The key word for businesses this year will be resilience, according to Vodafone. Businesses need to prepare for the unknown ‘ 2020 has taught us all that lesson.
What is becoming increasingly clear is the enormous impact the pandemic continues to have on businesses and, in particular, SMEs. Everything has been disrupted.
According to the Federation of Small Businesses, SMEs account for 99.9% of the business population, and around half of turnover in the UK private sector. Yet today, SMEs find themselves under a disproportionate amount of pressure thanks to the pandemic, which has seen high streets closed, consumers’ buying behaviours changed drastically, regular customers bankrupted, and ways of working torn to pieces.
We have spoken about digital transformation technologies for a long time and, while traditionally businesses have been slow to adopt these types of technologies, the pandemic has spurred on the need for technology and emphasised just how important it can be to keep a business running. Every business needs to be capable of adapting to change, becoming more efficient, and scaling up ‘ or down ‘ as their situation changes.
The key to achieving this, for any business of any size, is data. With data, businesses can understand their operation, monitor it, refine it and, if needs be, change it.
Empowering businesses with IoT
The concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) has been around for years, yet there are still a number of misconceptions about the technology.
Fundamentally, IoT gives businesses access to a vast amount of data about their operation.
The technology has a huge amount to offer businesses in terms of insights that can help them make better decisions, launch new products and services, and introduce new processes. While this will be greatly impactful for the future, the benefits of this technology can be felt almost immediately.
We know from our recent IoT Spotlight report that 67% of UK businesses who have implemented IoT technology have already seen a rise in revenues, while 76% said market share is up. Overall, 87% of the UK respondents said there have been tangible returns on the investment in the technology to date. It is clear that there is great potential for this technology when implemented into business models.
As well as enhancing business efficiencies, IoT can also enable entirely new capabilities.
One example is a prototype recall system we have developed that will allow household appliance manufacturers to remotely monitor the performance and location of devices, and to communicate with them. Manufacturers will be able to notify customers automatically if a product has to be recalled ‘ a process that would otherwise be a hugely arduous task, particularly if the product has been resold by the original purchaser.
IoT can allow for asset tracking and monitoring anywhere in the world, no matter the asset. Whether its highly valuable products or machinery on the other side of the world, that you’re tracking for security and to drive lower insurance premiums. Or a delivery bike’s route around a city that you’re tracking for efficiencies ‘ squeezing in just one more delivery on the same journey may make a significant difference to the operating profit for the day.
IoT also enables performance monitoring ‘ your assets don’t have to be on the move for you to want to monitor them. An oven, a conveyor belt, a heating system. Anything can be slowing your business down or costing you too much money. The efficiency and cost effectiveness of your operation can be enhanced if you optimise individual components. And without data on performance, you can never know if you’re running as well as you could be.
There are of course thousands of business challenges which IoT can help address ‘ every aspect of an operation can be improved with accessible, actionable data. IoT is the route to that data, and it isn’t simply for big manufacturers or global logistics firms. It’s a powerful tool for all businesses to better understand and optimise their own operation.
Using tech to build resilience
Ultimately, the pandemic is forcing businesses to rethink how they operate and, in many cases, reassess how they spend money. As businesses continue to navigate through the new landscape, IoT will be a crucial, transformative technology that will help businesses survive.
Investment in technologies like IoT will have a profound impact and, despite current misconceptions, real tangible changes can be realised today. If businesses can gather, understand and use data about their own operation, they can become resilient. They can even flourish when times are hard, or when their environment suddenly changes.
I hope that businesses of all sizes in 2021 grasp the importance of data as a vital component of their planning, especially as they look to build resilience through the tough months and emerge stronger.