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Vodafone’s Ready Business Index Shows SMEs how to Tackle Digital Challenges

Retail

István Király, Enterprise Business Unit Director at Vodafone Hungary, talks to the Budapest Business Journal about what his company is doing to help SMEs, the coming 5G revolution, its innovative car parking project and SmartCity adaptations.

István Király

BBJ: How does Vodafone’s Ready Business Index help SMEs prepare for future challenges?  

István Király: The Ready Business Index provides an opportunity for future or existing customers to fill out an online questionnaire. It contains a four-level question series following the identification of the size and the industry of the company. About ten minutes are needed for completion. Those filling out the questionnaire receive a detailed report, evaluating the company in four important areas of digital readiness, and placing it among its competitors, taking the industry into account. With the help of the Ready Business Index, customers learn where they are currently in digital readiness compared to their competitors. Specific questions determine the business challenges detected in the operations of the business, such as strengthening customer relations, data and hardware safety, optimizing costs; also, the readiness value of the company’s preparedness for the challenges.

Our aim is supporting our customers in achieving their goals; therefore, we offer them relevant Vodafone products and services following the completion of the questionnaire, helping them to operate their business more effectively. If the results show, for example, that there is room for improvement in business flexibility, the customer will be informed immediately about those value-added Vodafone solutions that might make the company’s life easier, and allow its devices to be connected into a network. Our palette contains plenty of services that would help them improve their digital maturity. Such a service is ReadyPay, a solution for SMEs for electronic payments.

BBJ: What is the most important problem that Hungarian SMEs neglect or forget when preparing for the future?  

I.K.: Digitalization is a competitive factor in the business sector. Digital changeover could be the key to increased effectiveness but the situation is very inconsistent. Although companies consider increasing effectiveness extremely important, only about one-fifth of them regard digital development as a priority, even though real reserves can be found in this area. It is not a good idea to think of digitalization simply as a matter of effectiveness. On one hand, digitalization might decrease costs; on the other hand, there is customer experience. For the generation of the last 15 to 20 years, digital infrastructure is a completely obvious thing. They expect to reach services digitally, as many as possible. This generation holds the purchasing power, therefore companies who do not develop digital channels will fall behind.

We have to mention that there is a tendency toward resisting digitalization amongst companies working for a local market, or trying to make business in their own town or county. Even if they consider a digital changeover, they don’t necessarily know the first step. It is noted that steps towards this goal are often dismissed, even in case of low cost investments with a short time return, because the know-how is missing. The Ready Business Index helps these companies start and provides information on what area needs most attention in their own business.

BBJ: What has been the most popular area of this initiative so far?  

I.K.: Based on our experience the Ready Business Index, with all its elements, is a unique initiative on the domestic market, providing consultation services in a very unorthodox way. Besides its consultation profile, it is also unique with regards to its marketing communication, since it points to the purchase of a service or product indirectly, offered to potential or existing customers on completion of a questionnaire. This service has been available in Hungary only since April, and already almost 4,000 companies have evaluated their digital maturity. The Ready Business Index is available in Germany, Spain, Italy, Romania, and in the United Kingdom; and in all these markets it was warmly welcomed by companies.

BBJ: Following the successful 5G demo in Siófok, what will be the next step in making a domestic 5G network available for the public?  

According to market expectations, the new networks will be put in operation in the beginning of the 2020s. Currently, a standardization process is underway; the various manufacturers are trying to reach agreement regarding common technical parameters. One of the benefits of this approach is that it might make the technology cheaper for users. At the same time, the principle of frequency distribution needs to be determined as well. The preparation of these regulating models is in process. 5G will mostly support communication between machines, for instance industrial and public use, therefore it will have a strong role in these areas. Since 5G makes it possible to have millions of devices communicating with each other almost without delay, these devices will become prevalent very quickly, and there will be developments in our everyday life where the presence of devices is potent. Looking at industries, the new system will have a huge effect on public transport, traffic and traffic control, and car manufacturing.

BBJ: Does Vodafone plan to extend its NB-IoT parking solution, which has been trialed in Budapest, to other areas of the city, and do you have any other SmartCity projects?

I.K.: We have installed 135 parking sensors in Belváros-Lipótváros, working with NB-IoT technology, currently in pilot operation and being tested continuously. With the sensor network, parking time is considerably less, therefore traffic, air pollution and noise pollution are all decreasing. Our plan is to let the public enjoy the benefits of this new technology as early as next year, and there is nothing against implementing the new parking solution in other districts of Budapest as well.

Another initiative linked to SmartCity is our project with ELMÜ-ÉMÁSZ. In the framework of this, we have handed over streetlight smart poles connected into groups in Lechner Ödön fasor, in District IX. Five poles were installed, each of which has various functions, for instance Wi-Fi connection, electric car recharger, LED panel, surveillance camera, air pollution meter, etc. The poles’ internet connection is supplied by Vodafone.

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