Rapid transformation is essential for business development

Luc Williams

The modern business services sector is one of those in which global trends and processes that, over time, affect all branches of the economy are most visible and most visible. This is determined by its size and location in global value chains.

The motto of this year's edition of ABSL Summit, the largest event of the business services sector in Europe, was “Transform to thrive” – ​​transformation for development. Opening the event, Janusz Dziurzyński, president of the Association of Business Service Leaders (ABSL), emphasized the importance of an appropriate approach to transformation in a world that is changing rapidly and has many unknowns.

The conference, which took place on June 4–6 in Krakow, was attended by 1.5 thousand people. guests from Poland and abroad. They could listen to 150 speakers during 60 debates, presentations and workshops. The transformation was discussed, among others, through the prism of the technological revolution, talent management, economic and geopolitical changes and changes in the leadership model.

– ABSL Summit has been a forum for exchanging experiences between various actors of economic life in Poland for many years. It is also an opportunity for dialogue between business and the government, said Jacek Tomczak, Deputy Minister of Development and Technology, during the opening ceremony. He drew attention to Poland's attractiveness for foreign investors.

– Poland is becoming home to the most technologically advanced projects – noted the deputy minister and emphasized the importance of Poland for locating projects in the business services sector. – I have great pleasure in announcing that the share of the business services sector in Polish GDP has increased to 5.3%. at the end of Q1 2024, he said.

ABSL Summit took place in Kraków, a city where employment in the sector exceeded 101,000. people (Warsaw has a similar result).

– Over the last 17 months, 9 new business service centers have been established in Krakow, and the forecast regarding the number of jobs in the sector for Q1 2025 assumes an increase by at least 3,000. Kraków has been awarded many times, including: by “fDI Magazine”, as one of the 10 largest European cities of the future in many different categories, and the sector itself has undoubtedly contributed to building Krakow's international brand – said Aleksander Miszalski, Mayor of Krakow, during the opening of the ABSL Summit. – We want business development to be not only related to growing indicators and numbers, although they give satisfaction, but also to progress in terms of quality. We want to build the future of Krakow on this foundation, he said.

The president's words are consistent with the processes of change taking place in the modern business services sector.

New dimensions of success

The 15th edition of the ABSL report, which premiered during the ABSL Summit, confirms that the modern business services sector in Poland is an important driving force of the country's economy. The export of knowledge-intensive business services in 2023 reached the value of USD 36.8 billion, and employment, currently reaching 457 thousand. people, is growing faster than the average in the economy. The report showed that the sector is developing towards more complex and comprehensive services, bringing greater added value.

As Dariusz Kubacki, vice-president of ABSL for business analysis, noted during the discussion “Annual report debate: Business services sector and FDI go hand in hand”, although the numbers reflecting the importance of the modern business services sector is growing, it may be necessary to change the way of thinking about its development.

– What we call success today will not fit the new reality. We certainly shouldn't take the pace of innovation for granted either. Based on ABSL data, one thing has become clear since last year: the transformation is faster than we expected. And this is just the beginning of this process, said Dariusz Kubacki.

Commenting on key trends, Piotr Kuberka, president of Shell Polska, pointed out that the sector is on a path where value begins to matter much more than quantity.

– We are at a crossroads and we have to make a choice. And I think this choice has already happened, he said. In his opinion, the sector must focus on strengthening the role of Polish branches in the value chain to the position of regional headquarters and preparing talents to perform regional roles and higher managerial positions.

Shell Business Operations Kraków operates in Poland, employing over 5,000. people.

The perspective of a financial institution on the issue of business transformation was presented by Kaisu Christie, group chief digital officer at the European Investment Bank. As she noted, large EU funds flow to Poland because the EU sees many opportunities related to investing in our country. In this context, what is important and at the same time most difficult is preparing the Polish education system to train future employees who will have specific skills.

Andrzej Dycha, president of the Polish Investment and Trade Agency, also commented on the issue of attracting foreign investments in the era of business transformation. The modern business services sector in Poland experienced two large waves of capital inflow. According to the head of PAIH, the third wave of such investments has just begun. There is visible interest in the Polish market.

The topic of foreign investments was deepened in the debate “Clash of the Titans: Loud and proud: Poland at the forefront of FDI”.

Jacek Siewiera, Minister, Head of the National Security Bureau, emphasized that each new government takes responsibility for diagnosing key political problems and implementing effective countermeasures. In the context of the current geopolitical situation, Poland must be aware of its place and constant adaptation to changing international conditions is needed. History, as he noted, tends to repeat itself, and Poland must find its place in this sinusoidal dynamics of events. He also emphasized the importance of a meeting such as ABSL Summit, where experts talk about security with business leaders.

Jayee Koffey, global head of enterprise execution & chief corp affairs officer at BNY Mellon, pointed to Poland's strategic geographic location, which makes it an attractive place for investors. As she noted, Poland, with its universities and ambitious students, creates a center of innovation and development.

– The reason why we are in Poland is, above all, excellent talents. For example, Wrocław, where BNY Mellon is present, has 100,000. students, great universities, and the professionalism and innovation that have been built over generations are incomparable to any other place in the world. Additionally, the geographical location in the center of the world, in the center of the EU, is important, said Jayee Koffey.

As the discussion showed, geopolitical and technological uncertainty affects the entire world. Poland, with its rich history and developing economy, can become a leader in new technologies and innovative solutions. Attention was drawn to the language skills of Polish employees and the country's growing economy as additional advantages attracting investors. The trend of nearshoring or friendhoring, investing capital in nearby countries, as well as from the same political camps, is also important. Poland is, among others, member of the EU and NATO.

The inflow of investments to Poland, including the business services sector, was driven by low labor costs. What matters now is productivity, i.e. the value of exports per employee, which has increased significantly.

A window that closes

The prospects are good, but you need to pay attention to a key factor: time. Janusz Dziurzyński emphasized this throughout the conference.

– We must be part of the transformation. We have been talking about it for many years, it is inevitable. However, it seems that the time window is closing, right before our eyes. We have very little time to modify the business model that has brought success over the last 20 years to recruit employees with future competences, to use technology that is developing at a stunning pace and, most importantly, to do everything to bring management roles to Poland. entire process chains, not selective elements. This way, it is easier to generate value and innovation, said Janusz Dziurzyński.

Leaders have an important role to play and should inspire their teams to perform complex tasks and improve processes, which is the essence of the future of the sector. The issue of leadership concerned, among others, fireside chat, attended by Janusz Dziurzyński and Paul Prendergast, managing director, CFO & enterprise value, Europe lead at Accenture, “Leading the change. Empowering GBS leaders in an era of transformation. During the vote, more than half of the audience decided that the most important thing in the transformation process is change management by leaders.

During his speech, Peter Wood, chief energy advisor at Shell, talked about the concept of scenario thinking, which can be an inspiration for leaders in times of uncertainty. Drawing on energy scenarios that Shell has been creating for over 50 years, he showed how challenging assumptions about the future can be helpful in decision-making.

A recipe for leadership

Jacinda Ardern, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, spoke about leadership based on empathy during the ABSL Summit. As she recalled, she took over the government in 2017 and had to face numerous challenges and crises. However, she added, she does not believe in a separate type of leadership for times of crisis.

– Crisis and change are our new constants and we must take them into account in the planning process. We must accept that no matter what plan we have, it will likely be disrupted. This is what leadership means now, whether we are in public service, private enterprise or the social sector. Another reason I don't use a separate category of crisis leadership is that the qualities we should bring to bear in difficult times are defined by the kind of humanism that I believe we should bring to leadership at all times. In my opinion, it's a simple combination: closeness, curiosity, empathy and action, said Jacinda Ardern.

“You can't regulate or fix what you don't understand,” she said of closeness. She defined curiosity as the willingness to ask questions and look for answers, and empathy, she said, helps build trust. SZ, DO, JPO


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