Thought leadership
    07 March 2021


    The four key challenges of business

    From customer expectations to sustainability, the world is changing. Is your business ready? 

    It can feel like COVID-19 has changed everything about business. But, after some big changes to the way we work, many organisations are now doing business safely and successfully and thinking about what comes next.

    Preparing for future disruption is top of mind, as is how to cope with the other challenges impacting organisations today. In the Vodafone Business Future Ready Report 2020, we set out to discover which businesses are most confident and well prepared for emerging trends, challenges and possibilities, and what they’re doing differently to the rest.

    We call them ‘future-ready’ businesses (FRBs). Compared to their peers, these businesses are taking a very different approach to the challenges of the current environment and as a result, are coping much better during the pandemic.

    From customer expectations to sustainability, the world is changing. Is your business ready? 

    More powerful consumers

    We know keeping customers happy has always been critical. But, in this digital age, it’s easier than ever for consumers to compare products and alternatives.

    Because of this, 88% of future-ready small and medium businesses (SMEs) believe customers are growing in power and almost half of future-ready SMEs are already seeking data-driven insights (45%) to understand and meet rising customer expectations, which include growing demands for social responsibility. Most future-ready businesses (87%) say customers are increasingly demanding that brands act ethically or have a purpose beyond profit. For small businesses, 54% say their customers’ preference to buy from or work with socially responsible organisations is one of the top three reasons for changes in their organisation. This is joint first with a genuine sense of moral obligation.

    Understanding the customer has been a strength of smaller businesses for a long time – and it’s more important now than ever before.

    Sustainability as standard

    Sustainability is high on the agenda too. As customers and society become more aware of their environmental footprint, and work to minimise it, businesses are expected to do the same.

    Many organisations are taking steps to get on top of this, such as adopting a paperless office, reducing the amount of employee travel and donating to environmental charities. The majority of SMEs (67%) are using the most energy-efficient technology available. And the main driving force for more than half is a genuine sense of moral obligation (40%), as well as the fact that customers prefer to buy from sustainable organisations (37%).

    Deciphering the digital economy

    The good news is that SMEs are even more aware of the possibilities of the digital economy, putting them in a strong position compared to larger counterparts. Among future-ready SMEs, 90% agree that data is becoming an increasingly important strategic asset. That’s compared to 79% of SMEs overall.

    There are obstacles as well as opportunities, though – including lacking the resources to keep up. Nearly half of SMEs believe a shortage of technical skills will be one of their biggest talent challenges in the future (43%) and just under a quarter (22%) feel ‘less than reasonably well equipped’ to store and process data securely.

    Future-ready SMEs are more likely to be aware of the power of data, both for business strategy and public health. The majority say data is key to making the best commercial decisions.

    Tackling talent challenges

    Talented staff are essential for business success today – but smaller businesses are having to contend with significant skills shortages. To solve this, many SMEs are focusing on upskilling and retraining staff in a bid to strengthen their talent pool.

    They’re also changing the way they recruit, targeting a neuro-diverse range of candidates (26%) and a wider range of ages (40%) – something we found larger companies are exploring too. And providing the right working environment will be key as training, technology and flexibility start to outrank career prospects in importance. As such, all businesses are now concentrating on offering good training and flexible working hours in order to attract and keep staff.

    What’s clear is that making changes now can help you flourish in the future.

    Iris Meijer

    Chief Marketing Officer,
    Vodafone Business

    Vodacom Business

    To move your business forward, the best strategic business partner is vital – especially if you have limited experience in a specific area, such as technology. Vodacom Business’ innovative digital solutions ensure a successful digital transformation journey, thanks to best-in-class digital platforms, tools, applications and services as well as Vodacom’s world-class network.