The impact of digital technology on consumer behaviour and business operations· Case study
KeywordsDisruption ; Technology ; Digitalisation ; Digitisation ; Digitalization ; Digitization ; Consumer behaviour ; Consumer behavior ; Business operations ; Agility ; Agile ; Methodology ; Millennials ; Generation Z ; Impact ; Social change ; Cognitive technology ; Digital citizenship
Today, technology evolution is taking place in line with business acceleration and these two terms are inextricably linked. The interrelation between technology evolution and business acceleration destabilises the traditional social norms and changes human relationships and interactions. What society experiences today is the so-called Digital Revolution which is characterised by the emergence of a digital global market as well as the constant and rapid dissemination of information worldwide. At the same time, the Digital Revolution is challenging the traditional business structure and ecosystem for the sake of business innovation. The Digital Revolution has affected the business world specifically in four areas; customer expectation, product enhancement, collaborative innovation and organisational forms. The new technology, created by companies, has greatly influenced the social characteristics of the new generations, namely the Millennials and the Generation Z. For the first time in human history, generations can be observed who have experienced the digitalisation from the early stages of their lives and who have grown up taking technology for granted. Due to this fact, these generations are the most demanding customers with the highest expectations in B2C interaction, in customisation, in business approach, honesty and innovation. Therefore, businesses have been forced to adopt a more customer-centric and outcome-based model to respond effectively to customer needs. Businesses, trying to discover digitalisation standards along with the increased customer demands, have developed and designed new diversified digital-penetration business models. Their goal is product enhancement, a result of the pervasive digitisation, which improves and accelerates the way business conceives, designs and delivers product and services. Digital transformational projects are taking place to enhance customer experience across all touchpoint channels and those companies which do not keep up with this pace of acceleration are doomed to stay behind and fail. Thanks to data analytics and the digitisation of the customer profile, one can observe that the gap between the customer and the business is bridged, while customer journeys and inherent monetisation are set in the foreground. The increased efficiency through innovation and the compelling value proposition for customers in the market has engendered a new collaborative framework, which in turn has created the concept of sharing economy. This era of change has forced businesses to reconsider the working environment with emphasis given the replacement of obsolete structural methodologies and the pursuit of a more talented workforce. Strict waterfall structures have started to lose ground and be replaced by new agile methodologies for the sake of speed, efficiency and continuous improvement. These organisational forms constitute the outcome – and the fourth effect of the digital revolution – of business’s effort to respond to demanding customers’ needs. The widespread creation of agile teams, beyond technological units, has changed the way business has been working until now. For most organisations, agile methodology is still a pilot program, as the business world presupposes for them to change their shared values, the culture, the way of communication and the diversified skills and abilities. More present and involved in business operations than ever before, Human Resources seem to currently lead this digital transformation, which does not include solely new operation and management rules but also a new way of hunting talented and high calibre people. Having customer expectations as a priority and being influenced by technology, companies try to eliminate the gap between the technology acceleration and the actual business productivity. This endeavour is tightly woven with the change and creation of core HR pillars. To begin with, the increasing competitiveness of the market and the new career paths of work, have forced HR to draft a whole pillar for the acceleration of employees’ skills. The emergence of the Learning and Development pillar is apparent due to the demands of new generations for continuous skills improvement prospects in a constantly changing environment. Talent acquisition is also considered as a priority pillar for the organisation’s digital acceleration. Under the scope of this pillar, HR is encouraged to take measures to improve employee experience, performance management and the working environment. The Employer Brand strategy has been developed especially for this reason so that businesses can more easily approach and attract young talented candidates as employers of choice. This has, as a result, closely linked efficient productivity and innovation with employee engagement through activity-based working models, performance management tools and flexible working. Data sourcing and analytics have managed to shift the conversation from employee’s individual achievements to teams’ outcomes which are related to the customer-centric results and the overall contribution to driving goals. In case the outcome is not the efficient one, performance management is trying to boost individuals’ performance on goal making, progress tracking, continuous feedback, career development and easy integration. During and after the transition to the new agile organisational model, business leaders are required to be more adaptable than ever before to changes and career development opportunities, if they want to keep up with the digital acceleration pace. Although technology creates the perception of a niche skill working market, the acceleration, deployment and adoption of continuous connectivity and cognitive technology have brought soft skills to the foreground. Adaptability, empathy, problem-solving, and decision making have become the most valuable skills of today's open talent economy. The Vodafone case study constitutes a great example of an organisation which is experiencing digital transformation in the context of a more general transition of the telecom sector towards digital services. The steady growth of the telecom market is no longer the case with challenges to be identified over competition, regulation, converged and OTT services. The inception, however, of the Digital Vodafone initiative was the start of the necessary conditions for the change in operations, the structure and the overall shift in the Vodafone’s organisational mindset. The initiative concerns the transformation of the current commercial business model so as to become a digital provider and a battle against an excessive increase of customer complaints. This is possible thanks to the engaging digital experience and the structural changes for cost efficiency to improve commercial and technology investment. Being also in the process of building a digital identity, Vodafone is trying, despite all challenges, to pass to an agile methodology which means a teams’ self-organizing, collaborative and fast-changing corporate environment. The vision of a customer-centric and agile provider has given Vodafone the chance to be repositioned as an “employer of choice”. The main goal is for Vodafone to be established as the best place to work for new talents and digital native staff who are, undeniably, the first step to start the turnaround towards digital strategy. Digitalisation has also brought changes to the way Vodafone invests in people’s digital acceleration and career development. In this changing world, Vodafone has created a system which promotes a process which allows employees to set simpler and realistic goals, trigger them to give and take feedback and unlock development and learning plans for further career growth, creating a culture that helps everyone reach their full potential. Work experience programs and apprenticeships that have been created by the organisation talent strategy, attract and equip outside talented candidates with developing management and digital skills that enhance the company’s employer value proposition. This has also been enhanced by the diversity and inclusion strategy, the flexible schedule shift and the fun working environment. Vodafone has fully understood the digital shift and tries to support young people to succeed in the digital economy. In conclusion, the constant attempt of businesses to respond to customers’ demands has made them transform their organisations’ structures, reconsider the essence of an ideal candidate profile and update the working environment. Digital Intelligence is already omnipresent with its different aspects such as digital citizenship, digital creativity and entrepreneurship. The role and contribution of all institutional, educational authorities and businesses are crucial for the preparation of the new digital world but still, only businesses seem to effectively respond to that role. HR centres of expertise carry the responsibility for driving employees and potential candidates towards digital transformation with new management practices and an innovation culture by focusing on coaching, recognition, employee experience, analytics, leadership and the cultural community. Even if this Digital Revolution could be disruptive, first movers will become experts in optimising the use of machines and crowds to drive productivity, innovation, customer relationships and lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness, based on a shared sense of destiny.