Ensuring agility and building a skilled workforce: operations chiefs share their priorities for 2024

Amid ongoing economic uncertainty, operations leaders are focused on increasing agility, evaluating how to bring long-term tech benefits and investing in people and skills

Chiefs Resolutions 2024 5 Coo
Ahmed Badr 
Chief operating officer, GoCardless 

In 2024, I expect we’ll see a continuation of some of this year’s macroeconomic themes: further slowing of global economic growth, a gradual decrease in inflation (but not a full reversal) and continued geopolitical risks and conflict. Organisations that need to fundraise will be faced with a challenging and expensive funding environment. For growth-stage companies like GoCardless, the focus on reaching profitability will continue. 

Our focus in 2024 will be to ‘make it happen’, ensuring we remain nimble and deliver the things that really matter 

For the next year, I have three major priorities. First, I would like us to increase our focus on customers. In 2023, we reorganised a large number of our operational functions to serve our customers better, reducing touchpoints and streamlining their experiences. Many of the benefits will land in 2024. We have listened to our customers and are investing in the features that they want in our core products, so it will be a year of meeting those needs. We hope to drive higher adoption and share of wallet, whilst spearheading the uptake of open banking payments and data. 

Next, I want us to focus on our internal systems. In this environment, efficiency and scalability is king, so we will be redesigning a large portion of those systems to lower our unit costs and remove complexity and duplication, preparing us for continued growth. This includes ensuring we have a single view of our customer, as well as improving our risk tooling so we can continue to meet the needs of increasingly sophisticated products such as open banking and our new ‘Embed’ product for payment service providers (PSPs).

Finally, it’s about just getting it done. As a company grows, it’s easy to introduce too much consensus, and less individual or group autonomy and accountability. Our focus in 2024 will be to ‘make it happen’, ensuring we remain nimble and deliver the things that really matter. 

Jacqueline King 
Chief operating officer - international, DLA Piper 

Business agility is a theme I see running through 2024. Being able to adapt to the changing geopolitical environment while innovating, to embrace fast-moving technological changes such as generative AI, will mean businesses need to be prepared and ready to shift quickly between a range of different scenarios.

Data and insight continues to be high on the agenda. We are also seeing an increased demand for data to inform our own decision-making, as well as curating and delivering services to our clients to support them in meeting their obligations. This includes, for example, reporting on diversity and inclusion and on environmental and sustainability measures, as well as providing trend and horizon-scanning capabilities.

One aspect that I am particularly excited by, and I see really developing in 2024, is the changing nature of the law firm service delivery model. Traditionally, business services functions were regarded as ‘support’ to the lawyer community. This has really shifted in recent times, and at DLA Piper I am very proud of the way that our legal and business service teams collaborate to bring new products and solutions to clients using, for example, technology or process excellence, or automation. The blurring of the lines between teams and skills means that the range of opportunities we can offer our people and our clients is ever changing and growing.

Aligned to all of these themes is the need for a modern, skilled and resilient workforce. As a service-based organisation, our people are at the heart of all that we do and we will continue to develop and enhance our people value proposition and to invest in future-proofing the skills of our teams to enable us to attract and retain talented individuals to support our global client base.

James Brooks 
Chief operations officer, Kantar 

Our business is here to help shape the brands of tomorrow and we do this by better understanding people everywhere. Our operational priorities are guided by this, which translates into the need to deliver our insights faster and with more precision, empowering our clients to make decisions that will grow their brands.

We need to strike the right balance between investing in the near term and the genuinely transformative opportunities technology provides

In 2024 I see a number of priorities coming to the fore for Kantar. First, a relentless focus on data quality. This is the lifeblood of the services we provide. Competition for consumers’ attention and sharing data is higher than ever and we need to maximise the value of every minute that they give us and, where possible, reduce the burden of acquiring data through passive data collection. With consumers and clients increasingly aware of data-privacy and with data protection legislation continually evolving, this will continue to be a key area.

Second, we must exploit the opportunities to transform afforded by new technologies. Over the past year, we have heard much about rapid advances in tech, but we need to strike the right balance between investing in the near term and the genuinely transformative opportunities these provide. As we explore these opportunities, we will need to protect our IP, ensure that models are based on robust data and fulfil all of our data-privacy obligations. We will be taking a ‘test it, prove it, deploy it’ approach.

Finally, as economic uncertainty continues, we need to manage our cost base effectively. Two key focus areas here are ensuring agility, so that we can share resource between business units to manage fluctuations, and developing our people so they have the skills they need to adopt and work with the new technologies that are becoming available.

Luke Bozeat 
Chief operating officer, GroupM UK 

When thinking about my priorities for GroupM UK in 2024, I can’t avoid the context of the past three years. With a global pandemic and the emergence of generative AI, we’ve seen some of the largest disruptions to the status quo in living memory. Everything from working patterns, global supply chains, the economy, the environment and, inevitably, people’s personal health and mental wellbeing. And we carry all of this into 2024, where we face further disruption in the form of major political elections in both the US and UK.

My focus for this year is how can we provide stability for our people and our clients. Of course, GroupM UK needs to continue to embrace new technologies like AI to improve the speed and quality of our service to clients. We need to continue to explore new operating models that allow us to diversify our offering and revenue.

But as we adapt to the ever-changing world around us, it’s critical that we do this in service of the core principles of our business. As we adopt a new technology or new way of working, we must be clear on how this change will make what we do better, be that a better outcome from our clients’ investment or a better experience for our people.