Digitisation, an essential step By Géry Brusselmans

At the heart of management meetings, digitalization divides. The majority of Brussels companies already have a foothold in the digital world, but not completely. This is due in particular to the cost and lack of human resources.

Digitalization. The term is so widely used that it is sometimes difficult to understand what we are talking about. For a company, it is as much about setting up an electronic invoicing system as it is about centralizing data or implementing an artificial intelligence system.

How much does digitisation really cost? There’s no way to tell. This varies from a few thousand euros for the purchase of a management program to a few million euros for global changes. To reassure some entrepreneurs, it should be noted that digitalization can be done smoothly, it is just a matter of knowing where to place priorities. “The budget has not been finalized, so it is difficult to be more precise. This digitization should provide us with a return. “To reassure some entrepreneurs, it should be noted that digitalization can be done smoothly, it is just a matter of knowing where to place priorities.

5 tips for successful digitisation

Bernard De Cannière, CEO of Audaxis and professor of digital transformation at Solvay, presents five best practices for successful digitalization:

  1. Understand what we are talking about: get informed to understand digitization, the different steps and possibilities in your sector of activity. Blockchain (information storage and transmission technology), a very popular term, is not essential in many sectors.
  2. Take a stand: a taxi company, a public works company or a bank will not adopt the same technologies. In your own sector, you have to choose to be a pioneer or accept to be a follower.
  3. Mastering internal processes: if a company does not have a good vision of planning, deadlines or costs, going through digitisation is a risk. The company must first have a stable framework.
  4. Act on three levels: Digitisation is useful on three levels: transform the customer experience, transform the business process or change the business model. It must be possible to determine at which level the digitisation is intended.
  5. Be inspired: you have to look around you, locally or internationally, to eventually be inspired by technologies, even in another sector of activity. Signage in a hospital can be designed based on a station, for example.

The original text: https://www.beci.be/2019/01/20/la-numerisation-un-passage-oblige-2/

 

Our members speak… Leila Lunguleac from Arelance

Welcome to our new blog section: Member’s Interview! In this section, we will be able to discover more about the ways companies find themselves on COBCOE Connects and, particularly, about their successes on the platform. Today we interview Leila Lunguleac from Arelance, which is located in Malaga Spain. Arelance puts offer a team of experts in information technology, composed of more than 300 professionals, which combined with the experience gained in more than 15 years, offer organizations, technological solutions tailored to their needs.

  1. How did you learn about the platform COBCOE Connects?

While searching for ways to get in touch with other companies in foreign countries. I am also passionate about technology, digital transformation and getting to know other markets through the expertise of Chambers of Commerce.  It was a simple search that led us to finding the platform and we must have found the perfect keywords.

  1. What feature did you find the most useful on COBCOE Connects?

There are a lot of useful features. From my point of view, as a person working for a technology consultancy company – Arelance, the user’s experience is of utmost importance. The platform is really easy to use and has a friendly interface. I would highlight here facilities such as creating opportunities and the fact that you can connect fast and easily to Chamber of Commerce members.

  1. Did you face any challenges while using the platform?

Not really, but the moderators are always there to help and they respond to all of your questions rapidly.

  1. How many leads/responses has the platform generated so far for you?

From Chambers of Commerce the response has been extremely favorable. For our Extended Development Team service for example – where we help our clients to succeed by offering them tailored IT solutions through the power of our skilled professionals, secure infrastructure and reduce up to 50% in costs – the members of Chambers of Commerce  that we have contacted have analyzed our competitive advantages and have shared and recommended our opportunity.

  1. What is the quality of the leads the platform generates for you?

High quality of leads, especially from Chambers of Commerce.

  1. What other tools, platforms, channels do you use for similar business development activities?

We try to be quite active on social media and on our web page www.arelance.com as well, where we also have a newsletter section. In the same time we participate in events and fairs on different topics, because we strongly believe in digital transformation, innovative thinking and in the fact that technology can help any area evolve and become more efficient.

  1. How do you see the response rate / success on COBCOE Connects compare with the alternative options?

I think any rate above 50% is quite impressive and the platform, in our case, is close to this figure.

  1. If you could take one feature and add it to COBCOE Connects, what would it be?

Adding new tech features, such as videos, and other improvements to the part of the company presentation and information, is always an option. Maybe you expected this answer because we are a tech company and so we are all passionate about technology.

  1. We already have 11 countries on COBCOE Connects (France, Bulgaria, UK, Slovenia, Lithuania, Belgium, Netherlands, Canada, Finland, Italy, Nigeria). If you could pick the next one, what would it be?

I would pick all other European countries that are not already on the platform, I think that the platform will surely grow in the following years.

  1. What has becoming a member for the platform meant for you?

It means having access to feedback regarding your service and your advantages as a company. This information is extremely valuable and it will sure help us grow even more in the following years.

  1. What piece of advice would you give a new member on the platform?

First of all to complete the company profile to 100%, information is so valuable and letting people know what you do and what you are passionate about can really make a difference.

  1. Would you recommend COBCOE Connects to your colleagues/other companies?

Of course, we have already done so.

More friendly user interface on the platforms

be.connected and COBCOE Connects are the go-to tool to develop your business in a safe and trusted environment. In a nutshell, every member is linked to a “guardian”, a “moderator” who works from their chamber of commerce. The development team is continuously developing the platform to meet companies‘ needs and help to make #BusinessWithoutBarriers more efficient. This time, we are happy to present a new “split” search on the platform

Search specifically for targeted companies

Right now search is simplified and you can browse companies by choosing location and sector with a few presses of a button.

If your search does not gives you sufficiently precise results from within the platform, you can always access a larger list, amongst companies that are not yet on the platform. The solution is the Kompass list. Kompass allows you to buy a list of companies with the their contact details in a particular sector in a particular country. This tool gives you access to a database of more than 10 million companies.

Create or check opportunities easily

Create an opportunity promoting your product or services and let moderators of 16 chambers of commerce to find a match for you in the most efficient way. Every time you publish an opportunity, all moderators get a notification and can help find a match for your opportunity amongst their members.

Do #BusinessWithoutBarriers in easy and efficient way!

Celebrate your business this Small Business Saturday

Small businesses are the backbone of the UK economy. In recognition of this, the Department for International Trade (DIT) is supporting the Small Business Saturday campaign this year. DIT will be celebrating the success of small businesses across the country in the weeks leading up to Small Business Saturday on 1 December. It will also be promoting the success of small companies that are selling their products and services around the globe.

The campaign celebrates all kinds of small businesses and we’d like you to be involved. Here are 5 simple ways you can get involved in the coming weeks:

  1. Join our new Exporting is GREAT Facebook Community and network with other companies, including experienced exporters.
  2. Share your own story on your social media channels using #SmallBizSat and #ExportingisGREAT. You could also include a short video offering exporting tips for other businesses. We will select and share the best posts on our own channels.
  3. Create your own content for Small Business Saturday by visiting the ‘Get Involved’ page on the Small Business Saturday website.
  4. Share stories of your business’s success with the local press and COBCOE Connects community.

We’re looking for GREAT stories of export success which we can help promote. We’re sure you’ll also have your own ideas on how to get involved.

Small business, making a big difference.

Digitisation is not a choice

Can we imagine a single company that, a century ago, chose not to connect to the power grid? Or not to install the phone? And who would have survived?

Digitisation is exactly that: it is not an option to distinguish you from your competitors – or at least only for a very short time. It’s not a choice. It is, quite simply, a necessity to stay in the race. Or in other words: in a competitive world, you have to move forward just to keep your place.

What are we talking about, anyway? Digitising today means more than simply installing a CRM system, opening an online store or adopting electronic invoicing. It means integrating the digital approach into your company, placing it at the very heart of your activity, to develop new services that are more efficient, better targeted and more personalised. This is all the more true for the service companies that make up the fabric of the Brussels economy.

Not doing so means giving up on getting to know your customers better, giving up on communicating better with them, on being more useful to them. And it inevitably means giving way to a competitor who will develop this potential for you, and for your customers. Not going digital means accepting you will soon be marginalised and then excluded.

The digital revolution requires a certain amount of artificial intelligence. It also means evolving new collaborative tools, opening up the company’s processes to your customers, allowing them to enter and interact more directly than ever with you and your employees. It is as much a cultural as a technological revolution.

This is the path we have been following for more than a year at Beci, with the implementation of The Cham project. The latest milestone is the launch this summer of our new website, which includes new online services. Today nearly a third of Beci’s turnover is generated via the web (issuing certificates of origin, registering for our events, affiliations, etc.). We will continue to develop these kinds of services, as we already did earlier this year with the be.connected platform, and as we will continue to do with webinars, online appointments and so on.

We want to help Brussels companies to take this path.

Not only by supporting them, where our networks and expertise can be useful to them, but also by playing our role of representation, where crucial decisions must be taken to digitise the Brussels economy. In particular, this applies in the fields of telecommunications, innovation, financing, education, training, employment policy, etc.

Much remains to be done, together, for Brussels’ digital future. But the benefits will be commensurate with the efforts.

This article first appeared in www.beci.be

Our platform designed for business success has reached 6000+ member companies

COBCOE Connects and be.connected have reached 6000+ member companies. Now it’s even easier to do #BusinessWithoutBarriers.

The platforms have been designed for business success. Once you sign up, 6000+ Members from 15 chambers of commerce in over 10 different countries are ready to connect with you. Your moderator is there to help you connect with the right person. COBCOE Connects and be.connected have been designed to let you develop your business in full compliance with GDPR.

Doing business: New platform TIAO brings entrepreneurs together

With her new company, British entrepreneur Glynis Whiting aims to connect businesses globally and grow trust through local networks TIAO has created an online digital matchmaking community for businesses – local, European and global.

It’s always exciting to be involved in a start-up, and this is no exception. I’m a natural collaborator and seek to work with like-minded and complementary individuals, so that collectively we can achieve so much more than the sum of our parts. TIAO is an example of that, with skillsets from international business, public and private sector, and of course the vitally important new technology that makes it all happen.

Our mission is to connect all entrepreneurs around the world in a trusted environment. Great idea – but how can we do this in a global business environment that may be ever more connected online but where trust is increasingly rare? Our answer is to work through local business networks, such as chambers of commerce, which have spent years building trusted personal connections, and to replicate the personal connections through businesses making contact with each other, using local moderators, in a single online business community.

My many years’ experience of working with local chambers, such as the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium (BCCB), is the bedrock of the project. Our first platform, COBCOE Connects, linking British Chambers across Europe and beyond, was launched with BCCB as one of the pilot participants. We now have nine countries involved, with two more joining every month.

As a Belgian-based entrepreneur, working with Belgian and Dutch partners in Brussels, I’m pleased that the Belgian Chambers will also join us on their own platform, Be.Connected – once again, Belgium is at the forefront for new ways of doing business.

I like to think of myself as an ambassador for living and working in Belgium. I have lived here for more than 20 years, and this is very much my home. As a new Belgian citizen, I am pleased to continue to be a European citizen. There’s no doubt the risks of Brexit were a push to taking up dual citizenship, but there has also been a strong pull factor from the welcome I and my family have always felt here.

So, in a world in which new borders seem to be constructed at every turn, I would hope that business can help to build bridges and open opportunities for every company, however small or large.

This article first appeared in ING Expat Time

COBCOE Connects won bronze at The Association Excellence Awards 2018

COBCOE Connects won bronze for ‘most innovative development by an association’ at The Association Excellence Awards 2018 event on Friday the 12th of October.

Anne-Marie Martin, CEO, accepted the award on behalf of COBCOE, in the company of Joost Visser, managing director TIAO and strategic partners Stuart Pocock, managing director at Kompass UK, Siobhon Watson, senior director marketing at Flywire and James Shattock, senior director EMEA at Flywire.

The COBCOE Connects team were joined by 350 Assocation professionals to publicly celebrate the industry’s hard work, successes and achievements.

TIAO, member of the 5th EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT OF ENTERPRISES on October the 10th

The final European Parliament of Enterprises of the 2014-19 legislative term – gathering more than 700 entrepreneurs in the Brussels Hemicycle – sent a clear message to the ongoing debate on the Future of Europe: the EU must be open for business!

Entrepreneurs from across Europe debated and voted in sessions on skills, trade and the future of Europe in the presence of high-level institutional representatives, including European Parliament President Antonio Tajani; Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström; Chief Brexit Negotiator, Michel Barnier; and the Principal Advisor to the Austrian Presidency of the EU, Andrä Rupprechter.

The discussions and votes revealed concerns among entrepreneurs about skills mismatches, single market access and the direction of the global trade agenda. At the same time, the Members of the European Parliament of Enterprises expressed support for a strong, efficient and unified EU in order to tackle these challenges effectively.

On skills, EUROCHAMBRES President, Christoph Leitl, highlighted the problem of mismatches between supply and demand: “We have more graduates than ever in Europe and incredibly talented young people entering the labour market, but what good is this if they cannot find work and employers cannot find staff with the right skills? We must do better in ensuring that education prepares young people for current and emerging employment opportunities.”

On trade, following Michel Barnier’s comments, President Leitl stated: “Brexit negotiators from both sides must focus fully on avoiding a no-deal outcome next March. This is not about high politics, it’s about businesses, communities and jobs. The clock is ticking, so we must work efficiently to ensure an orderly, trade oriented UK withdrawal.”

On the future of Europe, President Leitl stated: “Today’s event has demonstrated that business is open to the EU, but the EU must be open for business! As entrepreneurs, we want a solid single market, external strength, a stable economy and a skilled workforce. The EU is part of the solution to these challenges, not part of the problem, but it will only succeed if its policies reflect the needs of entrepreneurs.”

In relation to the 2019 European Parliament elections, President Leitl stressed that “we must encourage Europeans to believe in the future.”

Voting highlights from the European Parliament of Enterprises 2018 included:

– An alarming 84% stated that the skills mismatch problem is more acute than 5 years ago

– 93% voted that the integrity of the Single Market and EU unity take precedent over a favourable Brexit deal with the UK

– 99% believe that the EU must do more to help SMEs benefit from free trade agreements

– 69% do not believe that the Single Market is fit for business