SMEs may have been behind the curve in terms of digital adoption prior to the pandemic, but there is always a silver lining.
Bertenshaw says that businesses realise that technology can help to accelerate productivity, improve their competitive position, and to become both more secure and resilient. At the same time, SMEs are also navigating unfamiliar territory with new risks and challenges – and these can take time to work out.
'Business transformation' may be a fairly ambiguous term when you first look at it, but the meaning is reasonably straightforward.
“It’s about a conscious decision to make lasting, bold changes to your business to create long term or future-looking value. It’s about taking a critical look at your business and its future prospects, and forcing you to make changes to you know, recognise and embrace the reality of the market," says Bertenshaw.
That could be as simple as taking time to examine current everyday processes and business health. Are there ways to be more efficient?
Research shows that many businesses only plan 12-18 months ahead, but business transformation requires a different approach – it means taking the time to plan further ahead, recognising shifts that may happen in the market, and how to change the business accordingly.
When businesses have identified something that needs to change, there are a few steps that need to happen first.
1. Businesses need to gain leader, executive, and staff buy-in. Bertenshaw says a change can’t just be words on a wall, it has to be something that everyone can put time into.
2. It’s important to include a good cross-section of people in these initiatives. "You want to facilitate the people who do the work in your business – they know your business better than anyone. You might find that there are different ideas for improving the business bottom up, than ideas you would get if you focused on the top down," says Bertenshaw.
3. Dedicate time to the initiative. This can be difficult to do on top of normal business activities, but success can only be measured with time and process monitoring.
Of course, it is important to define measures of success, whether they are financial measures or otherwise. Bertenshaw says that businesses should define those measures up front, and then embed success criteria into projects for constant monitoring. Monitoring can help businesses to understand whether a project will deliver the desired outcome. If not, fail fast, and move on.
“You learn a lot from your failures and successes. So long as you apply learnings to your next initiatives and give people the chance to try bold things, that is business transformation. Challenge yourself to broaden your thinking,” he says.
Vodafone knows a thing or two about trying bold things, especially in terms of flexible working.
The company didn’t miss a beat when COVID hit, mainly because the company had embraced flexible working many years earlier. People weren’t in the office, but it didn’t affect the company’s ability to function or deliver outcomes for the many businesses it supports.
“One of the things any business can do is start a discussion to find out how working flexibly, being bold, and embracing collaboration technologies can help them to move to the digital space," says Bertenshaw.
“At Vodafone we have transformation in our DNA. It’s not a product you can pick up and buy off the shelf. To help other businesses, we approach many different methods of digital transformation and look at and how that might suit a workplace."
To find out how Vodafone can help your business transform, click here.