The Future of the Workplace

Comm update_10 September1

Ideas on what constitutes a fulfilling and productive working environment are shifting rapidly. They’re raising questions about mobility of talent and what it means to be an effective leader as the way in which knowledge is transferred, both within and outside an organisation, becomes more dynamic. Indeed, a perfect storm of new technology, globalisation and changing demographics is blowing away assumptions about how we work.

Lynda Gratton, Criticaleye Thought Leader and Professor of Management Practice at London Business School, suggests that the formal link between ‘work’ and ‘place’ is beginning to soften: “We are already seeing the rise of flexible and remote working arrangements as well as creative hubs where people use workspace as and when they need to.

“It seems to me that as working lives become more of a marathon than a sprint, we are going to see more emphasis on work that excites and inspires people and helps them to grow…These concepts are not just about employee well-being, they are… crucial to the competitive advantage of a company.”

It’s incumbent on leadership teams to get a grip on what is already underway. Stuart Steele, Partner for Human Capital Consulting at professional services firm EY, comments: “There is always competition for good talent and an inability to predict what the work environment will look like in three or four years’ time, I think, can put an organisation at a disadvantage.”

Let’s get digital

From the mills and factories of the industrial revolution to assembly-line car production at the turn of the 20th century, technology has reshaped working practices by reinventing notions of efficiency and productivity.

John Lewis, Chief Operating Officer for communication services provider Airwave Solutions, says: “Mobile working or process improvements are absolutely there for the taking. There are lots of different examples that I’ve seen, such as the creation of collaboration zones and the use of tools for collaborative working.”

How best to take full advantage of this flexibility is open to debate. Susanna Dinnage, EVP and MD for Discovery Networks UK & Ireland, explains: “A great deal of people working on their own, possibly at home, may benefit individuals in terms of family commitments and reduced time spent travelling… I understand that, we have busy lives… but what you lose is the alchemy of teams working together.”

John notes that organisations must be careful not to underestimate peoples’ appetite for interaction. “That can be the biggest challenge,” he comments. “How do you get over the fact that people just sometimes need to spend a bit of time gossiping or just having a reaction with others in their team to help process what’s going on?”

The hierarchy that traditionally existed in organisations is being broken down by the volume of information now available at employees’ fingertips. This is causing leaders to rethink how they engage with employees, encourage collaboration and make decisions.
Julian Birkinshaw, Criticaleye Thought Leader and Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at London Business School, says: “Think back to the traditional role of the leader. Back in the industrial era, he was responsible for squeezing as much value out of his resources – money, people – as possible.

“In the knowledge era, he or she has become used to being an expert… They were also the conduit of information, the person who accesses and then disseminates information across the organisation. But if this information is now widely available, and if there are experts at all levels, the leader of the future has to think about what their value-added role is.”

According to Julian, leadership in this context will entail a more interpersonal role, helping other people to make decisions and avoid becoming overwhelmed by the volume of data available: “Good leadership… [will] be action-oriented; that is, following through with people to ensure they deliver on their commitments. One of the risks of ubiquitous information is that it causes analysis paralysis – there is always an opportunity to collect more.”

Melting pot

A more age-diverse workforce will certainly throw up some new challenges. Susanna says: “I am observing a new generation that is very smart. I look at our interns – they are engaged, they have plans and they have expectations. They don’t come here to stuff envelopes.

“They are not afraid to ask for half an hour in your diary to understand how you got your job – that’s fantastic. I love this confidence they have… [as] they step forward and… are contributing.”

There is a sense that the expectations held by millennials in the workplace are, in some respects, higher than of generations gone by. Stuart explains: “There have always been career-focused individuals, with an appetite for rapid progression, however, looking at groups, if you’re 25, your aspirations for broad opportunity and rapid progression in an organisation are typically a lot greater than what a 50-year old person’s was when they were that age.

“Where an older employee may have taken 20 years to progress three-quarters of the way up the organisation, the 25-year old wants to get to that same position in five years or less. How do you balance that? How do you meet their aspirations of rapid progression while not disenfranchising this person, who has delivered good service for the last 20 or so years?”

These are the types of questions which senior leadership teams need to be thinking about and addressing. Stuart adds: “As organisations’ demands for skills and capability change over time, the intrinsic value of the employees with 20 or so years of experience – those with real depth and breadth – changes from a position where one could arguably describe them as a commodity, to a situation where they have become ‘key retains’ focused both on delivery and the development of our younger workforce.”

It calls for a closer awareness of how to bring the best out of a diverse mix of talent. Lynda comments: “It’s clear that encouraging different age groups to work productively and harmoniously with each other can be tough. Those who have made it work often put job design and collaboration at the centre.

“Those that design jobs in an inflexible, linear way have found that they cannot be responsive to a person’s life stage and aspirations…. Right now, companies are struggling with this inflexibility – for example, not knowing how to handle mid-career hires because their processes are all geared towards hiring graduates.”

A multigenerational workforce will require organisations to consider different career paths and job designs simultaneously, rather than opt for a cookie-cutter approach. Specialisation, limited contracts and partnerships are expected to become the norm.

Julian comments: “The workplace of the future I would like to see is one in which people are given a lot of freedom to pursue the work that interests them, with a lot more bottom-up accountability, and far fewer formal bureaucratic systems for co-ordinating our activities. This is the model we see in many start-up companies, but once they go above 100 people or so they often lose this vitality.”

The impact of what is happening in the workplace will be genuinely game-changing and that’s why it’s something boards must take the time to try and understand. Unless they’re thinking about what it means for an organisation’s future, they won’t be able to turn what’s occurring into a tangible competitive advantage.

I hope to see you soon.

Matthew

www.twitter.com/criticaleyeuk

Advertisements

The Digital Dilemma for Banks

Comm update_11 June2Empowered customers are demanding a seamless experience across multiple channels. For traditional financial services (FS) providers, this is presenting a number of challenges as they look to create an integrated, flexible offering which caters to online services, apps and utilises data effectively. As ever, this is easier said than done given the changes required, but it’s clear that failure to move with the times is not an option.

Sandra Leonhard, MD of Digital Channels, Personal & Business Banking at Barclays UK Retail and Business Bank, says: “[A cohesive] digital strategy in FS is customer-centric as well as commercial; it will be disruptive and transformational. The digital strategy will go far beyond a distribution channel and will incorporate digital to drive product changes, transform back-end processes and technology, reinventing the customer interface and evolving the underlying core operating model of the business.”

It means making deep rooted, structural changes to an organisation. Stephen Ingledew, Managing Director for Customer and Marketing, at savings and investment business Standard Life, agrees: “It’s not something that stands alone… it’s integral to what the business is trying to achieve with customers and its commercial objectives. It’s not just about the front-end or having an exciting, engaging website or mobile way of engaging customers … it needs to be end-to-end, up front as well as operationally.”

Sandra adds: “The key is to offer channel choice but to be in line with changing customer behaviour. This means if more customers are demanding… sophisticated digital services, then banks need to evolve and rebalance their offering to remain competitive in the market.”

A similar point is made by Neil Jones, Consultancy Partner at business solutions company TCS (Tata Consultancy Services): “It’s really about understanding what your customers want in the future, and then shaping your digital strategy to deliver those needs.”

Cause for disruption
There is much talk and speculation about how digital is going to change retail finance, particularly in terms of personal interaction and customer service. Brian Stevenson, Criticaleye Board Mentor and Non-executive Director of the Agricultural Bank of China (UK), says: “The branch is going to die just like high street retail is going to die and is dying because people don’t need it anymore… there isn’t a really fundamentally important reason for branches to continue. There is still a need for people to have face-to-face interaction but it doesn’t have to be in a branch the way that people think of it today.”

By contrast, others argue that there is a compelling reason why the branch will remain a core feature of the customer experience. Steve Pateman, Head of UK Banking at Santander, says:  “I have no doubt that technology will play a massive part in the retail and corporate and commercial bank of the future. People will want to have the ability to pay-on-the-move and access information wherever they are… But this is not going to replace the relationship managers.

“It will not replace the branch. You can have the best information system, but if your delivery system with people isn’t up to scratch, then it will backfire. Too many people don’t understand that.”

While the degrees of personalisation may be open to debate, advances in the use of data and analytics have certainly made engagement more complex. Stephen comments: “Our traditional approach to financial services has been to push products out… What the data allows us to do is actually know customers better, engage them on a much more personal basis and then apply how we help them and make things easier for them, based on their experience.”

Banks are in a privileged position when it comes to data, with access to customers’ transactional patterns and often the broader financial make-up of their lives, but many are not taking advantage of this due to restrictive legacy systems. According to a report by TCS from 2013, almost 80 per cent of the 300 FS senior executives surveyed said they were losing opportunities to improve the customer journey in real time due to failings in their existing systems and processes.

Brian comments: “They are relying on core systems that don’t actually analyse the data or produce the data in any way, shape or form that’s user-friendly… financial service providers should ultimately know their customers’ needs better. That should avoid things like mis-selling.”

For traditional financial institutions, utilising information across channels can be incredibly challenging. Neil comments: “You can’t easily change your legacy system… what you’ve got to try and do is build something that sits on top. A good example is Barclays’ Pingit, which enables you to use your phone to send money to someone else’s phone.”

As well as legacy issues, the regulatory environment can be seen as another barrier to digital innovation. Neil adds: “It’s a millstone around the neck of every single financial service operator… the barrier is often: A, the quantity of regulation, and B, how many organisations and regulators interpret it. So ensure you comply, but use compliance to change the way you operate and try to innovate.”

Expect a surge in ‘pure-play’ digital financial service providers over the coming years. While they may not have the scale of established institutions, they may bring brand new ways of providing services and engaging with customers which will cause ripples in a sector that has been set in its ways for far too long. “If you are a new player… you don’t have [the] history and you don’t have to migrate old products to new platforms, or old technology to new technology,” says Brian.

There are some real strategic and operational dilemmas for financial service providers if they are to deal with the transition to digital. What is beyond doubt is that while risk, trust and security need to be managed impeccably, change is inevitable because it is all being driven by the customer.

I hope to see you soon.

Matthew

www.twitter.com/criticaleyeuk 

Is Your Digital Strategy on the Money?

Comm update_11 FebrSo you’ve gone through the headaches and heartbreak of constructing a digital offering. You’ve evolved from multichannel to omnichannel, striving to provide a consistent – seamless may be a stretch too far – level of service via stores, the web and mobile. Now the real hard work begins as it’s time to make full use of data and analytics to establish a clear return on investment.

Charlie Johnstone, Origination Partner at private equity firm ECI, says: “Customers increasingly shop across channels which makes it hard to attribute revenue to one particular area of spend. For example, a straight measure of PPC [pay-per-click] may suggest it is unprofitable, but this could ignore customers who are originally attracted through PPC and subsequently come to the site organically to shop, or indeed transact through another channel.

“Successful businesses are those which not only take a holistic view of the customer but are also able to understand shopping habits through analytics and behavioural insight rather than seeing each channel in isolation.”

By investing in data companies will start to see a difference. Jonathan Elliott, Europe Head of Business Transformation and of Digital Enterprise for Tata Consultancy Services, says: “Smarter businesses use analytics to micro-segment their customers, to better profile their products and also to look at how to use technology to spot bottlenecks in their operations.”

Steve Muylle, Professor and Partner at Vlerick Business School, and a Criticaleye Thought Leader, provides the example of DBS Bank, one of the largest in South-East Asia: “[It] has done a great job by enriching customer service through digital… In terms of cash allocation in ATMs, where Singaporean customers use them a lot more than in Europe, they’ve invested in data and analytics to understand everything from amounts of cash withdrawn, speed of dispensing it and where it’s being withdrawn the most…

“It took six months to develop an algorithm which they then tested for a year, but the net result was a massive improvement in cash allocation across the country and customer satisfaction went through the roof.”

At the end of last year, Gary Favell, CEO of retail concern Bathstore, launched a new e-commerce platform. He explains: “If you truly have an omnichannel strategy, the first thing you need to be able to do is track the return on investment on what you’re spending. If you haven’t got software that can track your customers and a data management system that isn’t totally integrated, you can’t tell that.”

Heather Savory, who chairs the Open Data User Group, which provides independent advice to the UK Government’s Data Strategy Board, comments: “Any business that doesn’t have a digital strategy at its heart will find it difficult to continue to do business in the medium term.  For example, the use of both demographic and geospatial data allows large supermarkets and other retail outlets to work with local government to plan where they should locate their new stores.”

Taking the lead

The use of data as a way to inform and shape strategy is only going to increase, whether that’s from pricing – Amazon reportedly makes 2.5 million price changes a day – to gathering intelligence on purchasing habits.

For those companies struggling to identify an ROI, a change in thinking is required. Jay Patel, CEO of mobile data provider IMImobile, says: “A lot of the return on investment hasn’t occurred because multichannel strategies are being applied to situations where companies are trying to win new customers.

“The acquisition of customers is difficult and competitive and just because you can do multichannel doesn’t mean you are going to [be successful].”

Martyn Phillips, former CEO for the UK & Ireland at DIY retailer B&Q, which in 2011 spent £35 million improving its online business, says: “You make certain decisions and review them quarterly, determine what success looks like, plan your investments for that quarter, and then stick with it.

“It changes so quickly and you can just get lost very quickly… [so] you’ll need to be prepared to change your view and rebalance your investments for the next quarter.”

Helen Murray, Chief Customer Solutions Officer at outsourced contact centre company Webhelp TSC, says: “Most of our customers have a multichannel approach to some extent but the crucial bit is developing some clarity around why you need to be in the digital space, how it’s going to benefit your customers and how your organisation is going to use it.

“There are often different silos within the business that have different objectives… but if channels aren’t connected and you can’t start a conversation in one that can be continued in another, then it’s not only disappointing for the customer but ultimately expensive for you as an organisation.”

Incentives will need to be aligned across platforms, a decision which may cause unrest among employees but one that is necessary if an organisation is to mature and move beyond the outdated dichotomy of digital versus physical. Training, development and new hires will also need to be undertaken if a company is going to succeed in building its brand and, in the process, winning and retaining customers.

John Allan, Chairman at electrical goods chain Dixons, which recently created a new Chief Marketing Officer position in order to bolster its multichannel capability, says: “Every management team benefits from having a blend of experienced people who understand the business and people with expertise from outside it, perhaps from other industry sectors… We have to keep moving forward as a business, particularly in terms of digital marketing, and having a new CMO will certainly help us to do this.”

When it comes to best practice, the airline and leisure sectors, plus elements of retail, are often heralded for executing digital strategies to a high level. However, far too many board-level executives continue to be tentative about reshaping business models in order to create that single-view of the customer.

Steve says: “You need to have a five or ten year vision for the digital side of the business and obviously the companies that succeed big time are the ones that double their revenues. They have this big ambition rather than settling for a couple of per cent of online sales in the first year and thinking that’s ok.

“What we see is that a lot of executives are afraid of engaging in digital because of fear of cannibalisation… that’s why you must have top management commitment from the start and make sure that the business is crystal clear on its online positioning to the customer.”

Be concerned if doubts and uncertainty continue to hold back progress in your company. The debate over whether or not to invest in digital moved on long ago, as the main focus for companies today is how to extract, understand and act on data to drive the best service for customers and the highest value for the business across each channel.

I hope to see you soon.

Matthew

www.twitter.com/criticaleyeuk

Big Data’s Place on the Board

Comm update_19 Nov

The volume of information currently available to businesses, and the ways in which this can be analysed to drive insights about performance, customer behaviour and strategy, has moved onto another level. While ‘big data’ in and of itself won’t provide all the answers, board-level executives increasingly need to sit up and take note of how it can benefit the decision-making process.

Retailers are only too aware of the huge influx of information now at their fingertips, but knowing how to utilise it across various business units is another matter entirely. Fiona Briault, People and Service Director at retailer Asda, says: “The challenge is how you bring all the data together through one part of the business to say: ‘That is what the customer thinks and these are the areas we should be focusing on.’

“At the moment there’s a tendency for data to be fragmented into different business areas… the goal is to understand how you link data together in a complex business to create one story.”

Eddie Short, Partner and Lead for Data and Analytics at KPMG in the UK and EMA, says “What we’re seeing with big data is that a silos-based approach is not always that effective. For example, when you look at some of the big retailers, they’re very good on quotes to the customer and particularly in giving you vouchers and new offers, but they struggle to get line of sight of what that actually delivers to the P&L.”

Look closely

It’s a learning process for businesses, but progress is certainly being made. Helen Murray, Chief Customer Solutions Officer at outsourced contact centre company Webhelp TSC, says: “More bits of information, when they’re pieced together effectively, help us to understand the clients, their propensity to buy, the way they make decisions and how they behave, and their likelihood to either want follow-up support or not. That then helps us to make decisions about how we treat each individual.”

For Steve Parkin, CEO of Mayborn Group, which makes baby and child products, there has been a concerted effort to break down the profile of customers in order to gain a better understanding. “You’ve got to build loyalty though an emotional connection and be very clever with your rational call to action to drive purchase behaviour,” he explains.

“We’ve segmented our marketplace down into six different consumer typology groups… [and] with the data that we’re capturing, we can understand the typologies of mums on the database that we’re building.”

Mark Wood, SVP and Managing Director of EMEA for US-based cosmetics firm Revlon, comments: “We’ve invested a lot in terms of mapping where customers go on digital and social media and following that pattern to make sure that our brand is always front of mind and that we’re always in the right places.

“[By engaging on social media] customers see that we’re listening to them, that we’re taking an active part in terms of what they want from the brand, and that we’re delivering against that through the conversations we’re having with them.”

Each customer touch point has to be seen as an opportunity to innovate. Neil Ward, VP and General Manager of Business Operations at internet communications platform Skype, says: “We’re using data to blur the lines between a support interaction and a brand opportunity… Beyond resolving customer service issues faster and more efficiently, we’re now seeing that problem solving is a gateway to taking a user’s insight and up-selling to them or deepening our engagement with them.”

Inevitably, this does entail not being afraid to try something different. At Asda, for example, it was decided to stop using a marketing agency to run social media interaction and instead bring it into the customer contact centres. “By running it in-house we can not only respond on social media for more of the working week, because our contact centres are open longer hours, but it also gives us consistency of approach in how we talk to those customers and the messages with give them,” says Fiona.

Game changers

According to some reports, 90 per cent of the world’s data has been produced in the past two years. There may indeed be elements of marketing hype around ‘big data’, but equally it’s clear the ongoing transition to digital has created a whole new universe of information to be explored.

It’s a somewhat daunting prospect. Research by KPMG International, which involved conducting interviews with 144 CFOs and CIOs from multinational companies with annual revenues of $1 billion or more, found an overwhelming 96 per cent of respondents believe their company is not currently using data and analytics effectively. Eddie comments: “The one singular wrong answer is to do nothing. We don’t all have to be data scientists with PhDs in statistics, but I think everybody has to embrace a more data-driven approach.”

Good decision-making involves understanding what your options are. You assess the information at hand, analysing data, speaking to various stakeholders and thereafter a choice is made. What follows next is called leadership, so that the decision arrived at is acted upon and implemented across an organisation. It’s the latter that many businesses need to start concentrating on if they’re going to capitalise on the information now at their disposal.

When it comes to big data, it’s a case of use it or lose it.

I hope to see you soon.

Matthew

https://twitter.com/criticaleyeuk

Brand Champions on the Board

Image

The stock of the CMO is rising as boards realise that you can’t dismiss ‘brand’ as a buzzword. At a time when loyalty is hard to come by, clued-in directors fully appreciate that a strong and trusted brand is the difference between those organisations which have a bond with their customers, shareholders and employees, and those that are marginalised and mired in an identity crisis.

“There is a general awakening to the power of brands across the board level,” says Stephen Smith, Chief Marketing Officer at supermarket chain ASDA. “A transition has taken place from reputation management to brand management, stemming from the many crises of reputation which have damaged or even destroyed companies and their brands.”

Whether you’re B2B or B2C, you need brand champions in the boardroom. Catherine Green, Marketing and Communications Director at international construction and consultancy firm Mace, says: “Really understanding what makes your business different and better from the competition is all wrapped up in your brand strategy. Boards need to be much more fluent in this because employees and consumers are savvy about values and whether they are authentic… What people say about your brand through social media and third-party endorsements is now much more important.”

Nicolas Mamier, Managing Director at brand consultancy Appetite, comments: “Brand is an organising principle not an extension of the marketing department. It’s too important to be left only to the marketeers, however good they might be, because if a trusted brand means a trusted organisation, it simply must command the attention of the C-suite.”

Traditional consumer behaviour has been atomised by the financial crisis and convergence. “Brand loyalty is nowhere near as strong as it used to be because consumer promiscuity is up,” says Steve Parkin, CEO of Mayborn Group, which makes baby and child products. “Boards need to work a lot harder on getting that interface back with their consumer on a one-to-one basis, which means new techniques are needed to build a connection with your consumer and maintain it, so that loyalty is never taken for granted.”

Pam Powell, Non-executive Director at Premier Foods and formerly Group Marketing Strategy and Innovation Director at brewer SABMiller, says: “In this market, you’ve really got to earn your customer loyalty. Strong brands can communicate quality and reliability so there’s a reassurance in the value you’re getting, where as weak brands will be shown up in this respect.”

This goes beyond customers. Ian Wright, Corporate Relations Director at Diageo, which controls some of the biggest alcohol brands including Johnnie Walker and Guinness, says: “Institutional investors are more discerning about where they place their funds and apportion investment… The way you gain the confidence of investors and get them to stick with your business is by having a great brand. It represents a reason for confidence in the management of your business.”

Out with the old

If a brand has lost its allure, or has been compromised, you have to act quickly and decisively, either opting for a substantial rethink about how to establish relevance or axing it completely. Before joining ASDAStephen was tasked with replacing a range of shops called Kash n’ Karry with a new brand, Sweetbay. The former had been in steep decline and, having changed its strategy and leadership team on several occasions, had lost customer loyalty.

“Any transition starts with people offering you a new choice but finishes with taking the old choice away,” says Stephen. “We were very clear that one was gracefully retiring and that there was something brand new sprouting up in its place… 

“When you’re making dramatic changes you are quite dependent on new customers coming in and reappraising you. Of course, you’ll always have some detractors who liked the old store and didn’t want something shiny and new, but the ultimate goal is to have more people coming in than going out. You have to try and stay ahead.”

If a global rebrand is necessary, clarity on what the business stands for is paramount. “The project that we did to refresh the BBC brand was all about understanding how we could make the brand work across all of the countries,” says Peter Horrocks, Director of BBC Global News and World Service. “The challenge is: how do we make it more engaging while still maintaining the authority and trust that there is in the brand?

“When you’re talking about a global organisation with a variety of products, [the brand] needs to be something that is unifying and that hits the sweet spot for multiple countries… if you can get that right it can be tremendously powerful because you’ve got massive scale to work with.”

Companies must always be on the lookout for new ways to get their message across. “A brand is the ultimate differentiator,” says Professor Dominique Turpin, President of IMD and Criticaleye Thought Leader. “Great global brands stand out, and they make our lives easier, better and cheaper. Nobody wrote an e-mail one day to Steve Jobs saying they needed an iPhone or iPad. Very few business leaders ask themselves, ‘What are my customer’s headaches?’ But this is such a good question. Provide a product or service that solves a customer headache and you’re on the right track.”

Steve comments: “In terms of what drives our brand strategy, it’s all about consumer recommendation. If we can get mums talking to other mums positively about their experience with our brand, particularly with the onset of social media and digital, that’s the number one driver that gives us the trust in our brand.”

There is a tendency among underperforming boards to only realise how vital a brand is after a calamity has occurred, or a competitor has stolen a march on them. It takes years of investment and personnel change to try and regain former glories. Some never get it back. 

Don’t be one of those businesses. 

I hope to see you soon.

Matthew

https://twitter.com/criticaleyeuk

What’s So Scary About Social Media?

Comm update Faces - 28 august1

Executives have an irrational dread of social media. They instantly go on the defensive as they imagine endless breaches of trust and the horrors of shredded reputations. In most instances, it’s way over the top as none of this is overly complicated or taxing – it’s just another form of communication which needs to be understood and managed like anything else.

It’s about taking an interest and knowing what the boundaries are. Paul McNamara, Managing Director of Insurance and Investments at Barclays, says: “From time to time I will ‘join the conversation’ or share thoughts or ideas I find interesting. These could be on significant topics like retirement, financial planning, use of technology… equally, it could be on a simple observation from during the day.”

For Phil Smith, CEO for UK & Ireland at Cisco Systems, social media is a “useful way of providing a concise and current update to a wide community who can typically receive it in a convenient form, which is usually mobile”.

The value lies in it being quick, easy and direct as opposed to putting out messages through laboured, endlessly re-worked press releases. Adam Bates, UK Head of Foresight and Innovation at KPMG, comments: “Not enough UK board members use social media to interact with customers or to show their own people that they are not boring, grey-suited and dyed-in-the-wool…

“The reality is that if they are sensible, don’t give away market sensitive information and talk in general about things that are happening, they are not going to get into big trouble and it’s a great way of communicating with their different types of stakeholders. People are just too cautious and the risk dial is probably turned up too high.”

Test the Waters

Beyond the more established social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and Linked-In, newcomers like Google+, Pinterest and Instagram are gaining traction among the business community (Snapchat might be a bridge too far).

Helen Murray, Chief Customer Solutions Officer at outsourced contact centre company Webhelp TSC, says: “The more I use social media channels in different ways, I get a better feel for how people respond to the information that’s out there and the speed at which they respond. Very often people will comment on a tweet or Linked-in post in minutes, wanting to get a more in-depth view of our opinion because they can see we have some understanding on the topic and that we can add some value to the discussion.”

It’s a case of experimenting and finding your voiceAndrew Powell, Chief Operations Officer at Colt Technology Services, says: “I started using social media about two years ago when our brand team came to the executives and said: ‘Look, none of you guys are using it and you’re missing a trick because this is where the future employee base will live, breath and operate…’

“It’s been a real watershed for me at Colt and has opened up conversations with people who in the past have been very nervous about hierarchy and reserved about approaching and raising business issues.”

The general view from those who’ve ‘done it’ is that it’s not so scary an endeavour after all. Peter Cheese, CEO at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), comments: “There are CEOs I’ve come across who are terrified about how much time it takes. And I must admit, before I crossed the Rubicon and embraced social media that was one of my fears.

“My marketing team were constantly saying you’ve got to get on Twitter and I was saying: ‘Well, I haven’t got time for all that, what with all the emails, articles, blogs and meetings I have to attend to… But it’s not that onerous at all.”

Perhaps one of the biggest risks is discovering whether you’ve actually got anything of interest to say. Andrew comments: “If I just re-tweeted or sent Colt corporate messages onto Twitter all the time, people would soon be turned off. You have to give a little bit of yourself and give a little of what you’re thinking to a much wider audience than your company’s employees.

“I have about 700 followers, only about 150 of which are Colt employees, and to have any credibility in this space you have to show you are a human being by expressing your opinions. It’s not just a corporate messaging system.”

Phil says that statements have to be differentiated from the brand messages or “it can be seen as just marketing” and he’s learned to adapt his approach over time to become “very casual and personal”.

Fine Lines

If there is a danger, it’s being unclear about how those within an organisation are communicating. Helen comments: “We take quite a structured and planned approach. We have customer-facing social media experts who also invest their knowledge internally, to help us understand how to use it.

“We also have people in our comms and marketing teams who see things from the brand perspective. We use them to build a plan around what we want to say and between the three or four of us on the board that use social media, we agree who’s most appropriate to respond… if there’s any ambiguity we’ll have a conversation about it, but we’re keen to each have our voice and our own style.”

Yetunde Hofmann, former Global HR Director at Imperial Tobacco, says: “The risks of social media are the same as any other form of written communication, it’s open to interpretation by the reader and therefore the intention of the writer might be completely misunderstood. It’s fine if you’re just providing links and neutral comments, but the minute you’re starting to give your opinions and commentary on other people’s work or responding to questions, therein lies the danger.”

Like any communication, timing and delivery have to be tailored to the situation. Chris Merry, CEO of accountancy firm RSM Tenon which was taken over last week in a pre-pack by Baker Tilly, was not about to start using Twitter to inform employees and shareholders about what had happened.

“We didn’t use social media,” he says. “Rather, we did the usual RNS [Regulatory News Service] announcement via the London Stock Exchange, then I recorded a video which all staff can watch and then there will be a series of presentations in offices which supports the initial written announcement.”

Common sense plays a part in this, as it does with all internal and external communication. But avoiding social media channels completely, or having a half-hearted approach, will only serve to create a negative view of both yourself and the business you represent.

I hope to see you soon.

Matthew

https://twitter.com/criticaleyeuk

Say Hello to the Digital Native

Comm update Face - 6 august

If only sauntering into a board meeting with the latest tablet was enough to make you au fait with the technology revolutionising the business world. To really help bridge the knowledge gap, a growing number of companies are recruiting ‘digital natives’ or have created ‘shadow boards’ and ‘reverse mentoring’ programmes, whereby those who lack seniority but understand digital can teach executives what they need to know.

Debbie Hewitt, Non-executive Chairman of clothing retailer Moss Bros, says: “I’ve seen digital natives appointed and also shadow boards used as a way to supplement a board’s digital skills. Both can work and provide a way of getting all directors up-to-speed on the trends and also in thinking differently about how a business might develop.”

It makes sense to bring in true advocates for harnessing data and using social media. Cath Keers, Non-executive Director for telecommunications concern Telefónica O2 Europe and Home Retail Group, comments: “I would be in favour of anything that would help boards understand the consumers and businesses they serve, whether that’s through using digital natives, shadow boards or just getting people to use it more and putting them in situations where they’re with customers, so they can see how they use it.”

Be that as it may, there is a danger that in some companies these measures could result in a deferral of responsibility, confirming prejudices within the minds of directors that ‘this is just for kids’, and therefore excusing them from their duty to get to grips with the impact of new technology. Peter Horrocks, Director of BBC Global News and World Service, comments: “If boards aren’t fully grasping everything digital, it’s not necessarily a generational issue. I’m in my mid-50s and I’m a digital enthusiast, so I think it’s more about attitude and people’s preparedness to change.”

Bill Payne, General Manager of Customer Experience and Industries for IBM, regards the lack of understanding on many British boards as disturbing when it comes to implementing a multichannel strategy. “Shadow boards, digital natives – for me, these are somewhat ridiculous and obscure distractions,” he says. “It’s another example of leaders living in denial about why they have to be the agents of change. It’s not a generational thing – it’s a vision thing.”

The goal is to link up bricks and mortar, web, mobile, contact centre and social customer contact. If driving such integration is not a boardroom issue, it’s hard to know what is given that it requires investment and a shift in strategy. Peter comments: “It’s slightly unrealistic to say that you could have an alternative management structure. There should always be clear, single accountability at the top of organisations. And for digital to be truly successful it’s got to be integrated into the existing business.”

By way of example, Simon Johnson, Group Managing Director for UK & International at publisher HarperCollins, has recruited individuals who can crunch data around pricing of the company’s e-book catalogue. “I now have a team of PhD mathematicians who put code together, manage big data sets and are engaged with the board – [who] understand the context of the data – and they use that to provide recommendations on how we should price our catalogue on a real-time basis,” he says, adding that so far the results have been powerful but a whole lot more can be done in this area.

Sure, initiatives like shadow boards and reverse mentoring won’t do any harm, but they have to be complementing a more fundamental involvement from directors. According to Jason Keane, CEO of video service delivery company Saffron Digital, “you need a digital tsar who not only understands the digital channel but also the existing channels and where the business today is very successful”.

Without passion, know-how and engagement, a company is going to struggle. Besides, it’s not enough anymore to just have a multichannel presence – that ship sailed long ago. “The skill comes in knowing how to get a return on investment from digital,” says Jason.

For the CEO and chairman, the challenge is to decide exactly how to drive the agenda. It’s a case of looking at the board and themselves to see if everyone is collectively prepared to adapt and become natives in the digital landscape.

If not, then it’s time to look for replacements.

I hope to see you soon.

Matthew

For a longer version of this article, please click here

https://twitter.com/criticaleyeuk

The Great Retail Migration

Community Update Faces - 9 July 2013The exam question for traditional retailers is: ‘How do you devise an integrated model that reinvents the customer relationship without destroying the existing one?’ A polite answer might go along the lines of ‘painfully’, as the transition to multichannel requires heavy investment, an unsentimental approach to change and a way of interacting with customers that continues to be swathed in unknowns.

Debbie Hewitt, Non-executive Chairman of UK menswear specialist Moss Bros Group, says that “retail management required single dimension thinking ten years ago and that has changed significantly in recent years; it’s much more multi-faceted now”.

Customers want more than just neatly stacked shelves. John Allan, Chairman of electrical goods chain Dixons Retail, comments that the financial situation has made “customers more price-conscious and that’s probably increased the tendency to do more research, make comparisons and use the internet for purchases”.

Debbie adds: “Successful retailers have to be more analytical and understand consumer buying behaviour, retention and loyalty, alongside price. There are so many different buying channels and the interaction between them all is vital to managing customer satisfaction and customer profitability.”

It’s led to a rethink about bricks and mortar, online, supply chains and brand. Alan Giles, Chairman of clothing brand Fat Face, says: “Most retailers are still struggling to provide a truly seamless experience for customers across multiple channels. The constraints of legacy systems and organisational and cultural barriers are gradually being overcome, but for established retailers there is no instant solution.

“Many retailers have too much physical space, so it is important to engineer more flexibility into leases and find ways of either reducing or making better use of existing space.”

Matt Crosby, Director at global management consultancy Hay Group, says: “What you do with your stores is important because they can quite quickly turn into albatrosses… You have potentially long, expensive leases, ground rent, public opinion about moving into locations, or public objections about leaving an area because of the negative impact it might have locally on a town centre.

“So where should you have a store and what should that store experience be? Will stores become a brand experience, a shop front for what is essentially your e-commerce offer? Or something else – a different retail mix entirely?”

Bricks, clicks and a cuppa

There are plenty of examples of retailers mixing it up, from the way pet-shop chain Pets at Home utilises its space within its stores to include grooming salons, veterinary treatments, health checks and nutritional advice, to the hipster assistants in Apple’s retail stores with their remit to provide detailed product knowledge. Another example of the drive to be different can be seen with pop-up shops, whereby landlords with empty space allow retailers to temporarily move in and try out new ideas.

Naomi Wells, Head of Future Planning and Sustainable Development for the retail chain Waitrose, which is a part of the John Lewis Partnership, says: “We launched a unique membership card last year which recognises and rewards customers with tailored promotions and experiences, including a free coffee or newspaper every time they visit a branch.

“It has been hugely successful in giving customers [an added] reason to visit stores… Consumers are not as brand loyal as they [once] were and retailers are really having to entice, value and… look after [them].”

Rachel Barton, Managing Director of Accenture’s Sales and Customer Services division, says: “There’s an opportunity for stores to go through some kind of reinvention to embrace the latest technology that is available right now, and make stores interesting and exciting places which have seamless integration across channels.”

As can be seen around the UK, if stores are in undesirable locations or simply don’t warrant heavy investment, retailers are exercising break clauses or letting leases run their course. Other alternatives include creating a ‘click-and-collect’ service, sub-letting the space or creating exclusive showrooms. Time will tell whether some of these ideas are borne from inspiration or desperation, but clearly they demonstrate the need for a dramatic flight from the old school of retail.

“The downturn has forced retailers to push on with digital strategies and those retailers who don’t have a well-thought through digital strategy are basically dead in the water,” says David Soskin, Chairman of SEO specialist Smart Traffic and Non-executive Director of price comparison website Mysupermarket.

John says: “It’s learning to live with the internet and seeing it as a positive asset to building a business and a relationship with customers. For the store portfolios, it’s about recognising that because of changing shopping habits – particularly internet shopping – you don’t need as many large stores as would have been the case historically. That, of course, leads to pressure on high streets and some of the weaker shopping parks and centres.”

Retailers are broadly in agreement about where they need to be strategically, it’s how to get there on an operational level that remains a matter of interpretation. What the upheaval has done is remind everyone that unless you focus on the customer, you really don’t stand a chance and that means you have to work feverishly hard at winning their loyalty.

I hope to see you soon.

Matthew

https://twitter.com/criticaleyeuk

Boards and the War on Cyber Crime

Businesses are proving to be rich pickings for cyber criminals and boards need to fight back. Whether it’s loss of money, breaches of customer data or highly targeted theft of intellectual property, the risk of attack is all too real and executive and non-executive teams need to ensure their cyber security makes the grade.

Andy Hague, former Operations Director of the ethical hacking division for advisory services group NCC, says: “My entire perspective changed after four years running the UK’s largest anti-cyber crime business… When you see the scale of stuff that actually goes on, it is quite alarming… but in many places there is still absolutely no concept that it even exists.”

The threat is substantial, with the cost of cyber crime in the UK reported to be around £27 billion a year (businesses are bearing an estimated £21 billion of the burden). Andy, who is now UK MD of HR services provider Croner, explains: “On a central server, we hold everyone on the employee payroll for a number of businesses… That is hugely valuable for anybody who wants to get their hands on it.”

Stephen Mohan, MD of Operational Services at financial services platform Cofunds, makes a similar point: “For about 800,000 to 900,000 customers, we have: name; date of birth; National Insurance number; address; bank account; possibly next of kin; and the details of all of their investments. This is a significant area of trust that we hold, and people need to have certainty that we will be looking after them.”

The repercussions of an attack are instantaneous. Paula Barrett, Head of Privacy and Information Law at law firm Eversheds, says: “It can be particularly galling to see all the time invested in building trust in your brand evaporate suddenly, almost overnight, through a security breach… Businesses are only just starting to realise the potential power of increased connectivity, and the risks associated with it… There’s still a huge amount of education needed.”

Security measures need to take into account the variety of attacks. Luke Wilde, CEO at TwentyFifty, a global management consultancy with a focus on human rights, explains: “Given the nature of the work that we do, the risk from our point of view would… most likely come from some form of government-sponsored espionage… [investigating] something about a country or a particular business we’re dealing with. That would be a breach of security and of our confidentiality to our client, and is a significant reputational risk to us.”

A global threat

It’s easy to be complacent about the dangers posed by hackers. Andy says: “You can’t touch or feel cyber crime, and the biggest issue is that for most people it is not real, it is not something that happens to you. But… you’re talking about thousands of attempted attacks on a weekly or monthly basis.”

Paul Brennan, Chairman of cloud storage provider OnApp, has mixed sympathies: “For every board director… simply saying: ‘I wasn’t aware of the risk,’ is not an excuse… [However,] technology is moving so quickly that it’s probably unreasonable to expect the average director… to be completely aware of the risks associated with cyber crime.”

In order to keep ahead of the criminals, chairmen and CEOs should consider bringing in specialist representatives who sit at the top of the organisation. Brian Stevenson, Non-executive Director at the Agricultural Bank of China, explains: “Even though many companies’ business models lie intimately in the delivery of technology solutions… you rarely have someone on the board who is accountable directly to the chief executive on technology security and delivery.

“[It’s about] having the right professionals from the right background, sitting around the board table. If you don’t have people with a technology background you won’t ever latch onto the issue.”

Arguably, it’s about raising the profile and reporting responsibilities of risk managers or creating a new role entirely. Andy says: “You need somebody who can ask: ‘Does anything that we’ve got have inherent value to somebody else?’ Everyone needs an individual to champion the security of the data that they hold on behalf of their clients… and I can genuinely see a position in five to 10 years where people will need a Chief Cyber Security Officer.”

Regulators certainly seem to think so. If proposed legislation is passed through the EU, such security champions will become mandatory in all but the smallest businesses, while every organisation would have to announce a data breach within 24 hours of a discovery, or face a hefty fine. Paula comments: “Compulsory breach reporting [already] occurs in the US… and as can be seen [there], the cost of dealing with any potential breach is likely to soar. Coupled with heavier penalties coming in, it will raise cyber security higher on the board agenda.”

Boards would do well to recognise that fines are not the only potential cost of a data security failure. Paula adds: “It’s about the negative impact on the brand and the share price… account or contract terminations, or lost business opportunities if you are seen to be a security risk by your customers.”

Andy Blundell, Chief Executive of outsourced customer marketing supplier, Communisis, says: “For marketing purposes, businesses take a huge interest in you as an individual. Having that data is good for the business and the customer, but as a business it takes you into an area that requires a huge amount of protection… We are very aware that we are protecting our clients, and trust is the ticket to the game in our industry.”

For all those speaking to Criticaleye, the unanimous view is that provided a plan is in place and it gets updated accordingly, the risks of attack can be controlled. Ian Ryder, Deputy Chief Executive for BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, says: “Clearly, the IT function has the technical know-how to implement the solutions. They need to be the key ‘partner’ in the business to help identify where the weak spots in systems and processes exist…. Cyber security is a specialist area – it must be treated as such.”

Another wise move would be prioritising specialist risk audits, led by a security specialist. Brian adds:  “Audit committees take an intense interest in finding out what went wrong and making sure it doesn’t happen again. I would like to see a regular data security item on the agenda, to make sure that you are tackling the issue proactively, and not just waiting for something to go wrong. It is about preparation and testing; your audit committees are there to question people – are they doing the full remit of their job?”

That is a question every board must ask itself. The reality, as noted in a speech by MI5 Director General Jonathan Evans only last week, is that the threat is “astonishing”, and encompasses the security of not only your business but each and every one of your customers. Only by taking real expertise on board can businesses begin to safeguard themselves and their customers against this threat.

As Paul says, the one certainty is that “it’s a huge area, and it will cost the whole world a lot more money as time goes by”.

Please get in touch if you have any comments about the issues raised here.

I hope to see you soon

Matthew

www.twitter.com/criticaleyeuk

The Social Enterprise Revolution

To date there have been three major reorganisations of society – the Agricultural, the Industrial, and the IT and Digital Revolution. Each fundamentally changed the way society operates. We may now be on the cusp of another revolution which may require a societal and technological adjustment equivalent to that of the Renaissance.

There is no doubt that businesses are now working in a ‘pressure cooker’ environment – globalisation, shifts in economic influence, increased consumer awareness and power, along with swift changes in technology, are drastically changing the paradigm in which we live and are forcing businesses fundamentally to change the way they operate. Earlier this month, Tim Smit, Co-Founder of the Eden Project, spoke to Criticaleye Members and guests on the subject of social enterprise and what he believes will be a ‘social revolution’. He asked the question: will businesses respond to this by becoming social enterprises? Whether you are behind him or not, he is not alone… some believe that social enterprise could be the most important innovation in capitalism in 200 years.

Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, says, “Changes in economy and technology are turning business models on their head. The traditional corporation was designed to hold and use capital and assets, but the new business drivers are around innovation and knowledge which require opening out and the capabilities for co-operation. In many ways, the co-operative sector, the original social enterprise, is now the model from which emerging businesses are learning.”

According to government figures, there are 62,000 social enterprises in the UK contributing £24 billion to the economy and employing nearly 800,000 people. Despite the recession, social enterprise saw good growth with 56 per cent having increased their turnover from the previous year, compared to only 28 per cent for SMEs.

However, the definition of social enterprises is still foggy, and can often be looked upon as not-for-profit organisations. “I rail against this all the time,” says Tim.

Social enterprises are for-profit organisations that invest a portion of their profits back into society. “Social enterprise is a corporate structure that takes account or even has shareholders that include the community of interested parties all around the sphere of its operations,” says Tim, whose own enterprise has reinvested over £800 million into the Cornish economy (a figure greater than all the EU subsidies to the region combined).

Sally Wilton, an entrepreneur who founded and then sold Etc Venues to private equity investors, is now the Founder of The Lexi Cinema, London’s first social enterprise community cinema. Her personal definition of a social enterprise “would be a business where the profits are re-invested or covenanted to another body ‘to do good’. I think businesses should respond to Kofi Annan’s call of ‘using capitalism to do good’. I actually find it very refreshing that there is no single model.”

Just as most companies have a clear business mission, social enterprises also have a clear ‘social’ mission. Sophi Tranchell, Founder of Divine Chocolate, says, “The social mission should be at the heart of the business – this makes it good at what it does and defines where the money goes. This is a significantly different way of doing business from the dominant profit maximisation model. It changes who has the power and who gets the money.” Sophi was recently named Ernst & Young’s UK Social Entrepreneur of the Year.

Nigel Kershaw, Chief Executive of Big Issue Invest and Chairman of The Big Issue Company says, “Social businesses are redefining what businesses do and are challenging philanthropy. They are a surplus-generating business that put social impact at the heart of what they achieve.” The Big Issue Invest is the Big Issue’s specialist provider of finance to social enterprises. The fund provides finance to socially-driven businesses that will have a real and measurable social impact while also delivering financial returns for investors. As of October 2010, they had invested nearly £7 million in 27 social enterprises with measurable impacts on society.

Nigel’s intention with the fund was to replicate what happened with the magazine. Although the premise behind The Big Issue is socially minded, since its inception it has been run as a business, not a charity. It now has 2500 vendors who are homeless or vulnerably housed. Selling the magazine, which they purchase for 85 pence and sell to the public for £1.70, allows vendors the first step towards getting off the streets.

Although The Big Issue is a staple for most Londoners, the mere premise of the idea would have been laughable to most financiers when it was pitched. Big Issue Invest allows such entities to grow and create more of a social impact through a mix of loans, quasi-equity and equity.

Being a socially aware organisation is by no means a new idea. In fact, the roots of social enterprise date back to the 1840s, when a worker’s co-operative was set up in Rochdale. Not the first of its kind, The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers was founded by a group of artisans who had been forced into poverty by the industrial revolution. The store provided members (who paid £1 to join) with food that was otherwise unavailable to them.

Their principles for cooperation, the Rochdale Principles (drafted in 1844), have formed the basis for which co-operatives around the world have been built and are used to this day.

Born out of crisis, the idea of an organisation giving back to a society in need changed the way business was done. Will the changes facing organisations today be the catalyst to transform traditionally accepted business models?

“There has to be a systemic change to the way businesses are run. Organisations can no longer be driven by short-term value,” says Nigel. “Long-lasting investments need to be made in lieu of short-term profits.”

Tim believes that, within 25 years, many of the ‘big businesses’ will be social enterprises. However, there is an intrinsic problem in that social enterprise has been labelled as the antithesis of big business. If the actual (or even perceived) focus of social enterprise is to reinvest profits into society then it is a fundamental departure from the idea of maximising shareholder profit. This is a major obstacle to widespread adoption, at least in the current environment. “One of the things that you cannot get around is the fact that a public limited company must maximise its profits,” says Tim. He continued, giving the example of Henry Ford who was sued by shareholders for providing suitable accommodation close to factories so that his employees would not be exhausted on the line. Ford could not prove that this investment would yield more profit and so was forbidden to continue and forced to pay shareholders back personally.

Ed says, “Ultimately, it may not be possible to serve two masters (shareholders and stakeholders). That is why many social enterprises, such as co-operatives, limit the rights of external shareholders in preference to the input and capital from members engaged more directly. But, for as long as the two hang together, any business will be passing up opportunities for profit if they ignore the social enterprise paradigm.”

There are a number of emerging examples of existing giants of capitalism taking up the challenge of social awareness and trying to ingrain it into the way that the organisation operates.

An excellent example of how corporates are able to support social enterprise is through Oxfam’s partnership with Marks & Spencer – the M&S and Oxfam Clothes Exchange – which, since January 2008, has attracted more than 1.5 million M&S customers:

  • Saved over 5 million items of unwanted clothing from going to landfill
  • Raised over £3 million for Oxfam…
  • … money that could be enough to help provide safe water for 4.8 million people or…
  • … 600,000 mosquito nets to protect children from disease or…
  • … 3 million new school books

The Clothes Exchange encourages donations of unwanted M&S clothes to Oxfam by providing a £5 M&S voucher in return. The voucher is redeemable against every £35 spent at M&S.

The positive impact of the partnership – which initially only ran for a six-month trial – means the Clothes Exchange will continue indefinitely. The Clothes Exchange has also supported one of Marks & Spencer’s Plan A environmental objectives to encourage the recycling of clothes, and reduce the one million tonnes of clothing sent to landfill each year. Richard Gillies, Director of Plan A & Sustainable Business, says, “The success of the M&S and Oxfam Clothes Exchange shows that it is possible to be responsible, to support social enterprise and save money at the same time.”

Unilever is also a good example of a company that goes beyond traditional CSR. Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, says, “A company’s contribution to society is absolutely critical in today’s environment. The global recession has shown us what greed and mismanagement can lead to and affect society at large. It is very clear that this world faces some considerable challenges: poverty, water, global warming and climate change. Businesses like Unilever have a responsibility here and thus a major role to play. This role is, frankly, very appealing to me. Every day in our business about two billion people use one of our brands. Over two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions and half the water used in our products’ lifecycle come from consumer use so, if we do the right thing and leverage this enormous scale, we have a tremendous opportunity to make a major impact on society and the environment. As a social enterprise, we have ambitious plans to grow Unilever, but not at any price. We must develop new ways of doing business which will ensure that our growth does not come at the expense of the world’s diminishing natural resources.”

This is not to say that Unilever is immediately going to transform in a social enterprise as defined in this article. It also does not mean that society will demand that major corporates must completely and immediately reinvent themselves in order to be socially acceptable. Large organisations can have a dramatic impact simply by supporting social enterprises by, for example, lending resource, mentoring or bringing their CSR policies to life by integrating the best social enterprises into their supply chains and encouraging their workforce to play their part. “Large businesses can buy goods and services from social enterprises. An example of this would be O2 who have created a dedicated product for social enterprises,” says Sophi. “Some of the corporate world is recognising the importance of social enterprise and the way that they are able to respond to some of the social, economic and environmental challenges of today.”

It remains to be seen if Tim’s belief that the FTSE 100 will be populated by social enterprises will ever come to pass. What is certain though is that big businesses can no longer turn a blind eye to the ills of the world and society. Organisations have a clear and major part to play in a sustainable future.

Please get in touch if you have any comments about the issues raised here.

I hope to see you soon

Matthew

www.twitter.com/criticaleyeuk