2023: The Year of the Pragmatic. It’s not the most exciting buzz word you think of when looking ahead or working out what business leaders want to hear, but it may well be the word we hear the most in the coming months and years.
For many, the coming years are looking tough. For Australia, OECD has halved potential GDP growth and the labour market is seen as tight. But companies still need to operate, people still need to access services or buy products, and staff still need the resources required to do their jobs well, regardless of location and other factors.
As you would expect from a digital age, technology is going to play a considerable role in all of this – so, to that end, it’s fortunate that IT budgets are expected to increase by more than 5% next year, rising to 16% for SaaS spending and potentially 20% in Enterprise investment.
While some may feel that the most pragmatic approach would be to spend nothing, increasing research shows that doing nothing can actually cost more in the longer term. Depending on the size of a company, the total cost of nothing can end up running into hundreds of thousands of dollars per week as attempts are made to support ageing, legacy hardware, on-premises equipment and finding experienced staff who can manage the systems. Ironically enough then, the more pragmatic approach is to spend budgets – but spend them wisely.
This means that to get the most out of that spend is going to require pragmatism, and it will start in the boardroom.
For a lot of organisations the only way they will get permission to spend at the levels mentioned is if the spending is spread about. The CIO has already faced an incredible few years and if they want to push forward their desired projects they’ll need to bring more aspects of the C-Suite on board. For example, according to a recent Metrigy Customer Experience Transformation 2022-23 global research study, Chief Customer Officers or CX leaders are involved in 35% of certain vendor selections. In short, it’s no longer the sole domain of the CIO or CTO.
A lot of the spend will actually end up on ‘under the hood’ work. Some of the most important technology advances will be at the platform level of the tech stack, where artificial intelligence, machine learning, and workflow automation can be spread across multiple applications and use cases, like intelligent self-service and agent assistance.
These developments won’t seem headline grabbing for many, but the work will allow for future improvements – some incremental, some substantial – which will tie in to customer experience. For example, for those who work with a combined Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS)/Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) solution, those advances can be deployed to more users with different functions – but all managed under a single vendor.
But not only are there benefits for employees – reduced training times and no problems from switching between applications – the customer experience is also enhanced significantly.
The obvious one is that customers have a seamless experience through joined up and connected systems allowing for contextual transfers, ensuring any member of the team can pick up a customer enquiry and have all the information at hand, meaning customers gets answers faster and delivered in a way that meets their needs and on a channel/platform that they want.
And as more customer engagement moves towards being solved in this way, we will see customer engagement move from being reactive to proactive. The timing for this couldn’t be better because every organisation, regardless of size or sector is going to have to find a way to stand out as consumers and companies get pragmatic with their own spending.
Almost a decade ago, a widely-quoted Walker Customers 2020 Report predicted that by 2020, customer experience would overtake both price and product quality as the leading brand differentiator. In a more recent 8x8 survey of CX and IT leaders, 46% believe customer experience will be the leading brand differentiator in the coming years, trumping price, product quality and other factors.
In essence, pragmatism doesn’t need to be seen as pessimism. Across sectors there is still going to be budget spending and digital transformation is an ongoing evolution. Those pushing for improvements will need to find other executive allies and make stronger business justifications. Those who focus on driving projects forward that will improve the customer experience can make The Year of Pragmatism a success.
By Ahmad Zahlan, Professional Services Director, 8x8