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Business Trends 2022 by TriFinance Business Leaders

In their business outlook for 2022, TriFinance business leaders discuss trends and developments for the current year. Business in 2022 seems to be all about change and transformation. While the War for Talent is back in full force, organizations are struggling to retain employees. The corona crisis has also pushed many organizations into a governance crisis, making transformation a necessity in moving toward continuous improvement. In Financial Institutions that means moving toward Finance Ecosystems 2.0. Upscaling in public organizations will make change management a necessity.  

#1 Personalize the employee experience

Hanne Hellemans, BCB leader T&S Antwerp & Hasselt

In 2022, the competition for talent will be fiercer than ever. Companies will have to focus on retention, all the while smoothening their recruitment efforts by becoming organizations where people desperately want to work. Customizing the employee experience will be key to reaching this.

Focus on your employee as a human being and not just a worker. Get insight into facets as life stage, personal circumstances, talent needs, ambition, and moments that matter. What is key for this individual to feel recognized and connected? Personalize career paths, learning programs, compensation & benefits plans, non-work activities, well-being initiatives, feedback loops, performance management cycles, and, most importantly, work (when, where, how).

Doing so, while not losing the efficiencies of the standardization efforts of many years, will be extremely challenging. On the one hand, technology & data analytics will be crucial enablers. On the other hand, companies will have to embed this in their culture. Leaders will constantly have to question the added value of the company to every employee.

#2 Reporting intangibles

Serge Vigoureux, BCB Leader, MI&S

Everybody in business is inundated with initiatives and credos such as ‘big data’, ‘becoming data driven’, and many more.

We see a lot of dashboards still lacking the basics: a decent data model delivering ‘one single version of the truth’. The reason for this is tech people delivering huge volumes of data to the organization’s data consumers but lacking business knowledge. BI teams must bridge this gap to deliver added value.

The business will have to deploy new metrics to report on intangible assets that are of major importance. We are not only thinking of HR analytics here but also see a need to report on intellectual property and innovation, brand entity, and ‘data and analytics capital’. The last one is about the ability to make relevant use of the generated data with a well-trained team and a flexible digital architecture to cover the issue flagged in the previous paragraph.

#3 Change management in upscaling public organizations

Bart Van der Velde, Business manager, Public

From 2022 onward, we see a clear trend in the upscaling of public sector organizations. A sensitive issue for a long time, the merger of municipalities is no longer taboo. In several policy areas, upscaling has become inevitable for inter-municipal partnerships as well. These organizations face increased challenges such as higher workload, a more complex and strictly regulated environment, more demanding clients, talent shortage, and budget constraints. Many of them will not be able to cope with these challenges on their own and economies of scale are therefore the only viable solution.

Upscaling in a public sector context always comes with major challenges. Change management needs to be introduced to integrate new structures, processes, and systems and to overcome cultural differences. These necessary changes will further stress the organization and its people, so extra operational support to complete this transformation will most certainly be necessary.

#4 Sea Change, Governance and the return of the operating model

Alexander Van Caeneghem, BCB Leader, CFO Services

Admittedly, we were half hoping that putting the economy and society in lockdown would at least free up some quality time. But that is not exactly what happened: we had more time, but it seemed to succumb under the expansion of work time, and still, we seemed to be getting less done.

The meetings, the emails, the information overload, the overall production of uselessness: a lot of organizations are currently facing a governance crisis. We need to dramatically improve the way we work together and the way we make decisions. It’s not about technology-driven interaction, but about co-creation. It’s not about control, but about empowerment. It is about making sense of the ever-changing environment.

Of course, we will need to work on meeting & communication hygiene and decision rights. But, on a higher level, the operating model is at stake. Is it still the right model to execute the organization’s strategy? Are its components (i.e. processes, people, information, systems, structure) unraveled and integrated? Is it, as it should be, the context to discuss process optimization and robotics process automation (RPA)? Is it adaptive?

The question is not whether we need to change, but what. That transformation thesis is not the answer, but just the beginning. Transformation needs to be pragmatic: how can we make sure the change will actually work? It starts with transparency and can lead to continuous improvement. Let’s explore that journey together.

#5 Cloud-Native Platforms

Gerry Appeltants, BCB Leader, CroXcon

IT leaders will be migrating to cloud-native platforms like ServiceNow and Azure and build practices to strengthen digital competitiveness.

Many traditional organizations will fail if they don’t embrace the digital ecosystem. They will struggle to build the skills that are necessary for digital endeavors to be successful.

Cloud-native platforms enable organizations to use cloud capabilities in addressing the talent shortage and deliver much faster on digital initiatives. Already a lot of organizations in Belgium have started using a cloud-native application architecture to build platforms for their digital business.

The main advantage of cloud computing is to deliver faster time to value. Drawing on elasticity and scalability, but also improve productivity by adopting DevOps principles and practices, while improving efficiency.

A security firm, for instance, manages both incidental and planned maintenance of B2B surveillance systems in a cloud-based system. Instead of doing a simple ‘lift and shift' to the cloud, they have adapted the entire process, from PO to scheduling the field engineer, following up on the maintenance, to finally entering feedback into the ERP system. In this case, the traditional PO, paperwork order, and the use of portable printers are replaced by a fully digital process hosted in the cloud.

Successful IT leaders will really embrace digitalization, avoiding the pitfall of just doing a basic lift-and-shift to the cloud. They will develop practices and a culture to increase automation through standardized operational patterns.

#6 People getting the basics right again

Veronique Grimon, BCB Leader, T&S Brussels

While many companies are struggling with the fierce and ongoing war for talent, employees are contemplating their goals and the meaning of life. Whereas companies use salary increases and additional financial benefits to attract and retain talented people, employees want to take control over their work & personal life.

People collectively quit their jobs last year, a phenomenon known in the United States as ‘the great resignation’. The main rationale behind this event was exactly about people getting the basics right again, restoring their work-life balance. It is also about establishing that control and not just about leaving a company or getting a new job.

This is a moment of truth that will urge companies to rethink their employee benefits. Rather than a nice-to-have benefit, mental health is definitely a must-have. It is all about leaving behind the one size-fits-all approach to create an environment where all your employees feel cared for, now and beyond the pandemic.

Flexible working schedules, remote working, flexibility in general, wellness & well-being programs could be part of your working routine to hire, attract and retain engaged and motivated team members.

#7 Finance Institutions Ecosystems 2.0

Jean-Philippe Thirion, BCB leader, Financial Institutions

The incumbent business models in the Financial Services industry are under high pressure. We expect 2022 to become the year of new concentrations and new partnerships. To optimize the workforce and transform their IT systems, Axa Bank Belgium and Crelan decided to merge last year. Others will follow. We can also expect more cross-sector alliances such as the one between Proximus and Belfius or between FIs and retailers.

We also believe that 2022 will kick off the “Finance of Things”, with Finance acting as our butler who will proactively help us to optimize our telecom contracts, memberships, energy consumption, etc.

The financial ecosystem will become more complex, but collaborative. It will require people to work in a platform business model, urging organizations toward intrapreneurial models with teams organized in more agile and collaborative ways. FIs should add this cultural shift to their strategic priorities, focusing on new types of behaviors, skills, and knowledge frameworks. In this ever-intensifying war for talent, they need to be able to attract new talent and retain them.

#8 Toward a digital driving license

Wim Dierickx, BCB Leader, Tri-ICT

Pre-COVID, the number of job offerings that allowed remote work was 20-30 percent worldwide. According to a study for the European Commission from 2019, telework was possible in about 25 percent of the jobs in Belgium, with Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands Sweden, and Luxembourg doing better than us. Post-COVID, the number of jobs with (some) teleworking will be around 80 percent.

European organizations, and more particular Belgian companies, generally stick to a very rigid selection process, preferring long search cycles over investing in people that might not yet have the required skills but are eager to learn.

Working from home, however, was not always secure. This posting summarizes the threats.

Though most mail and ERP platforms have acceptable security levels (if at least multi-factor authentication is activated), collaboration on certain documents was not always secure. A lot of organizations need to re-think collaboration processes and platforms as well as their UYOD (Use Your Own Device) strategy, also when creating new hybrid working policies.

More people working from home during the pandemic highlighted the need for adeptness and familiarity with digital technology to work safely. When will we be ready to apply for a “digital driving license”?

#9 We are in a decade of transitions, and Finance is well placed to take the lead

Kristoff Temmerman, BCB Leader, T&S Ghent

As chairman of the Federgon Project Sourcing Commission, I have the privilege to experience labor market changes ‘first hand', and reflect on what type of solutions are needed. It strikes me that supply shortages and supply chain problems affect our companies so severely today. We need materials, but we even need more talented employees on our teams.

Talent shortage will not disappear in the years to come, and certainly not in Finance. Unlike the sudden shortfall in ‘supplies’ related to the pandemic, labor market shortage is not new, but a consequence of demographics and political choices. The transition of our labor market is necessary to safeguard the competitiveness of our companies and economic prosperity in general.

The Covid crisis has taught us that yesterday’s unthinkables (eg. homework) are possible today. ‘Command and control’ structures changed ‘overnight’. Teams started working more independently and solution-oriented with a minimum of change management or supporting L&D programs.

My urgent call for all CFO’s: make sure that you participate in the transition of our labor market. Being in transition means that, from time to time, some room for ‘experiments’ should be created. This seems in contradiction with ‘IRR models’, but we have to dare to invest in the future. Leave your mark in your management team. Be an example of how to embrace new technology as a catalyst for innovative personnel management. Free up talent by automating repetitive tasks. Create time together with your team to upgrade their skills, and become the business partner you need to be in these challenging times. It will be a roller coaster ride this year. Plan for a bumpy ride and make sure that you (learn to) enjoy it.