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Innovate and collaborate to navigate the uncertainty

Written by Billy D’Arcy, Managing Director, Enterprise & Public Sector Business at Telefonica O2UK

When I look back at the decisions I’ve made over the years one stands out for me, and that was the decision not to bet on Apple.

Now that’s not because I’m cross that I didn’t make Jobs-like millions, but the fact that the odds were absolutely stacked against one small company changing the way we thought about personal computers, then mobile phones and plenty more besides. No-one expected it, but it happened anyway, and as more recent events have shown, that’s often the way.

It’s strange that we seem to think we can predict the future when time and time again we’ve been shown we can’t. We live with uncertainty, even if we’re not always aware of it, and I believe that the best way to succeed in the long term is to learn, improve and essentially make sure we’re in the best position we can be for whatever comes our way.

To O2 and me that really is business as usual, uncertainty is the norm, we can’t see what’s around the corner, but we’re consistently innovating and trying new approaches to make sure we’re ready for anything. And that means getting help from innovators and collaborators who specialise in change.

2016 has been a turbulent year for both enterprise and public sector organisations but rather than holding back innovation or service, we should see recent events as a driver for both. A commodities price slump, uncertainty over Brexit means we have to be better than ever at satisfying our customers and standing out from the competition with innovative and effective solutions.

And that’s where collaboration comes in. We’re not here to sell customers what they don’t need (and even if we can that’s not a sustainable business model). They tell us what they want now and give us the insights for what they want next, for example, our recent O2 Business Barometer survey showed that a third of UK businesses expect their customers to want to access more of their business’ products and/or services online or via mobile devices next year.

At O2 we take this very seriously and our partnership with start-up accelerator Wayra and its new cyber accelerator facility is a good example. It aims to help UK start-ups grow and take the lead in a wide range of endeavours including the next generation of cyber security systems as part of the Government’s £1.9bn National Cyber Security Programme.

Bringing together start-ups and historically expert organisations is vital to business longevity; the innovation, flexibility and culture of start-ups plus expertise from more sustained organisations is the winning formula to sustaining UK business growth through uncertainty.

At a recent Demo Day with Wayra UK, part of the global Telefonica OpenFuture_network, where start-ups pitched their businesses to technology investors, entrepreneurs, alumni, the media – as well as some special guests including Debbie Wossokow, CEO and founder of Love Home Swap, MP for Cheltenham, Alex Chalk and CNN Money Europe editor Nina dos Santos – it was clear that the innovation coming out of UK technology start-ups was plentiful so the opportunity to leverage that value of start-ups is another clear sign that UK Businesses are making the most of the current situation.

According to Gartner, digitisation is one of the biggest challenges facing enterprises as it evolves from an innovation to a core competency. There are of course many uncertainties ahead as we work to harness machine learning, cloudifying, hybridizing and the rest, and that’s where innovative solutions to maintain and improve customer service while we deal with these challenges is going to be essential. Whether that’s through IoT, bridging the skills gap, making your business more mobile or ensuring that you and your customers are secure, the only thing that differentiates you is innovation and customer service and this resonates across all businesses and sectors.

It’s going to be a long road, but by innovating and preparing for change we can be ready for the challenges ahead, and beat justifiable concerns about uncertainty.

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