2020 Has Changed What it Means to be a ‘Future Ready’ Business

(and it’s not in the way you are expecting)

(source: Marketoonist, via: Twitter)

👉 EXPERIENCE the INTERACTIVE, DATA VISUALIZATION of the REPORT’S DATA HERE 👈

I am sure in 2015 someone asked me, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” I am also sure that whatever I said, I got the answer wrong. None of us could have predicted this pandemic, or how it would alter our lives. In this article, I am going to focus on the business aspect, and what it means to be a ‘future ready’ business in 2020.

I’ll be referencing The Vodafone Business Future Ready Report 2020. Vodafone Business originally did this research in November 2019 (by surveying 1,813 businesses, along with 25 in-depth interviews).

In May 2020, Vodafone Business updated its research (by surveying 800 businesses). They’ve taken over 100,000 data points and compiled them into this report. As a Vodafone ambassador, I am happy to have early access to the data.

For the sake of definition, let’s establish that a ‘future ready’ business is a business that is well-prepared for whatever comes its way — from a positive attitude to change and new technologies, to having a clear plan that can be adapted and updated when required, these organizations have a different way of approaching business challenges.

As a small business owner, I assumed the parameters for being ‘future ready’ would be focused around technology. And while technology is important of course, there are other unexpected characteristics that 2020 ‘future ready’ businesses share.

COVID-19 has taught us that soft skills, which have often been undervalued in the workplace, are equally as valuable as their technology-related hard skills.

The human skills of compassion, resilience and empathy have proved vital to any company’s chances of surviving a crisis. — Vodafone Business

In our world of artificial intelligence and automation, the human element is as important as ever when we talk about what it means to be a ‘future ready’ business in 2020.

Businesses that were considered future ready before COVID-19 have been much better prepared for the unexpected challenges we have all faced over the past 6 months.

In the past, businesses have been able to approach digital transformation on their own terms, in their own way, and at their own pace. COVID-19 caused a paradigm shift, and suddenly businesses were forced to digitalize their operations in weeks instead of years.

Let’s Take a Closer Look at How the Definition of a ‘Future Ready’ Business Has Evolved in 2020

I’d like to cover four key aspects of this evolution:

  • Changing Consumer Behaviors and Expectations
  • The Importance of Sustainability
  • The Importance of Being a Digital Business
  • New Social Norms Mean New Ways of Attracting Talent

For more detailed information about each one of these, grab your own copy of The Vodafone Business Future Ready Report 2020.

1. Changing Consumer Behaviors and Expectations

I wrote an article in collaboration with Diebold-Nixdorf about this same point. Imagine being a business that has spent years crafting the perfect customer experience — and then suddenly that experience completely misses the mark because your customers have changed their behaviors and expectations.

2020 ‘future ready’ businesses are adaptable and able to change their shopper’s experience quickly to meet the new demands. Whether it is a plexiglass divider to maintain safety, self-service kiosks to implement a contactless experience, or providing masks and hand sanitizer — these businesses have made changes swiftly.

In addition, the power has been shifting from the business to the consumer for several years. The events in 2020 have just accelerated the process. Consumers are more demanding, have more options, and are more vocal about their demands than ever before.

‘Future ready’ businesses in 2020 are listening and adapting rapidly to these cultural shifts. The Vodafone Business Future Ready Report 2020 goes into detail about all of this.

2. The Importance of Sustainability

Consumers want to know how their products are made, what is inside of them, and whether or not the company that created them is socially responsible.

Climate change, sustainability and related issues are top-of-mind for consumers. One thing COVID-19 has confirmed is that human behavior affects our planet.

In my own life, this was evident during the lockdown. I had never before heard so many birds singing outside my home office window. The wildlife loved it when we took a break from our routines.

Here in the United States, we are even seeing this sustainability trend in the simple things, like a jug of milk for example. Consumers want their milk in a transparent container so they can see the product inside, they want to know how it was produced, and whether or not the packaging is recyclable. Milk is just one of an endless number of examples.

According to The Vodafone Business Future Ready Report 2020, almost all businesses with over 50 employees are investing in sustainability. ‘Future ready’ businesses are adding sustainability to all aspects of their processes.

3. The Importance of Being a Digital Business

I love these two sentences in the report:

Businesses now see digital as a basic level of competency, rather than a years-long transformation.

Data is the lifeblood of the modern economy and a strategic asset for businesses.

My fellow technologists are likely rolling their eyes, but wait a minute, it goes deeper. Data and the digital economy are creating new challenges for businesses.

80% of businesses agree the amount of data being collected is increasing. ‘Future ready’ businesses know how to handle their data and squeeze value out of it.

This aspect of being a 2020 ‘future ready’ business requires digital transformation. Being able to effectively collect and interpret data in order to move up in the value chain of the digital economy also ties into number four below.

4. New Social Norms Mean New Ways of Attracting Talent

This where 2020 future ready businesses shine. They have their finger on the pulse of new social norms, which gives them a competitive advantage. Just like consumer demands are increasing, so are employee demands.

‘Future ready’ businesses don’t treat all workers the same. Their progressive outlook puts them at the forefront for attracting young talent. These businesses are also able to keep their older talent by appealing to what is important to them.

This personalization takes us back to the soft skills we mentioned at the beginning of this article.

As The Vodafone Business Future Ready Report 2020 explains:

Talented staff are the key to business success today. It’s this talent that comes up with the ground-breaking ideas and creates the supportive culture that gives one business the edge over another.

Final Thoughts

Just as we couldn’t predict COVID-19, we can’t predict when the next unexpected life-changing event will occur. One thing is certain. Businesses in 2020 that are ‘future ready’ are forging the path for us all.

They are the change-makers, the innovators and the forward-thinking visionaries that are ready to adapt to change almost as quickly as it happens. Embracing new technologies is a critical part of the process, but soft skills are equally as valuable.

Please download your own copy of The Vodafone Business Future Ready Report 2020 to gain a much deeper insight.

As always, thank you for reading my blog post. To continue the conversation, please leave a comment below or tweet me at @adamsconsulting.

Full Disclosure: This article was sponsored by Vodafone Business.

Tech journalist, Apple ACN, Digital Transformation, IoT, 5G, AI and the future of tech.

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