Buy, grow and knock out the competition – and now share. Some markets are moving beyond growth and hypercompetition to collaborative consumption via digital platforms. What makes these new models different? Why are some succeeding? And what can they teach us? In this blog we compare the conventional taxi operator model with Uber’s pioneering new approach.
Share, share and spread it around
Holiday apartment platform Airbnb and transport network Uber are at the vanguard of the sharing economy. Basically they’re nothing new: bartering began long before the digital revolution, the practice of renting out rooms for a small consideration was common back in the Middle Ages, and noticeboards for people seeking or offering lifts have been around for decades. But it’s only with the advent of digital platforms that this has all been possible on a large scale, turning markets into mass markets.
A model with a certain extra something
Journalists have taken to labelling promising new startups taking on established markets as ‘the new Uber’. Uber is the epitome of the sharing economy. By simplifying the interface between people offering rides and those looking for them, it’s sending waves of trepidation through the world of established taxi operators. In many places – for example New York and cities in Germany – traditional players are having to resort to legal action to defend their turf, in some cases successfully. It all begs the question of what makes Uber’s approach so superior to the conventional model.
At first glance there doesn’t appear to be that much difference between Uber and traditional taxi companies. They all get passengers from A to B. But Uber takes a radical new approach to key resources and the channels used to reach customers.
Flexible key resources
By key resources we mean all the means (which are in scarce supply) used to profitably produce or enrich an offering, for example talented staff, rare minerals, unique brand appeal, etc. Most established taxi firms have a large fleet of vehicles and taxi licences that have to be obtained from the towns and cities where they operate. The supply of licences is strictly limited to prevent the competition from getting too intense and putting too much pressure on wages. At the same time it makes it almost impossible for taxi operators to expand into other towns and cities.
Uber, by contrast, doesn’t have a fleet of its own, never mind its own drivers. Its key resource is its digital platform, the virtual marketplace where independent drivers can connect with passengers seeking a ride. Uber lays down the rules for these business relationships (type of vehicles permitted, prices, payment and ratings). To expand into new cities Uber hasn’t had to build a fleet or recruit new drivers. It’s been able to roll out its platform in new locations easily at fairly minimal personnel expense. This has enabled it to expand across the planet with almost unprecedented speed and aggression.
Connected customer channels
Customer channels are what connects offers with customers. They include all distribution and communication channels through which the customer finds out about or acquires the product or service. In the taxi business a passenger is looking for a taxi. If there’s no taxi available nearby they have to call the taxi office and wait a while. Not with Uber. You don’t have to know a whole bunch of phone numbers by heart. Once the Uber app’s installed on your smartphone you’re only a few clicks away from your ride. The app locates you automatically by GPS and connects the driver and passenger immediately. Less far for the driver to travel, less time for the passenger to wait.
In a nutshell
At the core of every business model is the utility a customer enjoys by virtue of acquiring the product or service. Both Uber and conventional taxi operators enable passengers to get from A to B. But Uber’s model differs fundamentally from the traditional set-up in terms of the way it harnesses key resources and customer channels to optimise the utility for both passengers and drivers. The app minimises the effort to order a taxi and the time passengers have to wait. And it makes it easier for drivers to get fares – so much so that even private individuals are getting on board and offering their services as paid drivers.
It is this type of disruption of existing business models that is transforming many industries, and Uber and other similar platforms are prompting many businesses to re-examine their own business models and try to ‘disrupt themselves’ from within rather than waiting to be disrupted.
When you adopt robotic process automation (RPA), the main focus is on short-term added value in the form of cost savings and efficiency gains. A centre of excellence will enable you to bundle your organisation’s automation activities, define the priorities in a book of work, and manage the successful execution of RPA solutions. But RPA is no substitute for thinking strategically. Whatever you do, you should keep the long term in sight and make sure your process and IT landscape remains fit for the future.
RPA increasingly figures on the management agenda at large corporations, and big banks in particular. Wherever there are opportunities to automate large volumes of manual tasks and close gaps in information process, RPA offers attractive rewards in the form of cost savings, increased effectiveness and efficiency, reduced error rates, and the chance to free up personnel resources for more highly qualified tasks.
RPA solutions are generally used for a wide variety of processes in different business units and divisions. So the key question for management is how to coordinate the RPA initiative on an enterprise-wide basis, combine it with other systems using application programming interfaces (APIs) and enhance it with technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), and how to align it with the company’s compliance and risk management requirements. Setting up a centre of excellence (CoE) is a good way of coordinating and monitoring these efforts.
A CoE, often called a competence centre, is where an organisation brings together the management, best practices, research and training relating to a specific topic of focus, such as a technology, business approach or competence. In technology companies, the CoE concept mostly has to do with new software tools, technologies or corresponding concepts.
Targeted use of energies and synergies
A CoE bundles all RPA-related competences and initiatives, trims the overall course, and measures the achievement of objectives. The CoE has a systematic structure and a clear hierarchy (see Figure 1), and is designed to ensure compliance with the relevant external and internal standards. A structured CoE can be set up in house, outsourced to a strategic partner, or operated with a combination of internal and external specialists.
To perform the management and control function for all the company’s RPA efforts, a CoE should ideally include different functions and draw on the experience of specialists.
Governance and strategy: This area regulates the interplay of all RPA-related activities and keeps them on track across the company. It’s here that the company defines what it wants to achieve with RPA overall: what legal, regulatory, economic and social requirements are to be met, and how objectives are to be reported and, ultimately, monitored.
Change management: RPA applications lead to technological, organisational and process-related changes. Change management provides the corresponding guidelines.
Knowledge management: One of the keys to the success of RPA is knowledge of the way things fit together and the different impacts and implications. This section of the CoE is responsible for building, deepening and sharing this knowledge and securing it for the long term.
Guidelines and standards: This function regulates the entire technical component, covering areas including certification policy, service management (e.g. for releases), the definition of data models and key performance indicators, and all monitoring with a view to regular optimisation.
Technology architecture: When you deploy RPA solutions you need clear specifications for the tools to be used. This area covers the evaluation, selection, licensing, implementation, commissioning and maintenance of RPA instruments. This is also where you address the question of how far the architecture should also include other technologies such as AI.
Implementation: This organisational area covers the actual execution of RPA solutions, from set-up through operation to maintenance. The book of work defines the criteria for prioritising the tasks involved. This is also where the organisation estimates the benefits of RPA, defining the tangible and measurable added value it expects its RPA architecture to deliver, and how it intends to reinvest it.
From a centralised to a decentralised structure
Global organisations intending to systematically deploy RPA have a much more complex framework to consider than a company with only one home market. The operating models of their CoEs will differ accordingly. A centralised model will be led by a team with common resources, and will usually be based at the place where the organisation (and its technology) is headquartered. In the decentralised approach, the RPA monitoring function is carried out by different business units, usually geographically separate. The hybrid model represents a combination of these two approaches. What all these approaches have in common is that they are designed to bring together knowledge and controls to ensure that the organisation’s RPA- and compliance-related goals are met.
In a nutshell
When you implement RPA you have to work out how to make sure this new interface technology will deliver lasting benefits. A well-thought-out centre of excellence will help you coordinate your RPA efforts, channel your resources and harness synergy. But there’s more to it than that. The benefits of RPA are primarily short-term: cost savings, greater efficiency, freed-up resources and lower error rates due to manual interventions. This economic immediacy is what makes the technology so attractive. But it’s by no means enough. RPA solutions make your IT and process landscape more complex, and they may lead you to put off thinking about fundamental changes you need to make to your architecture, such as replacing a legacy system. You should use RPA technology as a way of making short-term savings while using existing IT systems, giving you the time and flexibility to make sure your IT architecture meets the long-term needs of your organisation. For RPA to deliver long-term technological benefits, you have to keep sight of your longer-term, strategic initiatives. In other words, implement RPA, but don’t neglect the bigger picture.
Our 2018 programme will be dedicated to the Future of Treasury, with a focus on Fintech, Cybersecurity, and Connectivity, as well as on the changes in the required skills of the Future Treasurer. We will provide context to the current Macro-economic environment and share relevant practitioner case studies.
A great networking opportunity
On top of the knowledge transfer, panel discussions and case studies, we are well aware that this event is an important moment for you to connect with your peers, so ample networking time will be provided throughout the day.
This year’s programme
You can find the detailed programmes and information for both locations on our PwC Event webpage. We are delighted of this year’s excellent line-up of speakers, and hope that you will be interested in the topics they will cover.
Register now and enjoy our Early Bird fees
Special Early Bird fees will apply to all registrations received before February 15th. Click the links below to register now to our PwC Treasury Conference:
PwC’s Treasury Solutions Group looks forward to welcoming you at the 19th edition of the event in Zurich and the 12th edition in Geneva and remains at your disposal should you need any further information.
Feel free to contact our experts if you have any question related to this topic:
We are pleased to launch the new Power & Utilities roundtable discussion paper Market Design in a World of Energy Transformation.
Senior executives and experts from 12 countries and four continents gathered in for a PwC roundtable on market design in a world of energy transformation in Brussels, Belgium. The event brought together leading players with substantial experience from both the regulatory and corporate spheres to discuss how market design can best evolve to meet the challenges of new energy systems.
Power market design varies considerably in different jurisdictions around the world but everywhere market design faces common challenges. In a changing energy world, power systems are becoming more decentralised and, with that, comes volatility. The need to balance energy resilience with flexibility is adding a new tension to the central trilemma of reliability, affordability and sustainability. The contrast between the similarity of the challenges and the difference in market design approaches offers a great opportunity. What was evident from the roundtable discussion is that there should be no need to invent market design solutions from scratch. Different parts of the world have followed different evolutionary paths and have adopted different policy frameworks. There are things that are done well and things that are done badly everywhere and we can learn from them.
We are pleased to launch the new White Paper that PwC has created in cooperation with the World Energy Council (WEC): The Developing Role of Blockchain.
Blockchain has the potential to change the way we arrange, record and verify transactions, with the underlying model shifting away from a centralised structure towards decentralised systems. It is no surprise then that, outside of the financial sector, the energy sector is seen as one of the industries where blockchain could have the biggest transformative and disruptive impact.
But there are still a number of uncertainties in the way of blockchain which still could limit or even stall its growth due to a combination of technological, regulatory and other practical challenges.
Among the big questions surrounding blockchain are: Will its early potential translate into robust and reliable, practical applications? How sure can we be that its promise of greater cybersecurity will be fulfilled and that it won’t introduce new, possibly bigger risks?
Digitisation, urbanisation, globalisation and resource scarcity are all megatrends forcing people to change – and companies to embark on digital transformation. Sharing economy businesses have grasped that what’s hip today and successful tomorrow might not even exist in ten years’ time. For this reason they’re constantly reinventing themselves, hand in hand with their customers. The ability to change requires courage, innovation, self-criticism, and plenty of staying power.
People have become so tired of politicians claiming that ‘there’s no alternative’ that in 2010 ‘alternativlos’ was chosen as Germany’s Non-Word of the Year. Indeed there are so many alternatives these days that people are no longer prepared to commit to a single option, but would rather be able to decide according to their moods and needs. Property has become passé because it means stress. “The real luxury is that you no longer have to possess things – you only have to be able to use them,” says Olivier Kofler, head of PwC’s Experience Center. It’s better to leave the boring job of maintenance and administration to other people.
That’s why so many services are now sold on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis. This freedom of contract meets a very modern desire for flexibility of options, and is ultimately one of the key factors in the sharing economy. Another key factor is people’s innate inertia: they’re reluctant to move into the future of their own accord. People tend to focus too closely on what will happen in the next twelve months; very few are seriously wondering what will change in the next twelve years. Another factor helping make co-consumption such a success is the scarcity of non-renewable resources.
All these factors have enabled the establishment of a digital economy that doesn’t need any new resources, doesn’t tie people down, and relieves them of responsibility. Consumers are prepared to pay for this – and in some cases pay more – provided they no longer have to bear the burden of ownership, maintenance and administration.
A good example of this mechanism is the electric drill. If you own a drill you’re unlikely to use it for more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time. In the meantime the drill can sit gathering dust for weeks, if not years, before the next DIY job. Earlier attempts to share everyday objects like this unfortunately faltered. It was only with the advent of the sharing economy that platforms – digital platforms, of course – were created that did away with the stress of ownership.
Unique in many dimensions
Digital transformation is creating momentum in more than one dimension. If you want to harness all this momentum, you have to contend with several forces at once: content, commerce and community. Creating new products and services and offering them to existing or new groups of consumers is nothing new. What’s more of a challenge is entering into permanent dialogue with all the different stakeholders, including your own employees, doggedly finding out their needs, and translating these wishes and requirements into newly designed products and services. Highly digitised companies process their entire knowledge of their dialogue groups in the form of smart data, and then use this data intelligently. This way they’re able to cater to a huge range of changing user needs and refine the user experience on a permanent basis. The sharing economy has thus consummated the transition from the classic business-to-consumer (B2C) model to business-to-people (B2P).
Another huge opportunity created by digital transformation lies in self-cannibalisation. If you embark on digital transformation you have to scrutinise your own raison d’être and ask what you’re there for in the first place. Cannibalising your own revenue model is extremely healthy, because if you don’t do it yourself, someone else will. Look at sharing economy newcomers whose digital platforms have taken the place of conventional intermediaries such as distributors. Alibaba and eBay are prime examples. The middlemen could have initiated this transformation themselves rather than having to deal with the consequences after the fact. If you challenge yourself you can set the pace of innovation and progress and perfect your own competitive agility.
The way the impact of digital approaches is monitored also differs from conventional models. In the digital world, what used to involve phased projects with milestones and acceptance certificates is now done iteratively on an ongoing, simultaneous basis. For this reason you can’t apply proven key performance indicators (KPIs) like profitability and conversion rates directly to digital business models. They require new yardsticks measuring attributes such as entrepreneurial endurance, customer satisfaction and the development of growth or innovation. Measuring performance in a digital context isn’t about defining an unalterable target state. Instead you allow your goal to change, and measure performance in terms of inventiveness, prototyping, customer and employee interaction.
Of mavericks and lateral thinkers
A functioning digital economy rests on people – and a digital culture. To establish a digital culture you need strong leadership that takes in the business as a whole and is able to turn anxieties about imminent transformation into enthusiasm, and risks into opportunities. This way you can develop approaches that unleash enormous potential by bundling the creativity within your organisation and making it available to new markets.
The fact is that companies led by digital-friendly people that actively address digitisation are more successful than those that don’t see the necessity. Of course you can go too far. Simply hiring a chief digital officer and trying to ordain a digital culture from the top down is rarely enough to establish your company as a genuine pioneer. By the same token a middle-aged management that fears new forms of collaboration can become the number one obstacle to new digital models.
Evolution or revolution
There are two forms of digital culture. It can take the form of evolutionary development, with an organisation improving step by step, primarily in terms of processes and costs. The art of progressing in small steps is nothing new, but it can certainly get you to your goal. The second form of digital corporate culture is revolutionary and disruptive. It unleashes a huge amount of innovatory power and is driven by the courage to question and reinvent yourself. Companies taking this approach have to be prepared to completely rethink their market offering and target segments that have previously lain fallow. They have to make everything revolve around interaction with customers and staff. And they have to believe in the power of their disruptive idea. This form of transformation requires a lot of staying power, which can only come with exponential growth.
Where do Swiss SMEs stand?
Large companies are digitising their customer relationships and processes, and are prepared to invest accordingly. In our latest study, ‘Digital transformation: How mature are Swiss SMEs?’ we wanted to find out how far digitisation has advanced at small and medium-sized companies. There are several key findings: The degree of digitisation at Swiss SMEs varies widely. Digital maturity correlates positively with the size of the organisation, and negatively with the age of its management. The companies covered by our study have made internal processes and training staff on digital matters a firm priority. Customer involvement and the customer experience, by contrast, are further down their list of priorities.
This is because redesigning a business model constitutes a more radical departure for an SME than adapting existing processes, and because decisionmakers are still largely overlooking the opportunities presented by new business models. Organisations that have opted to transform their business model now see themselves as more competitive. Most highly digitised SMEs believe the financial investment was worthwhile. Further, more than 80% of study participants predict that the market will change fundamentally in the next five years because of digitisation.
On the basis of our findings we advise Swiss SMEs to take bolder action on digitisation and keep a close eye on their market. Digital transformation can affect the entire customer interaction, all processes and every business model. This means digital transformation has to be a C-suite responsibility. Small, simple digital steps can be enough to achieve significant efficiency gains. Just as important is the experience of industries that have already gone digital, and dialogue with innovative start-ups. It follows that digitisation is not a purely IT concern, but has to be placed firmly on the management agenda. This inevitably leads to the question of the appropriate business model. Ultimately the focus has to be on the customer experience and customer value.
Customers seize power
While we’re on the subject of utility: so-called loyalty programmes are a good way of achieving the right blend of customer experience, added value and digital culture. When designing a programme of this sort you first have to recognise and understand the main drivers of customer value. The goal of any loyalty programme should be to motivate customers to behave in the way you desire and reward them for doing so. At the moment too many loyalty programmes reward customers for something they’d be doing anyway. Experience shows that at most companies a small number of customers account for the lion’s share of profitability while unprofitable customers consume the most benefits. The loyalty programmes offered by certain Swiss banks are a good example of how on- and offline benefits can be skilfully combined. These banks give their clients access to exclusive offers via a specially designed online platform. On this platform private clients can take advantage of discounted leisure packages, while corporate clients get to benefit from innovative solutions for their clients or staff.
The sharing economy provides plenty of opportunities for companies to completely overhaul their business model and make sure everything revolves around the customer. They have to take people’s inertia into account. Is a user really prepared to travel 20 kilometres to pick up an electric drill? They also have to pay attention to the risks to their organisation and balance these out in their business model. If a company outsources specific links in the value chain to other market participants it loses part of its control, and the other players have to take responsibility. Uber drivers, for example, have to take responsibility for paying all their social security contributions. Other risks are that privacy may be jeopardised or automation fails to work properly.
In a nutshell
Sharing economy providers have given life to digital transformation. They foster a digital culture where they’re permanently communicating, interacting with their stakeholders and trying out everything at once. They allow their customers and staff to take part in this process, and work with prototypes. Switzerland has always held innovation and creation in high esteem. Take the process of industrialisation in the machine or textile industries. Now the challenge is to take this sense of responsibility and initiative into the digital age and measure it by the rules of this new economy. The success of the sharing economy rests on a combination of smart strategy and the ability to rapidly visualise this strategy. This way companies can transcend regulatory, geo-economic and intercultural boundaries and open up unique growth opportunities.
China’s top legislature adopted the country’s Cyber Security Law on Nov 7th 2016. After a third reading by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the law took effect on June 1st 2017. In addition to defining a wide scope of critical infrastructure, it lays the foundations for enforcing penalties on overseas organisations and individuals who attack, breach or insufficiently protect critical infrastructure and/or personal data. Reto Haeni, Leader Cybersecurity & Privacy at PwC Switzerland, explains what companies should consider as the topic has more impact than usually discussed.
China’s new Cyber Security Law focuses to a greater degree on several key topics: keeping personal information secure, combating cybercrime, ensuring network products and services are secure, clarifying the obligations network operators face and addressing sovereignty issues in cyberspace. There are two main aspects to responding to the law, and the second is often overlooked. First, companies operating in China must implement the law’s requirements if they want to remain compliant. Second, organisations with information or systems not located in China must also review their technology architecture, data protection efforts and business processes if they want to minimise the potential risks stemming from the new law.
China’s Cyber Security Law is the next step in the country’s wider effort to tighten rules and regulations governing information security and data privacy. Regulations have previously existed, for example the Administrative Measures for Prevention and Treatment of Computer Viruses and the Administrative Measures for Hierarchical Protection of Information Security. The new law enforces the rights and obligations the government, network operators and users all have in the area of cyber security and data protection. While the law has already come into effect, its concrete implementation is not yet known and a fair amount of interpretation is still needed to apply the law in practice to operations in China. Complying with the law entails several new challenges for both government and business, such as ensuring appropriate network operations, identifying security risks and encouraging network innovation. Each of these steps must be addressed if the rights of all stakeholders are to be protected.
Trust is regarded as the ne plus ultra of any interpersonal relationship. And successful business partnerships are formed from trusting ties. Trust emerges only over time, yet it can be lost in a heartbeat. And in the Digital Age, trust is the number one success factor – in every respect.
This is why we have devoted this issue of our ceo Magazine to a very special topic: trust. Trust is in high demand, but low in availability. There are many reasons for this scepticism: new digital technologies, social media, competitors from outside the industry, and today’s seemingly bottomless seas of data.
Our interview partners come from various industries, represent both start-ups and global corporations, and apply fundamentally different business models – but all of them rely on the different perspectives of trust. Urs Rohner, Chairman of the Credit Suisse Group, for example, counts on trust and confidentiality. Susanne Ruoff, CEO of the Swiss Post, links the physical with the digital world. And Bruno Giussani, European TED Director, spreads ideas with added value. Read their stories and many more in our ceo Magazine online.
We wish you an inspiring and mind-broadening read.
In the 1980s a simple blind test sent the world’s largest soft drinks producer into a panic, when subjects were blindfolded and had to decide which type of cola tasted best. Its outcome has gone down is history, as the majority chose Pepsi cola. Spurred into action, Coca-Cola invented ‘New Coke’, a type of cola with a new recipe that it felt was bound to prevail over Pepsi in blind tests. ‘New Coke’ went down in business history as one of the biggest marketing flops of all time. Consumers rejected the lavishly promoted drink and demanded the old recipe back. Shortly afterwards, the company brought out their ‘Classic Coke’.
How did a multi-billion-dollar company manage to make such a blunder over some blind tests? The answer is simple: their assumption that blind tests provide a representation of customers’ real decision-making behaviour was false.
Let’s move on to acceptance and usability testing. When developing products, services or applications, idea generators, designers and developers make myriad assumptions about the usefulness, functionality, learning capacity and enthusiasm of (potential) users. They can draw upon experience from previous projects, recognised best practice and knowledge that stems from research.
However, it is impossible to understand the intentions, needs, reservations and proclivities of consumers in any detail without engaging with them intensively. Without consumer research and ongoing user testing, pushing forward with a new development means flying blind. The longer this goes on, the more difficult and expensive it becomes to get back on track. Tweaks to the concept are and always have been more cost-effective than adapting already developed solutions. As such, it is worth checking that assumptions are correct at the earliest possible stage.
Small steps first
Based on our experience, we recommend conducting acceptance and usability tests as early as possible. Lots of small-scale rounds of testing provide greater insight than a few larger tests. Just five to eight trial users allow any major stumbling blocks and missing functions or information to be identified (Source: Nielson Norman Group). Depending on the hypothesis, those devising the test can adjust the level of detail of the prototype. This allows them to test out their ideas and processes even with paper and cardboard models. As a rule, only detailed optimisations such as form entry and microinteractions require more advanced prototypes.
Do your planning at the very start
Acceptance and usability tests provide optimal results if they are conducted in a systematic way. Having a structured procedure increases the level of quality and the comparability of the tests. This has a bearing on the formulation of hypotheses and the definition of objectives, as well as tasks for test users, such as: ‘Find and purchase an XY-branded vacuum cleaner in the online shop’.
After the tests, the collected data are analysed and the results summarised in reports. The findings are fed into the next iteration of the design or stage in the development process. As we see it, there’s no need to fear processes and procedures. An unstructured test always provides more insight than no test at all.
The ball’s in your court
Early and regular acceptance and usability tests reduce the costs of late changes and maximise customer value. Discuss it with us via our Pipeline – and make sure that you don’t fall into the ‘New Coke’ trap’!