Restructuring Proximus

The restructuring at Proximus is only the beginning.

The Proximus Group (previously known as Belgacom Group) is the largest telecommunications company in Belgium, headquartered in Brussels. Proximus Group is primarily state owned, with the Belgian state holding 53.3% + 1 share. The Group offerings include fixed line and mobile communications through the Proximus brand and ICT services to the professional market under the Telindus brand.

Last week, the announcement of Proximus’ digital transformation plan sent shockwaves throughout Belgium. The company’s CEO, Dominique Leroy, announced that she would terminate the contracts of 2000 employees, and – at the same time – fill 1250 of these vacant positions with new digital talents. While the reaction of the public was intense, the restructuring at Proximus shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The waves of Digital Disruption have been growing bigger over the years, but still, many people were unprepared for this tsunami. Those who figured they had the time to gradually transform their organisation are now faced with such rapid changes that drastic measures are required.

If our Belgian companies want to keep on competing, they will have to transform internally as well, and that’s where it hurts most. – Jo Caudron in De Tijd

Proximus’ announcement shows that the management team is aware that the market is changing and that they have a clear vision on what their digital future should look like. It shows that they are preparing their battle plan to make them future-proof. Instead of criticism, Dominique Leroy deserves praise for steering Proximus into the 21th century. Proximus is making sure that they will be ready for the waves of change ahead. This should be a wake-up call for all companies: those who have seen the future should act upon it or brace themselves for impact.

7de dag

Watch Jo Caudron’s (Dutch) debate on ‘De zevende dag’.

The first wave: digital transformation

Understanding how digital customer behaviour is transforming industries and how organizations can stay relevant.

Digital disruption is holding entire industries in a chokehold. Moreover, while the terms “disruption” and “digital transformation” have been buzzing over the past years, at present, we see that disruption goes beyond digital.  Companies such as Netflix, WhatsApp, Google, Airbnb, Uber and Amazon have completely transformed customer expectations by offering convenience, speed & efficiency. This has drastically altered customer expectations and behaviour.

The age of the new customer

Consumers today expect top notch service, quality products, speed, convenience, flexibility and affordable pricing. Customers have become more digital-savvy than ever before and – by consequence – they are more demanding. And this goes far beyond the above-mentioned qualities: conscious consumers expect corporates to take the lead in social responsibility and change the world for the better. This has put entire industries’ business models under pressure. Hence changing the way corporates must do business.

The world is changing, can you keep up the pace?

Now more than ever, it is of vital importance for corporates to listen to their market and to innovate, pivot or tweak their business model and strategy. They must keep their finger on the pulse if they want to survive the waves ahead. Digital disruption was only the beginning, it was the catalyst for the current and future changes. Customer expectations are an inherent part of what will steer companies in a new direction.

We tend to forget that the corporate impact on society is immense. They are one of the biggest contributors in regards to employment, economy (through taxes), and more. But, apart from that, corporates help form so many aspects of society as we know it. For example, there is a case to be made for Alibaba’s surge in China, its use of AI and the Chinese Government adding Artificial Intelligence into the high school curriculum.

If we want corporates to keep contributing to society we have to make sure that they can proactively tackle the challenges at hand in order to stay relevant. We should encourage and support them to move forward and adjust themselves to market changes to become future proof organisations.

The second wave: artificial intelligence, automation and the future job market

Companies acting in the name of progress impact the employment market to such a degree that the concept of “traditional careers” has come under pressure. This is the second wave: artificial intelligence and automation are technologies that will transform the nature of work and our workplaces profoundly. Machines will be able to carry out more complex tasks and perform them beyond what humans can do. As machines will complement the work that humans do, we will all need to acquire new skills and learn to work alongside the increasingly capable machine in the workplace to reap the benefits. Some traditional careers will decline, other new roles will grow and many more will disappear. But this is not doomsday. Professions have been disappearing for decades now, long before technology was at its peak. Remember the lamplighters and switchboard operators? Or librarians, travel agents, shoemakers and blacksmiths? It’s not all bad news. Over the past decade, dozens of new professions saw the light, such as social media managers, app developers, data analysts and more.  A recent report of tech giant Dell, claims that 85 percent of jobs that will be available in 2030 have not even been invented yet. Many of the traditional careers will be redefined as opposed to eradicated. A lot of skills can and will still be valuable and transferable to other roles.

Corporates have a social responsibility to invest in their employees through trainings and guide them towards new job roles. Flexibility and willingness to change careers will be key for employees as will be lifelong learning. Just like corporates who are responding to the fast market changes, employees will have to adjust and sharpen their skills to stay in the game. No profession has the certainty of eternity. Inevitably, professions disappear, sometimes gradually, sometimes at lightning speed. Be it due to globalisation, new technologies, automation or whichever evil disruptor you’d like to point the finger at.

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