Is it time for organisations to brave the ice bath?

It’s just possible we might be witnessing a bit of a sea change.  Probably, like the rest of us, I’m a little reticent to say it too loudly but yesterday whilst browsing the news section of the BBC website, I was nearly knocked sideways by three headlines, all on one page. “UK manufacturing surges in July,” said one; “UK retail sales boosted by July heatwave“,  said another; “UK motor industry lifts sales outlook after strong July“, said the third.  And that wasn’t the end of it.  The manufacturing report was supported by recent PMI data that suggests both the construction and services sectors are also growing.  Are these the green shoots we’ve been looking for?  Or at the very least a turning tide?

But what does that mean for UK businesses on a daily basis? And how will it feel to UK workers? It’s been over six years since we last knew what sustained growth and optimism felt like and the technological landscape is very different.  Cloud computing in its present sense and Twitter were both only conceived in 2006, and at the time Facebook was a social network for teenagers and twenty-somethings.  Now they dominate both our home and working lives and have had a vast impact on how businesses operate; facilitating more effective communications, reducing organisational costs and improving environmental footprint.  Workers are literally more mobile, businesses have the chance to get closer to their customers and customers can to get closer to the companies they interact with.  As a business, if you’re communicating on Twitter you’re no longer six steps from your target.  You’re four.

To date, organisations have used this shift in the technological landscape to nurture their businesses through the downturn but, if the data above is a sign of better things to come, organisations need to be ready.  A recent survey by Deloitte identified that UK businesses are holding a war chest in excess of £700bn in cash, a sum that is not only equivalent to 45% of GDP but a weapon that is capable of accelerating UK growth.  The question is whether UK companies are capable of managing the opportunity once the purse keepers have the confidence to start spending again.

Carpe diem
So, back to the real world.  If we are standing on the precipice of better times, how can organisations be certain they’re in a position to make the most of it?  Firstly, CIOs need to be empowered to make things happen.  Recent research shows that 84% of business leaders believe their CIOs are equipped to drive digital transformation.  It also shows only 17% are being allowed to do so  and corroborates the fact that 82% of employees feel that the way they work is out of date and prevents them from being as effective and efficient as they could be.

Empowering CIOs with the freedom to put in place the right technologies and the right processes ultimately means that people throughout the organisation will have access to the information they need, when they need it, instead of spending a fifth of their week looking for it.  Getting the workforce moving more efficiently for a whole day a week can surely only result in a positive impact on the bottom line?

So where do you start?  The key to turning your business into a finely tuned machine is to transform your business critical process.  Admittedly, it’s a lot less exciting than equipping your workforce with tablets and smartphones but Andy Murray didn’t win Wimbledon without the assistance of an ice bath.

It’s time for CIOs and their organisations to make some brave decisions.  Transforming business processes might not have you bounding out of bed every morning but empowering workers with the freedom to operate (giving them access to the information they need and enabling them to make informed decisions) will give your organisation the freedom to operate.  On offer is a slice of £700bn, and who doesn’t want to get out of bed for that?

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