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2020 Vision: clarity and focus, crystallising your knowledge

Published on 27 April 2020

2020 Vision: clarity and focus, crystallising your knowledge

Twenty years of raising standards has been made possible by the growth of a vibrant professional community, where we continue to share and learn. From the original vision to now, we look at how this shared knowledge has shaped best practice and look ahead to what the future may bring.

2020 is our 20th year at The Forum, a great time to look back on the first 20 years and think ahead for the next 20. Our vision, back in 2000, was to raise standards in customer operations. This remains unchanged. We have been instrumental in helping to set standards across Planning, Insight and Quality. Now, having established communities of best practice, we will continue to raise standards and prepare for the future. 2020 Vision refers to the clarity, focus and sharpness of vision required to purposely move forward towards your targets, goals and dreams. Moreover, according to work of psychologist Raymond Cattell, crystallised intelligence is the ability to use knowledge acquired from past experience, while fluid intelligence is the ability to solve problems in unique and novel situations. 

Hindsight: a tool for learning? 
By looking back, with hindsight, we can recognise the benefit of our experimentation and fluid thinking over the past 20 years. We can crystallise our knowledge of best practice and standards now. Then we can look ahead to the challenges and changes we will face over the coming decades. We’ve certainly seen both kinds of thinking come to the fore in recent weeks, given the situation raised by the Covid-19 virus. More broadly, looking back, we can see so much great (fluid) pioneering experience transferred into established best practice (crystallised) – and standards, especially in planning, are massively higher than before, as Sven Hill observes. Now Head of Planning & Insight at HM Courts & Tribunals, he points to “the emergence of a best practice way of doing things” over the 20 years, and “recognition that operations needed to change, to meet the demands of the customer”. Will this be just as true in the next 20 years? In what ways? Sven also highlights the beneficial impact of training and networking at The Forum, in crystallising best practice, but also spurring innovation. “How much has Operations saved because of The Forum’s influence?” he asks, “I bet it’s billions”.

Look back over 20 years 
Speaking with some of our planning pioneers and awards judges earlier this year, it’s clear that much has certainly changed in Planning. For most planning teams, today’s issues have moved on from those raised in the first networking groups around the country and the early training workshops at Regent’s College in 2000/2001. Workforce management and digital were new, as Benedicte Frew points out from her perspective as Head of Planning & Strategy at Skipton Building Society. 

For Lorna Stanley, now part of the change team at BGL, “the tidal shift is from efficiency being all about costs to focussing more on the customer.” And for Laura Moss, Head of Command Centre at Santander Operations, the digital era has meant customers have far more knowledge and insight, leading to higher expectations and demands. “The biggest change has been how organisations … encourage employees to not follow the standard process anymore, but really question what is the right thing to do for the customer”. For these organisations – open to challenging old policies and procedures – today is a fantastic time for innovation and transformation, fluid thinking.

Continuing improvement 
For Colin Whelan, Head of Workforce Optimisation at Hoist Finance, “I personally think the professionalism of the contact centre industry is the biggest change. I remember in the 90’s how it was considered draconian, populated by those who couldn’t escape!” The shift is remarkable, with contact centre advisors no longer a substitute for face-to-face but, according to research, now the preferred channel for most people. Simon Butler, Head of Planning & Business Intelligence at esure, talks about our role as professionals in helping the business “doing more with less”. “If we look back on the expectations of us (then only Planning) in 2000 compared to now, the gulf is massive. But I liken it to the Audi A4. Every year Audi re-fresh the model, it’s only a small iterative step each time and it always looks like a classic A4, but if you compare 2000 and 2020 models, they look very different.”

Look ahead to the future 
To remain successful in the future we will need to continue to clarify the ever-changing needs and focus on the right element. Looking at the coming decades, almost everyone we spoke to mentions technology, automation and AI – and the speed of adoption of emerging technologies is faster than it has been since the industrial revolution. Some emphasised human/bot collaboration, others innovation in core platforms like workforce management, real time automation, data visualisation or speech analytics. For professionals the value of being an expert user of a system continues to diminish, Simon Butler suggests, as the value of business support consultancy increases exponentially (using our expert skills). We need to change our learning to onboard these new skills, he argues, and better understand the transformations happening in operations. For Laura Moss, the focus on wellbeing is key, with things potentially getting worse, before they get better. Yet some changes are here to stay, suggests Lorna Stanley. “I am a firm believer that the gig economy will become the norm, so workforces will change significantly”. “As we race into the 21st century”, Colin Whelan concludes, “the novelty of choice is now a staple demand. This is going to be the biggest challenge in my opinion.”

Add value as a professional
It’s essential to be professional if you want to be successful and taken seriously. Our remarkable community of best practice at The Forum brings together an enormous spectrum of professionals. This is valuable, because we offer a safe place in which to reflect, share and learn. It is when we see ourselves clearly, as professionals or operations, that we can ask better questions, search for better answers and be more confident and creative – 2020 Vision. Yes, being self-aware isn’t as easy as you’d think, but it sure matters! Alongside this, a professional community crystallises the knowledge that comes from pioneering new approaches and technologies – with standards, guidelines and frameworks. We are ‘in this together’. Of course, we need to adapt these for our own environments and challenges. It is for us to develop, evolve and join up strategies that transform customer operations – for the people who work in them and the customers who depend on them, as much as the businesses or public services in which they play an increasingly important part. 

A safe place to learn
Creating this safe community, which develops best practice and helps people think differently, is at the core of everything we do at The Forum. Twenty years ago, when Paul took the bold step of creating the Professional Planning Forum, he had the vision and belief that bringing people together would raise standards. Looking forward, we need to consider our increasing reliance on data, the impacts of digital transformation and how collaborative intelligence (working with machines) enhances our capability. We will focus increasingly on strategic planning, now prominent at the start of the planning cycle, and planning for wellbeing, of growing importance. We can expect further innovation to improve customer experience, with planning and insight informing best practice across organisational siloes, end-to-end for the entire customer journey. What won’t change is the part we play in our own lives. With clarity, sharpness of vision and a strong purpose, we will always succeed. 

2020 Vision: sharing knowledge and best practice

  • We speak of 2020 Vision as the focus, clarity and sharpness of vision required to purposely move forward towards your goals and dreams.
  • According to the work of the psychologist Raymond Cattell (1963), crystallised intelligence is the ability to use knowledge acquired through past learning or experience, while fluid intelligence is the ability to reason and solve problems in unique and novel situations.
  • Eagle-eyed? In visual acuity, 20/20 vision is the clarity and sharpness of vision to see at 20 feet what should be seen, as a norm. The normal vision of an eagle is different. What is needed in our roles?  
  • In our 20th year, we look back 20 years and look forward 20 also.
  • Do we see clearly, from that perspective and distance, the trends and challenges we need to face as we move ahead?  


This article was first published in the 2020 Best Practice Guide - 2020 Vision: Crystallising your knowledge

To download a full digital copy of the Best Practice Guide, click here

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