And tips for anticipating these developments from Joep Hoeks, Chief Product Officer at Exact
1. Stay on top of inflation and a tight labour market, focus on efficiency and automation
The economic outlook is modest. Rabobank is expecting economic growth of around 0.6% in 2023. Scarcity of materials, staff shortages and rising prices are the main causes of the slowdown in growth. Inflation, which rose to a record high of almost 12% in 2022, will fall back to around 4.2% in 2023. This will mean a continued considerable impact on our wallets, which will be reflected in our spending. Both consumers and businesses will keep a tight rein on spending in 2023, with corporate investment expected to contract by 0.3%.
So how should an organisation handle this? Joep his advice: "First of all, I recommend putting efficiency gains high on the company agenda. Inflation is currently high, so you want to limit costs as much as possible. In practice, we see that we can often still make plenty of improvements in that regard. That's why you should document your business processes carefully, as that increases your insight into the organisation. Digitalisation can help with this. Having figures available digitally in real time also helps you to make more informed business decisions. The next step is automation. You can work faster by automating business processes, such as your administration or purchasing and sales processes based on digitally available data. It helps you to work more efficiently by saving time and money."
2. Go for technological innovation with a human touch
In a world that is constantly changing, moving with the times is essential. Cloud computing, data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) are technologies that have been around for some time. Perhaps you don't always notice them, but almost everyone uses them without knowing it. A current example is ChatGPT. As you've probably seen on the news, students have been using this smart chatbot on a massive scale to do their homework. These technologies are also essential in the business world, and you really need to invest in them in 2023. Think of chatbots that can answer questions 24/7 and are an important tool for customer service departments. Also very useful are smart algorithms that extract trend information from business data, so you can make sure your inventory is always up to date and customers never miss out.
"Technology is an absolute must, but companies that really make impact tend to keep a very close eye on people too", Joep continues. "They don't use technological innovations to replace people, but to free up time for them to do more quality work. When software focuses on simple, repetitive tasks, people can be deployed in more creative roles. They can take on advisory positions to really add value for customers and it gives them the opportunity to build a good relationship with them. Until recently, we wanted to handle everything ourselves and keep all contact with businesses to a minimum, but in 2023 strong customer relationships and personal contact are very much appreciated again. In a nutshell: automate where you can so you always have people available where you want them for the human touch."
3. Keep things secure: cybersecurity is more important than ever and in all areas of the organisation
As a result of items one and two, cybersecurity is more important than ever. We're all increasingly relying on the digital world because it allows us to work quickly and efficiently. We all store and share tonnes of data, especially now that hybrid working in the cloud has become the norm. That comes with certain risks: sensitive business information could be stolen or personal data could be used in an unauthorised way. This is something companies want to avoid, because it is hugely damaging to their organisation and image. Fortunately, we now see that in more and more companies cybersecurity is an increasingly important part of the business as a whole and no longer something only IT experts deal with. This development certainly also deserves attention in 2023 because your security is only as strong as the weakest link. Only one colleague needs to click on a phishing link to put the entire organisation at risk.
Exact also uses a lot of data every day. Joep Hoeks: "Did you know that more than 550,000 companies and more than 2,000 colleagues entrust their data to us? Data and cybersecurity therefore play a crucial role in our existence. A few practical tips for the reader? Use multi-factor authentication and always use two-step verification to sign in your application users. For example, you can ask them for a password and a code sent by text message. Also use strong passwords that are long, unique and randomly generated. Password managers are useful tools that create and remember those passwords for you. Finally, always update your software. Exact software always updates automatically, but make sure that your other applications are also up to date. You can enable automatic updates, for example. This will prevent applications from becoming outdated and keep their security up to date."
4. Make a difference with driving responsible business
2022 has made it painfully clear to us that we no longer want to be dependent on fossil fuels. Reducing CO2 emissions is a step in the right direction, but responsible business goes well beyond that. It also means adding value for people, society and the environment. Companies that only want to maximise their profits are now a thing of the past. In 2023, organisations have a wider task of each making their own contribution to a better world. They can do this with environmental factors, but also with social components. Can your company manufacture its products more economically? Can your company use environmentally friendly materials? But also: is your company making sure its employees are striking a good work-life balance and is your company contributing to the local community it operates in? Ideally, you will do this together with others in your supply chain, because together you can have much more of an impact. Measuring this impact will also become increasingly important in 2023, as illustrated in this article by the Dutch Chamber of Commerce. Saying that you're achieving good things is not enough: you have to be able to prove it. This requires strategic plans and transparent results. And this doesn't just apply to large organisations: small to medium-sized organisations also have to get on board.
"Driving responsible business is also very important to Exact. It's one of the reasons why I enjoy working at Exact. Responsible business is an integral part of our company strategy. We underline our ambitions with a responsible business programme that's based on a number of strategic initiatives, including the reduction of our energy consumption and CO2 emissions, the promotion of diversity and inclusion at our company and contributions to the local community. One example I'd like to highlight here and hope to inspire others with is our Giving Back Days. Every year, all of our 2,000 plus colleagues get to spend three working days doing voluntary work of their choice. This means thousands of days a year that we can contribute to society. Colleagues may help to renovate playgrounds, put together food parcels for the food bank or engage in activities with the elderly, for example. Those are just a few examples. This work is very important", Joep Hoeks says.
Generally speaking, we can summarise that people and technology will become more and more interconnected in 2023. Joep Hoeks concludes: "Exactly, not only in our business processes, but also in our business operations."