Changing Roles in Business

Written by: Alan Rodway

CATEGORY: Financial Management, Organisational Success, People & Performance, Planning, Sales & Marketing

With broad and rapid change affecting industries and business more than ever before, one crucial aspect to be aware of is the changing roles in business.  Some roles are becoming more important, some less important, some are changing, some are springing up and some are becoming redundant.  This has implications for both businesses and individuals in their careers.

Information Technology

In the field of information and technology, the role of ensuring the I.T. system works and is secure, whilst still important, is now accompanied by an extremely important role of putting in place ways that help to drive the business and its results.  Lead indicators, tracking and supply of information, automation of processes, red flags to the business, business efficiency tools, etc. are now vitally important to the success of any business.  Simply having an I.T. system that is functional, protected from spam, viruses, hacking (if that’s possible?) and breakdowns are no longer enough.  The role must help drive the business, not just help to enable it, and this includes measurement, software, interactive facilities, simplicity/user-friendliness and timeliness, all through effective liaison with all departments within the business (i.e. sales, marketing, finance, administration, operations, people, strategy).

Marketing

In marketing, we now have a significant challenge!  The marketing role is no longer ‘a role’.  It has split into several components:

  • advertising and branding,
  • digital marketing design,
  • digital marketing implementation,
  • social media design,
  • social media implementation,
  • website design, and
  • driving website traffic.

There’s actually an additional role (possibly the most important of them all) and that is coordinating each of those components. There is little point engaging separate sets of expertise if none or few of them work together to ensure effective marketing overall.  It has also become more difficult to tie marketing into the sales process given that the sales force has often remained pretty much the same in many businesses as they were in the past,.

Finance

In finance, simply reporting numbers from the past, no matter how comprehensive, is just not useful enough.  The accounting fraternity has held to reporting predominantly history for so long that the new world of ‘making the numbers sing’ is long overdue.  Reporting and analysis of predictive key business metrics, predictive analysis itself, causal indicator analysis, benchmarking analysis and recommendations, business case analysis, competitor analysis and watching briefs (including the future), real-time reporting, recommendations to the business in general based on the numbers, business value analysis, are all now a necessary part of the finance function.

People

In the field of people, the old H.R. role of overseeing job descriptions, employment contracts, workplace practices, policies, organisation charts, performance reviews, etc., whilst still necessary, is less useful in driving profitability and business value than being directly and astutely involved in the high performance of individuals and teams.  There are many different aspects at play now than were demanded of the H.R. manager previously.  Businesses truly need people who are skilled in elevating people performance, not just sitting across formalities and systems.

Customers

The customer experience is paramount, as distinct from the older ‘customer service’ concept businesses were used to dealing with.  Customer service is a subset of the customer experience, with the latter being much broader.  The experience starts with the first contact with the (potential) customer and goes on forever through every touch point (direct or indirect) with the business.  So the role of maximizing the customer experience is now one of the most crucial any business must accommodate.  The ability to understand, plot and impact the customer experience is crucial to current and future business success.

Sales

In the field of sales, face to face and direct contact to “make the sale” is still a relevant activity for many businesses but it’s less important in relative terms given that consumers are further into the decision-making process when they first make direct contact with a business than before are more informed at the first point of contact.  So, clarification, help and the supply of relevant information to the potential purchaser is now more important rather than just ‘selling’.  The consistent provision of valuable and relevant information to customers, referrers and potential customers now demands roles to accommodate that, one way or another.  Additionally, understanding and working with the next generation of customers and their buying preferences (including methodology) is crucial.

Globalisation of competition for most businesses means there is really a global price for everything.  So businesses need the capability to drive internal and external efficiencies to be able to compete.  A genuine ability to consistently identify where efficiencies can be gained and then create them is more crucial than ever as the world becomes one from a competitive standpoint.

Direction, strategy and creativity are all so critical now that every business needs to accommodate these functions, not necessarily as a role per se, but through a combination of internal capability and other resources that are sourced by the business.  New directions, new strategies, new ways, new products, new customers, left field ideas, constantly challenging the business, are all necessary in today’s world … or the risk of becoming irrelevant is too great.

Market penetration is something that too many businesses are just letting pass them by.  Penetration into various cultures, ages, geographic locations, socio-economic groups, people with different buying preferences, etc. all present wonderful opportunities for businesses willing and equipped to think through the potential.  Few businesses are doing enough with this.

Specialists are becoming more important now, in so many fields.  Funding them internally is not possible for many businesses so creative ways have to be used to engage their expertise in a cost-effective manner.  In fact, the paradigm of employing people or using consultants should be challenged in itself.  If engaging the necessary expertise for future business success can only be via employment or consultancy, then the scope will be limited.

Board members are sometimes in their roles because of who they are rather than what they can genuinely contribute to the future success of the business.  Every business that has a Board (of directors, management or advice) needs to conduct a proper analysis of the best composition of expertise for its Board rather than just appoint them in traditional ways.  Young people, different cultures, different thinking styles, gender mix, futuristic thinking, etc. are important criteria to be considered.

The risk management role is now more important, including the risks of cyber intrusion, health and safety of people, insurances and its changing coverage, business reputation, the environment, etc.  Some businesses pay little attention to this whole arena and others include it but with inadequate expertise (depth or breadth).

Whilst it’s not a role, people who are always “so busy / too busy” to only be able to keep doing things in the same ways as in the past, are seriously putting themselves at risk … the risk of becoming less and less relevant.  It can become a spiral down where diminishing relevance turns into working even harder to prove worth.  Hard work and being busy is important but it’s not the whole recipe.  Innovation and change is required.

It’s always useful to look at some of the most recent and innovative success stories in business.  Facebook, Google, Airbnb, Uber, Skype, etc. have destroyed some of the longest standing paradigms of business by the ways they have been created and gone about their success.  Any business, large or small, can learn from them … dismissing them as examples because of their size is a mistake.  Businesses that just continue to employ people in traditional roles are just not thinking and are putting themselves at risk.  Individuals can fall into the same trap with respect to their own careers.

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