Connections have always been key to business, whether it’s making connections with customers or suppliers. As a fundamentally social activity, then, business has benefited from digital technology’s ability to manage connections.
In the past year and a half, though, technology has not only had to manage connections, but help to make them.
Deirdre Purcell, country sales leader AVP at Salesforce, said these connections have been thoroughly transformed in recent years, with more to come in terms of what the company has branded the ‘Salesforce economy’.
According to Salesforce, this concept refers to both the impact of direct jobs in supporting Salesforce solutions, as well as the ripple-effect from Salesforce capabilities in the digital economy.
“In other words, for every euro spent on original products or services, the Salesforce ecosystem generates five and a half times as much now and will generate seven and half times as much in the future,” said Purcell.
This Salesforce economy, she said, is predicted to have a positive influence in Ireland over the next few years, generating over 7,000 jobs by 2025.
Naturally, given the closure of offices and other social spaces, Covid-19 has accelerated the digital transformation of all aspects of our society.
All indications suggest that large sections of society are moving to an all-digital, work-from-anywhere world, and there is likely to be no going back.
Indeed, a survey conducted by analysts IDC proposes that by next year, nearly 65 per cent of global GDP will be driven by digitised products and services.
This isn’t all about Amazon or Alibaba, Purcell said; Irish businesses, notably small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can do a lot to prosper.
“If you look at SMEs, who are the backbone of the Irish economy accounting for 99.8 per cent of businesses, research from .IE shows that the number of Irish SMEs investing in their online presence has more than doubled in a year from 21 per cent in 2020 to 55 per cent in 2021,” she said.
Purcell said that this will mean dealing with the skills gap: digital transformation is a huge opportunity for business and society, but Ireland risks being held back by appropriate skills within the workforce.
“Digital transformation is much more than selling online. Every company has to be able to work, sell, service, market, collaborate, and analyse data from anywhere. The companies with a transformative mindset and readiness to innovate and upskill across the organisation will emerge stronger,” she said.
One positive sign is that Ireland is generally forward-looking in its approach to tech, and the country, and Dublin in particular, has developed a reputation as a tech capital of Europe.
“This is powered by the people, some of the best and the brightest from all over the world, who choose to live here and help the digital economy thrive,” said Purcell.
The high concentration of large tech companies in Ireland has helped to build a generation of digitally proficient business professionals.
“This is not just in areas of sales but across businesses in marketing, customer service, and product development,” she said.
But not everyone falls into this camp.
While Ireland performs well in certain areas, IDC’s research also found that one in three workers in Ireland have low or no digital skills.
This figure is made all the more alarming when you consider the changes the labour market and wider economy are undergoing.
“By 2030, nine out of ten workers will need to learn new skills to do their jobs. That is both a challenge and an opportunity that businesses and government need to tackle in the years ahead,” Purcell said.
What is true of individuals is also true of businesses: the digital trend was already happening, but it is now imperative to the very survival of a business. Today’s challenges require businesses to digitally transform while leveraging integrated customer data to become more responsive, resilient, and efficient.
For Salesforce, customer relationship management (CRM) will be at the centre of this process.
“Digital transformation requires not just technology, but an ethos of putting the customer at the centre of everything you do. With CRM, businesses can leverage that customer data to unlock insights and automate processes,” said Purcell.
“We’ve built our company based on customer success with the people, programs, and focus on making every customer successful. Salesforce provides small and medium businesses with the CRM tools they need to manage customer relationships and grow faster in a digital-first world.”
Indeed, while digital transformation is important for all businesses it can be particularly valuable for time-poor SMEs as CRM can help to reduce administration with effective solutions.
“The less time you spend on administrative tasks, the more you can focus on scaling your business and serving your customers.
“It also improves team communication, automates reports, and streamlines accounting tasks,” she said.
Companies were forced to digitise overnight when the pandemic started last year. There is now an urgent need to maintain that momentum and commitment, but Purcell said that there is no playbook on how to successfully adjust to a post-pandemic world.
“Flexibility, agility within technology, and a faster route to market are all the more essential now. As a trusted digital advisor, we’re here to support and guide our customers at every stage of their digital transformation journey, putting purpose and values at the centre of everything we do,” she said.