Excellent was the overwhelming verdict on the Speakers Panel held at Henley Business School

15 June 2016

Excellent was the overwhelming verdict on the Speakers Panel held at Henley Business School

Supported and sponsored by the Thames Valley Berkshire Business Growth Hub, the Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship hosted the ‘Building e-Competencies for Business Growth’ Speakers’ Panel at Henley Business School on Wednesday, 15 June 2016.

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Supported and sponsored by the Thames Valley Berkshire Business Growth Hub, the Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship hosted the ‘Building e-Competencies for Business Growth’ Speakers’ Panel at Henley Business School on Wednesday, 15 June 2016.

A select audience of SMEs and MSc Entrepreneurship students attended the event and were welcomed by Prof Kecheng Liu, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Head of Informatics Research Centre and a core member of the Digital Leadership Forum. Prof Liu spoke about how the landscape how the landscape of work has changed with the massive growth in the use of digital technologies and the importance of aligning leadership to get the most from these technologies.

Opening the event Jurek Sikorski, Business Development Lead and Executive in Residence at Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship spoke about the challenge to the leadership of SMEs presented by digital technologies and how business leaders are building e-competent workforces to take advantage of digital technologies to grow their businesses. Building an e-competent workforce is seen as something SMEs need to do to succeed in today’s increasingly digital and competitive world. Successful SMEs point to having an e-competent workforce and see e-competencies – in practice these include the ability to advertise; analyse data; communicate; manage interactions with customers, suppliers and other stakeholders; plan strategies and financial budgets; search for information; share information; and survey customers – to be crucial for business growth.

Jurek went on to cite the work of the EU which highlighted in its report ‘e-Skills for the 21st Century: Fostering Competitiveness, Growth and Jobs’ that e-skills are crucial for businesses seeking to be competitive and grow.  

The presentations were opened by Dr Vicky Li, Lecturer in Business Informatics and a core member of the Digital Leadership Forum, a collaborative network – between academia, industry and government - dedicated to promoting ICT and exploring how digital technologies facilitate work from planning to building to running to enabling to managing business activities.   

Dr Li delivered a comprehensive insight into the digital technologies showing how they are grouped under the 5 pillars of social media, mobile communications, data analytics, cloud computing and the internet of things (conveniently grouped under the acronym SMACI).

Dr Li described how digital technologies are transforming businesses enabling the creation of new business models and accelerating innovation which is crucial for business growth.

Dr Li went on to reveal that today’s business leader needs to not only demonstrate business acumen, have strong leadership capabilities but also be digital savvy.
Dr Li shared her recent research finding from interviews of SMEs across Europe showing the practices that define an e-competent workforce and business success specifically aligned to strategy execution, technology transformation, competitiveness and service delivery.

Dr Li went on to describe the European e-Competence Framework, a simple assessment tool that defines a total of 40 competencies for SMEs to use in determining the level of e-competency and identifies those e-competencies that need to be developed.   

Following Dr Li’s presentation was Simon Walker, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Foundation SP (FSP), an award winning technology solutions provider and a Microsoft Gold Partner. 

Simon shared how FSP has adopted digital technologies and provided an in depth look at how digital technologies are being used in gauging employee, client and satisfaction, three important areas of FSP’s business.  

Simon described how the many tools that are used help determine satisfaction is close to real time and how some tools like Microsoft’s Yammer help in promoting communication internally and keep employees connected and satisfied.

Simon stressed that employee satisfaction was rated highest in the scheme of building a successful business for ‘a successful business starts with a happy employee, happy employees make happy clients, happy clients make a thriving business’.

Customer satisfaction was a focal point for FSP which has connected all the digital tools like CLIENTpulse and Facebook with Microsoft Dynamics CRM that enables FSP to effectively engage customer and keep customers happy.

In summarising Simon stressed the importance of keeping things simple and if it doesn’t work ‘fail fast and go again’ but learn from the experience

James Malone, VP Worldwide Sales at Opsview delivered the final talk with great energy. With operations in US as well as UK and with users in over 160 countries digital technologies play a vital role at Opsview.     

Opsview use a great number of digital tools – addressing everything from infrastructure and productivity management to effecting collaboration and communication to enabling sales and marketing – which James stressed are needed to deliver internal and external business services.

James showed how Opsview has been able to link the activities of the process from identifying to servicing customers post sale which James described as sales & marketing automation. Achieving this has not be straightforward and many challenges have had to be managed included cost, finding digital technology experts, time to deliver, managing integrations, training, security and data protection and ensuring business continuity.

Despite the challenges Opsview has been able to achieve the automation and linkages that has put it into the position of being able to scale its business.

James ended by recommending that it is important to ensure you have skilled resources, train everyone involved as needed to operate and maintain the system that utilise the technologies, test extensively and budget realistically.      

Jurek closed the meeting citing a list of sources of training and access to help for SMEs encouraging SMEs to work with the Berkshire Business Growth Hub to deliver their digital capabilities.

The learning experience continued into Q&A which afforded some great answers to questions and left the audience inspired that business is increasingly being enabled by digital technologies.

The audience provided some positive feedback:
‘Frightening to think I wouldn’t know so much if I hadn’t come’ Nigel Penn-Simkins, MD Article 10 Design Ltd           
‘The forum is informative and informal. A good space of learning’ Einan Snir, MD  Room 40 Ltd
‘Excellent!’ Oluwanifemi Onifade, MSc Entrepreneurship student
‘Really enjoyed the format and content, thought provoking and informative’ David Hill, Director Business Doctors

The University of Reading is committed to work with the SME community in the Thames Valley Region for mutual benefit.
Read more at http://www.reading.ac.uk/about/working-with-business.aspx

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If you have any questions, please contact Jurek Sikorski by email at jurek.sikorski@henley.ac.uk or by phone on +44 (0)118 378 8188.