Business leaders and their C-suite team members are used to considering external data describing their global business and financial environments when they sit down to develop or tweak their strategic plans.
Those planning sessions now have a new, equally important internal framework to consider, one that will significantly impact the enterprise’s ability to remain competitive: how the Internet of Things (IoT) will transform their business and impact their future business model.
It’s true: the IoT is at the precipice of becoming as ubiquitous as desktop computers across all industries, and carries with it similar boons—and caveats. The boons inevitably will be based on ever-increasing efficiencies and benefits for customers, and the caveats largely on levels of susceptibility to security breaches.
What exactly is the IoT?
Simply put, the Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a widespread, internal reliance on digital devices and “intelligent” software (also referred to as Artificial Intelligence, or AI), that provide data in real time about the company’s internal processes, customers, and/or products and services. In some cases, these digital devices will even communicate directly with each other, eliminating the middle man—the human employee.
Why is that helpful? The short answer is, data will drive decision-making at every level of the enterprise—not just a reliance on “the way we’ve always done it”—providing the company with the opportunity to adjust quickly and incorporate changes that lead to better outcomes.
Not only that, but the greater the level of your automation, the greater the opportunity for your workforce to focus on functions that create greater customer value and higher returns for the company, as Justin Anderson, Europe, Middle East and Africa General Manager at Appirio, notes in Europe Business Review.
Companies already incorporate aspects of the IoT: data gathered via automated attendants that interface with customers to answer their initial inquiries, and data about consumers gathered via company websites and social media, for example.
The IoT, however, drills down to provide key data at deeper levels, and therefore is farther reaching. That’s why it can promise greater impacts. For instance:
- What if your software could see that a customer on your website was seeking to solve a problem, and then connect that customer to the right person in your company in real time?
- What if your software can show you in real time how a new product is performing in your brick-and-mortar space, or how well your newly redesigned facility is operating?
Here is a look at strategic impacts of pivoting to a greater business reliance on the IoT.
Investing in automation becomes key to your ROI
Rethinking business models to take advantage of IoT efficiencies as they become available means that data analysis in every aspect of your enterprise will be able to drive decisions.
- This new strategic priority casts digitization as the front and center investment, on a par with a high-quality workforce. Why? Data-driven decisions inevitably lead to efficiencies that impact your bottom line.
- It stands to reason, then, that more reliance on data-driven decision-making will result in more efficiencies and a higher ROI.
- And as noted, IoT efficiencies free up valuable employee time that now can be spent on improving business operations and products, and delivering a higher level of customer service.
Newly intersecting HR and AI roles
Machines and machine learning (another way of saying AI) will recast human resources priorities, especially job descriptions.
- Job functions will take on a focus on data collection and analysis that enables your personnel to connect to their work from anywhere, and communicate with co-workers from anywhere—creating a new type of flextime and—with the right tools—enhanced possibilities for teamwork.
- As a key corollary that impacts how employees work, office space design will rely on data to deliver an office environment that capitalizes on the intersection between job functions and productivity criteria. For years now, Microsoft and other companies have been developing ways, for instance, that rely on educated guesses, essentially, to design a “campus” that fosters creative thinking. In the near future, data will eliminate the guesswork and offer office designs that bake in productivity solutions aligned with the C-suite’s strategic inputs.
One may safely assume that improved work space design, individualized scheduling, and enhanced productivity will lead to higher employee morale, better products and services, more breakthrough thinking to innovate—all of which are likely to lead to increased customer satisfaction.
The impact on CRM
If enterprises rely on the IoT to make businesses hum, what might business leaders expect the impact will be on customer relationship management? The short answer is, a better overarching understanding of consumer expectations, faster assessment of what each specific customer requires, quick and accurate resolutions for simple issues using AI devices, and time for employees to spend on resolving a customer’s more complex needs.
- Justin Anderson is quoted in Raconteur as stating that AI “will allow workers to free up their time to take on more creative, strategic roles such as focusing on engagement and innovative leadership, things that will, at least in some sense, always require a human touch.”
- In that same Raconteur article, Gajen Kandiah, EVP at Cognizant, writes about the impact of better data collection on the speed of customer service: “Having more customer data at employees’ fingertips and being able to share it across the business can allow them to respond to customer queries directly and more quickly without having to ask colleagues across different departments.”
The European-based Institute of Customer Service noted the following alert in a recent press release, titled Uncertain Times Ahead as Businesses Prepare for Customer of the Future:
“One of the most immediate challenges will be for organisations to tighten their processes around data – aspiring to a future scenario in which consumers give their personal information with confidence, and are assured of its long term security. This innovation needs to also translate into designing customer experiences that embrace seamless integration and convenience, and recruiting and retaining quality employees, who will embrace the challenges presented by future customer behaviour.”
In other words, successful CRM in the world of digital communications will require juggling strength in privacy and digital security measures with a customer-friendly user interface and a workforce that excels in high quality human and digital communication and crossovers.
- Savvy executives will need to equip their employees with top-level security tools and support to maintain customer privacy, security, and satisfaction if they wish to attract and retain customers. Security breaches, so prevalent in today’s headlines, will be less tolerated by future customers.
- The ROI related to security dollars will be reflected in higher customer attraction and retention rates, and more trust in the quality of your enterprise’s products and services.
Assessing readiness to pivot to IoT
These are only some of the ways in which the IoT is likely to transform businesses in the near future. Has the trend to embrace the IoT in the workplace begun? Absolutely, and it is trending upwards.
- Hazel Davis writes in Raconteur that “usage of techniques such as predictive analytics, customer path to purchase analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) are expected to double over the next two years to 59 per cent, 54 per cent and 43 per cent respectively.”
What does that mean for your company? Enterprises ready to pivot to embracing the IoT early on as their way of doing business are more likely to grab and retain a competitive edge in their respective industry.
Is your enterprise ready to pivot to an increased internal reliance on automation, data analysis, and data-driven decision-making?
Is a concern related to potential security breaches curbing your enthusiasm for moving forward towards embracing the IoT? Our IT managed services team excels at reviewing your business requirements and aligning solutions that make sense. Contact us to learn more.