2017: the year of the agile, connected business


When you look at what transpired last year it can often paint a picture of what to expect in the near future. Below are some of the things that I believe will change in 2017. 

Reverse levelling of the playing field

Until recently, when it came to business advice the trend was for smaller businesses to aspire to be more like bigger organisations. They’ve got more years’ experience, have managed to successfully scale, and reap all of the resource benefits of being a large enterprise.

This is now being challenged by savvy start-ups and young businesses that are a lot more willing to push the boundaries, innovate beyond the ‘norm’ and cause disruption across various markets. We call this ‘business apathy’ – bigger organisations at risk of being left behind by smaller, but bolder and in many cases, braver competitors.

According to Gartner, by 2021 more than 50 per cent of established corporations will be leveraging lead start-up techniques at the business level, to increase the pace and success of business transformation.

One of the leading problems large companies face is their inability to remain agile. Once established, they can be hesitant to change, and find it harder to do so in a quick and efficient way. Start-ups however are more willing to practice different approaches, gaining a better understanding of what will and won’t work – the tried and tested method.

To avoid being overlooked, bigger organisations need to understand that change goes hand in hand with success. It could mean adapting to keep up with your customers, out-smarting your competitors, or evolving based on market change.

Last year, we saw bigger organisations challenging some of the disruptors in the market such as Microsoft Teams and Slack. We’ll see similar situations transpire in 2017 as large enterprises look to learn from and even mimic smaller, disruptive and more innovative businesses in order to reverse level the playing field.

Death of the department

Ten years ago, business was very different. Each department was responsible for its own aspect of the customer journey. While the marketing department would be responsible for the way a customer perceives a brand, the customer service team acted as the main point of contact for customers. This is starting to change, and creating good customer relationships is now everyone’s responsibility, regardless of the department they sit in.

Take social media for example, 75 per cent of marketers using social media identify customer service as a primary use of their social media platform. However, only 26 per cent of those describe customer service as a department responsible for contributing to its social media strategy.

That doesn’t quite add up, right? The business should then ask itself, is the marketing team really the right  team  to be handling these issues on social media, or would somebody from customer service be better suited? Really, it shouldn’t matter because a single view of the customer should be available to anyone regardless of what department they’re in because the historic data captured on each customer should be easily shared. Customers don’t care who they speak to, they just want their query resolved. This is just one example of the blurred lines between all departments regardless if it’s sales, marketing or customer service.

2017 will reinvent the way in which business departments work together. Today’s customers are time precious and know what they want, when they want it. They no longer wish to have contact with a number of different departments, but rather a single conversation with one brand. As a result, we’re beginning to see departments no longer work in silos but instead, in a shared, more collaborative approach where key business drivers such as customer relationships are everyone’s job.

Lazy data

Big data is no longer a new phrase within businesses, it’s a term well worn. Thanks to the digital revolution, businesses today know that in order to remain competitive within their market they not only need to use data to define their business strategy, but also to understand customers.

Despite its importance it seems some businesses have become lazy in how they manage data, and are not using it to its full potential, heavily limiting the opportunities that it creates and also hindering business development.

In 2017, businesses need to take the use of data to the next level, going on a data ‘health kick’ and exercising the vast amounts of lazy data to make it work across their business. It will be the year that should put an end to dormant data as businesses look to gain in-depth analysis and squeeze out all the value from the information it provides.

Two significant focus areas for businesses will drive this, the ever-increasing importance of modern customer relationships and also the continual reliance on machine learning to make the most of data to help drive business decisions.

The successful businesses will be those that are able to adapt to these changes. Those that don’t may have a challenging year ahead.

Nick Peart, Regional VP Marketing, Zendesk