Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Future Proofing your Business

Future Proofing Businesses

Many businesses, large or small, have enough problems dealing with today’s markets and consumers, let alone tomorrow’s! But failing to focus on the future leads to many businesses drifting into oblivion because their products or services no longer suit the needs of consumers and clients.

The loss of relevance can happen quite quickly, not only for small businesses but also large businesses. Fletcher Challenge was one large New Zealand business that failed to adapt to change and McDonalds had to rapidly change with the fast food it offered and include healthier options.

Now watch the telecommunications and finance sectors over the next decade. There
will be significant attrition amongst the players in these sectors because a number of players have not developed future-focused business strategies that enable them to adapt to coming radical changes in technologies, markets and delivery channels.

The reality is that change has never been as rapid or as dramatic as that which we will see over the next several decades. Developing an understanding of a number of key trends including the impacts of new technologies currently being introduced or developed, the aging of the population and a decreasing interest in rearing children, growing individualism, psychological age becoming more important than physical age, the effects of smart networks, the shift from B2C to C2B, changing logistics and delivery systems, and sustainability issues is essential to ensure long term business robustness and excellence in performance.

As the pace of change quickens, senior management and business owners need to be far more aware of the trends that may impact on their businesses in the next 5 to 10 years than ever. The best way to enhance this awareness is to develop simple scenarios that depict how the market may look in five to ten year’s time. The sorts of questions that might be addressed when developing a scenario include:

• Are our products or services likely to be relevant in 5 – 10 years time?
• Will our currently high value product or service just become another commodity in 5 – 10 years time?
• Which technologies are being developed that might affect our current products or services?
• Who are my consumers going to be in 5 – 10 years time (age group, relative demographic importance, lifestyles, characteristics)?
• How am I going to be able to deliver the solutions that customers require?
• What channels will I use to access my consumers (bearing in mind that traditional mass saturation advertising strategies have, at best, a 1- 2% success rate and the retailing scene is changing quite rapidly).
• Do I need to operate effectively in both place (locally) and/or space (virtually)?
• How will the increasing focus on sustainability affect my business?
• How is increasing globalisation going to affect my business?

Focusing on the future rather than projecting from the past, the approach most business tend to rely on today, requires a major attitude shift. Such an attitude shift is becoming increasingly critical in order to future proof a business. CEO’s, managers and business owners need to spend 20-30% of their time on future proofing their businesses if they .want to thrive.

It is always difficult to change old habits. However, the shift required is not impossible if managers and staff have the inclination and tools to change attitudes and business strategies. And most staff respond very positively to forward thinking vision based strategic planning that moves the business forward when it replaces the same old “same old”, an increasingly outdated approach that increasingly leads to reduced employment security and lower incomes

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