By Meaghan Sullivan, Head of General Business and Global Partner Marketing, SAP
Dec 11, 2019
Nothing beats the anticipation felt at the beginning of a new decade. From reflecting on the past to predicting what will come, it’s a moment that most people seize to recharge, dream, and set a plan for a future of prosperity and growth.
Looking at the possibilities ahead of us, I couldn’t avoid noticing a recent prediction that a growing number of small and midsize businesses will successfully adopt an experience-centric business model in the next four years. This caught my attention because, increasingly, our experiences as consumers and employees weigh heavily in our decisions, whether we’re buying something as simple as toothpaste or considering a promotion or new position at work.
So how can growing companies ensure they leverage the full power of data, automation, and artificial intelligence to sense customer and employee needs and deliver the right experience at the right time in 2020 and beyond?
Introducing my midsize business resolutions for 2020 and beyond
With advice and insight from a few of my favourite colleagues, practitioners, and thought leaders, I compiled a list of the top five resolutions that every midsize business leader should consider.
1. Look five years down the road when considering your next digital move
As the old saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. This reality is undoubtedly the case with the growing role and importance of technology. But according to author, columnist, and small business owner Gene Marks, the most successful businesses in the coming decade will be the ones that look at the potential value of their digital investments through a forward-thinking lens.
Marks advises: “Artificial intelligence, augmented reality, optical character recognition, robotics, and voice are coming to your business – and they’re coming soon. Smart business leaders will invest in these technologies today to help meet their goals tomorrow. This is not about doing the right things for your business. It’s what’s right for your employees, customers, and community.”
2. Remember, you’re never too small for leading-edge technology
While SAP innovation evangelist Timo Elliott concurs with Gene Marks, he believes that digital technology is a crucial tool for levelling the playing field for every business from one-person startups to multinational conglomerates.
“Enterprise businesses may have more access to resources, notably the latest technologies and teams of people, but this reality is no longer a guarantee that they will have the winning hand every time,” Elliott observes. “Innovations such as predictive analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence have allowed companies as small as five employees to access the same computing power as their larger competitors – only to take action faster and better.”
3. Shape the future of work with freedom, meaningfulness, connectedness, and choice
As an attorney, popular speaker, and best-selling author of 17 books, including The Small Business Bible, Steve Strauss has his finger on the pulse of top trends for small and midsize companies. And the most significant development that Steve sees emerging in the coming decade centres on the largest segment of today’s workforce – millennials.
“Millennials do business very differently: they adopt new technology more easily than Boomers and want the freedom to work remotely,” Strauss shares. “To compete effectively with this growing segment of the workforce, small and midsize companies need to provide millennials with the tools and freedom to work the way they want. They’ll need digital tools to allow their talent to connect and work virtually and offer more flexible options for part-timers, full-timers, short-term contractors, and so on.”
4. Expand your thinking on customer experience, even in times of uncertainty
Stephanie Thum, founding principal of Practical CX, recently reminded me of the opportunities that businesses miss when acting conservatively during periods of market ambiguity and doubt.
“[Uncertainty] doesn’t mean your focus [on customer experience] needs to take a huge pause,” Thum says. “Small and midsize businesses have an opportunity to be nimble in ways where many large organizations struggle. With an entrepreneurial spirit and mindset, you can use this time as a green light to advance the customer experience dialogue.”
5. Put talent management and human-centred decision-making at the centre of everything
Digitalization brings opportunities that accelerate growth. However, many businesses go wrong when their strategies ignore the need for the right talent and mutual understanding of the human-centred reasons why specific outcomes happen.
Subhomoy Sengupta, head of small and midsize enterprise operations at SAP, sums up this mandate by stating: “Ultimately, hiring and retaining the right people and understanding the reasons why certain outcomes happen will determine long-term, sustainable success.”