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O2 Blue Door: Technological innovation for growth

Jo Bertram, O2’s Chief Digital and Strategy Officer, outlines the need for technological innovation in order to achieve growth in the future.

At the O2 Blue Door Conference in September, I had the opportunity to present my thoughts on how business growth in the future will be fuelled by technological innovation. As Chief Digital and Strategy Officer at O2, innovation is at the front of my mind every single day. Before joining O2 my career included working with start-ups, as well as in venture capital and financial services. From this broad experience I have concluded that there are four key factors that need to be present to deliver successful technological innovation within business.

  1. The customer needs to be front and centre of everything you do

This won’t be the first time you have heard this. But it’s not a generalisation to say that businesses that thrive and grow in today’s competitive environment are customer-led and put the customer at the heart of everything they do. The pace of change is faster than ever before and unless you are totally customer-centric you are unlikely to capture future growth or shape the competitive environment in which you operate. It is something we strive to do every day at O2 for our own customers. We want to understand who they are and what their needs are, whether they are consumer, small business, public sector organisation or enterprise.

Take the recent launch of our consumer custom plans for example. Insight from customer usage and behaviours indicated that consumers were finding it increasingly difficult to understand device plans and contracts, whether for a new phone, tablet or other device. We realised that many customers want the latest technology, and are prepared to trade contract duration and monthly spend in order to get it. So we introduced customisable plans, giving our customers complete control over personalising a plan to suit their needs.

  1. Data and insights are becoming critical

You need to ensure that data and insights are driving your decision making. Traditionally organisations use data to support decisions regarding investment, but increasingly I see examples of successful businesses using data to personalise their products and services to match or exceed their customers’ expectations. We have experience to share here too.

For example our Priority app enables us to understand the perks, prizes and surprises that make our customers most happy. At events and gigs we personalise our offering, not only to make the experience for customers even more special, but also to generate higher engagement levels. And it works. Last year we used a series of personalised communications for The O2’s 10th Birthday shows. It achieved levels of engagement four times greater than we were used to.

  1. Your competitor today is unlikely to be your competitor of tomorrow

The pace of change is catching businesses out, and the dominance of technology is reflected in stock markets. Less than twenty years ago, the five most valuable companies in the world included a retail giant, an oil company and a bank. Microsoft was the only technology company that made the list. In 2018, that same list comprises solely technology companies, with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook the most valuable companies on the planet.

When I look at the competitive environment, all I really know for sure is that technology will continue to define what we do tomorrow. We need to be agile and willing to change to stay relevant. If we don’t then we will be one of the incumbents that gets disrupted. Not every project or new venture will succeed, but failure is ok as long as you are able to admit it, fail fast, learn from it and move on. The skill is to appreciate what our businesses exceed at, and what is best left to the partners we work with.

  1. Collaborate and adapt to your changing environment

I believe that the way forward is to learn from different organisations, collaborate with them and recognise the potential for partnerships to achieve a common goal. This is an area where O2 has a strong history. For example, we worked with Rotageek, one of the companies incubated by Wayra (Telefónica’s start up accelerator), whose innovative staff scheduling application helped us to save £2.5m in scheduling efficiencies across our in less than a year. A partnership with another Wayra organisation, Qudini, introduced a booking and queuing system that helped us to reduce store transaction times by 27% and store walkouts by 62%.

I don’t believe that collaboration should be limited to corporates and start-ups. In July, O2 took part in Northumbrian Water Group’s Innovation Festival. Over five days our team from The Lab (who look at innovation through technology) worked with the public and encouraged them to find ways in which technology could help employees be healthier, happier and safer. Delegates left with actionable takeaways that they could use in their own organisations. It shows the power that collaboration and partnering can have, and how working with organisations from different industries can help us to identify innovative ways to do business day to day.

The technological advancements which we are seeing today are powered by mobile, and with 5G just around the corner, the opportunities that lie ahead for business seem almost boundless. But this is not a time to feel complacent, or to sit back and wait to see what will happen.

We need to act now, and take advantage of the partnership and collaboration opportunities that present themselves. These are what will keep the UK at the forefront of the technological and digital world, and fuel business growth over the coming years.

Do you agree? I would love to hear your own views. You can contact me via LinkedIn

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