Future proofing is critical for sustainability
Your future could well depend on some of the following suggestions about future proofing. They should not be ignored. Hoping your problems and frustrations will go away doesn’t work. Clearly, understand the alignment between what you are trying to achieve through your strategies and the impact future forces can and will have on them and the products and services they are offering .
Thinking differently about future proofing your operations should occupy a considerable amount of quality time. Consider the risks involved and taking a broader, deeper, more rigorous approach, both in the way you respond to the risks and threats and how to exploit the future opportunities. Devoting the time will result in greater ability and confidence to adapt to the future as it unfolds.
You put a lot of time and effort into running your business. With so many different things pulling at your attention, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day stuff at the expense of the big picture and your future.
The only way to make sure your business is around for the long haul is to periodically step back and look at things from a broader perspective. That’s where analysis comes in. The regular analysis of your business will ensure you look at your business’s potential. Not just how your company is performing today, you’ll investigate how it’s going to perform, next month, next year and even 10 years from now.
New technologies are emerging almost daily
It’s, therefore, crucial for you to stay on top of the latest developments to ensure your business model is futureproofing your operations. Digital innovation isn’t just changing the way we do business, it’s changing the way we do everything in our lives. Not spotting the opportunities early can have significant consequences.
Take brick and mortar travel agents for example. So many completely missed the boat when the internet advanced, airlines became savvy and online booking websites started to emerge. When was the last time you walked into a travel agent to book a flight? If you did, you probably researched it all online and knew the best price before walking in the door. Or, you went in purely because you knew they’d beat their online quote with a little personal persuasion.
Your ability to plan ahead with certainty will give you peace of mind. Knowing that you have taken essential steps to future proofing your business. This will bring commercial advantages as well as improve your lifestyle and that of the people around you.
Use future proofing to be at the forefront of your industry
Every industry has a life cycle and some of those cycles come to end, others regenerate and evolve. Irrespective of the industry you are in, you want to be at the front end of your industry curve. To achieve this you need to understand your sector, know what is happening in it, where it is up to and develop foresight for the future trends.
The world around you continues to change with ever increasing complex, adaptive and diverse markets. Business agility is no longer a buzz word, but rather a necessity for solving customer problems and frustrations while meeting their wants and needs. Future proofing recognises trends and gives you the courage to make sound decisions about growth, speed to market and the potential of new technologies.
Within every industry sector, there are leaders and followers. This isn’t a factor of size; it’s about how you position your business and how you create your differentiation and competitive advantage. If the best you can say about your business is that you do what everyone else is doing then the likelihood is that you are a follower. Position your business at the front end of the curve by future proofing it and you will be ahead of the pack, future proofing your business.
Create a framework for thinking differently about your risks
Many businesses have elements of governance, risk and compliance processes in place to manage risk. But, they are often not as robust as they need to be or they are more focused on yesterday’s risks rather than being forward-looking. There is a need to start taking a more holistic approach to risk. Moving from being reactive and compliance-driven to being proactive, seeing it as a strategic driver of performance.
Don’t ignore what is going on, educate yourself and understand the technology industry and its disruptive powers. Most people set out to solve a problem, they want to make life easier or get something done more efficiently. Take the time to attend industry events. Attending technology events and reading industry publications will give you insight into the next big technology trends. Trends driving digital disruption which could put you on the sideline or out of business.
Building a framework to hold up your future, is like building good bridge foundations.
As soon as you hear about new technology, instead of disregarding it, start thinking ‘future proofing’. How can it open up opportunities and how it might give your business a competitive edge. Be determined to future proof your business, by learning to adapt and change your mindset when you look at technology. With a good practical framework to work with, finding and utilising new technologies should become less of a problem.
Future proofing factors to consider
Vision and future direction
Your vision must crystallise your aspirations. Your vision must guide your strategy for what you want and strategy will determine the actions you need to take. It’s the actions you take that will lead to the successful future-proofing of your vision.
Your entrepreneurial attributes
Entrepreneurs will lead the future across all parts of society. Results-driven achievers will be displaying entrepreneurial attributes. They will be doing this, even if they aren’t true entrepreneurs, with great visioning capabilities and ability to solve problems by ‘joining up the dots’. In ‘joining up the dots’, experienced entrepreneurs will have one eye on future-proofing the business’s profitable growth and sustainability.
Applying futuristic thinking
Your ability to focus on the future rather than the past will become more critical as the speed of change accelerates. Those people who ignore the changes taking place, will do so at their own peril and continue to struggle. Without future-proofing being top of mind, futuristic thinking will become an empty exercise.
Business Model development
Reinventing your Business Model can be difficult. For established organisations to pull off the new growth, their Business Model must be adapted to the future. Old business models can be like old engines; an occasional splutter, but they lack the required power demanded of them. Updating your Business Model is an important task in future-proofing your business.
Your products and services
With the advances in technology and the opening up of world markets, product development is critical. Despite attempts to interpret and apply better product development techniques. Businesses still struggle with design quality problems, long lead times and high development costs. To be successful, new product development strategies must become an important part of future proofing your business.
Business continuity factors
You must all, governments, financial institutions and community members, pay more attention to business continuity. Otherwise, the rate of failure will continue to cost everybody dearly. Businesses will continue to get into difficulty and you also need to be more responsive. Business and management succession planning is a critical factor in continuity and future-proofing the organisation. Don’t be key-man dependent.
Your ability to adjust to new market environments
Identify key characteristics of products and services and their significance in solving customer’s problems, frustrations, wants and needs. This will be absolutely fundamental to future proofing for sustainability. Go-to-market-system, pricing and the marketing mix are critical.
Capacity and ability to generate ideas and opportunities
The future-proofing challenge will be how to capture the value in the exponential change in your environment and marketplace. It will require the generating of ideas and opportunities faster than competitors. Focus needs to be placed on globalisation driven by new technologies. For example 3D printing is going to change a myriad of industries including electronics, automotive, construction and food. In the immediate future, we’re going to see savvy and innovative businesses producing personalised products based on 3D modelling. The same will apply to the use of robotics.
The handling of big data, information and knowledge
Where do you get your business information and how good is it. The days of relying totally on our own understanding, have long since gone. Big Data is creating an information revolution. A review of your top ten sources and the relationship you have with each one. Just because they are ‘big’ or ‘nice people’ you have known for a long time, doesn’t mean they’re providing you with the information and knowledge you really want and need.
Your risk appetite
The future will hold many new risks. If you are risk adverse and unable to cope with new levels of risk, it may be time to take a different course in your life. Don’t remain exposed to risks, identify and understand them, along with your appetite for them. Risks will always be involved with change, but future-proofing will certainly minimise the risks.
Your speed to market
Slow speed to market will give your competition the advantage when it comes to change and innovation. It will allow them to reach customers with new products and services before you can. First to market will still be important.
The speed of transformation to the future
Maintaining the status quo is no longer an option. You need to develop a database of ideas, opportunities, strategies and actions revolving around future development of your organisation. This will enable you to inject more speed into transformation when the market dictates.
Automation of systems and processes
Labour will become more scarce and more expensive. However, technology will continue to improve, allowing you to automate more and more processes in your organisation. You may need to become more courageous and decisive when it comes to trusting technology as a future-proofing tool.
Your willingness to engage advisors
A clear trend emerging is the use external advisors, even in the smallest organisations. This is particularly so when it comes to international markets, information technology, research, finance, employment, health and safety, social media, marketing and business management.
Creativity and innovation capacity
The potential for innovation is increasing. However, businesses, not-for-profits and communities generally lack the capacity and know-how in order to bring about worthwhile innovation. Innovation capacity tends to sort the leaders from the followers and the leaders will win.
Degree of mobility and the work environment
Having mobility and flexibility built into your working environment is not all about working from home. It’s about you and your employees working from wherever you want or, need to be. There are many new and different ways of work emerging and employees will continue to demand flexibility.
Willingness to create more virtual operations
Never before have organisations been subjected to so much change. The advantages of virtual operations are meeting the challenges of modern businesses. Doing it with lower cost structures, more efficiency and better access to people who can contribute.
Ability to attract quality partnerships
Strong, trusting and influential relationships will become even more important. It is becoming harder to do everything by yourself, there is just too much to know and understand, irrespective of the size of your organisation. Being able to demonstrate you have been future-proofing your business will be a real plus in any negotiations.
Ability to delegate and outsource
Every reorganisation has unpopular aspects. However, outsourcing non-core activities can only lead to more efficiency, growth, profitability and sustainability. It’s the business with the best value chain that wins. There is some urgency in identifying activities to be outsourced, as you want the best contractors.
Your agility and flexibility
In a changing marketplace, smaller organisations will need to be able to make changes quickly in order to survive. This means mastering planning for unexpected changes, as well as having business processes and a supply chain in place, that will allow for rapid changes.
Adaptability to future trends
It’s one thing to be agile and flexible, but it is your ability to adapt to change and the new environments you find yourself in. Otherwise, like the dinosaurs, you will fade from existence. Along with agility and flexibility, adaptability will become a new and important competitive advantage.
Your resilience and ability to cope
Problems and frustrations will continue to cause significant issues personally that will have significant social and economic consequences. Yet, these consequences are far from inevitable. There is an increasing range of tools available to assess, reduce and manage risk as well as building resilience.
Ability to develop ‘green shoots’ from your old crop
Old ways, in many cases, are no longer the best ways. Some objectivity and perspective on future growth and sustainability are needed. Green shoots can do this in all aspects of society and the winners will be those who can sow and develop them. In fact, future-proofing activities should help you to develop ‘green shoots’ to keep your business vibrant.
Improvements to your value chain
The speed of change and a sense of urgency will drive the evolution of the value chain. It will be necessary to consider both the external and industry forces driving change and their impact on your value chain. It will be important to be ready. Businesses with the best value chains tend to stay in business longer and win.
Financial knowledge and capacity
More time needs to be spent becoming financially savvy. Good budgets and adequate working capital will be a feature of the organisations of the future. http://goo.gl/mOYFhO.
Willingness and capacity to do research
Research and big-data will deliver game-changing opportunities and new customer value propositions. Basic research need not be expensive and can create new paradigms. A good place to start is to measure what you manage and look to use modern inexpensive analytics.
Use of advanced manufacturing techniques
This involves the use of technology to improve products and/or processes. With the relevant technology being described as ‘advanced’, ‘innovative’, or ‘cutting edge’. You should be integrating new innovative technologies in both products and processes in order to remain competitive. It will also add value in the competitive global marketplace.
Maintaining health and well-being
You will also need to consider the health and well-being of your stakeholders. Future-proofing will be a critical issue in coping with change and continually adapting to the new business environment and marketplace. A big side benefit of future-proofing is that it will also help you to sleep better.
The degree of community involvement
You are all becoming more dependent on community involvement. If you as individuals and your organisations don’t look after your communities, who will. Just as you need future proofing for our businesses, so you need it for your communities. We must all give back or your communities will perish. http://goo.gl/0BzPOJ.
People can be adversely affected by economic downturns, global competition and technology, Without having a future proofing program, many become stressed out, struggling to find something new. Looking for a quick fix, or to start another business as their ‘Plan B’, may not be the answer. http://goo.gl/VYj7Ka.
Richard Branson offers four ways of future-proofing your business
Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin offers four areas for businesses to focus on if they encounter problems and are determined to turn solve them.
Is your company offering brand value as well as a brand name?
A business’s long history is meaningless if it doesn’t provide the best-designed, most reliable products or services at competitive prices and back up those offerings with the finest customer service. In these fast-moving times, longevity is more the exception than the rule.
The process of starting a business has become much faster in that time, but the mechanisms of failure operate more quickly as well. Through social media, you can inexpensively spread the good word about your new company’s products and services. And yet those same channels will spread the news about your consumer’s bad experiences even more quickly.
Have your managers become complacent?
Very few products are so good that they cannot be continually improved upon for future proofing the organisation. In Britain, we have the expression “like painting the Forth Bridge”, which refers to an unending task. This is because the painters of this long bridge in Edinburgh were never done. Once they’d finished painting it, they had to immediately start over again. (The task came to an end in 2011, because workers had switched to a different kind of paint.) Product development should be a similarly endless quest for improvement.
This process is sometimes neglected or even abandoned at an established business. When you take a new position at such an enterprise, you should ask yourself and your team, does the company’s offering need a makeover? What are the opportunities for improvement?”
Have your employees become bored?
If the previous owners of the business lost their way, it’s possible their employees did too. And at a company that has been around a long time, keeping them motivated and engaged can be a big challenge, since they may have been doing the same jobs for many years. Sloppy, lacklustre delivery can quickly destroy even the best products and services – look at what happened at many phone service providers and airlines in the past 20 years.
Talk with your employees: How do they get along with their colleagues and your customers? What motivates them to go to work in the morning? Listen carefully to their answers. Those whose primary concern is “paying the bills” may need your help finding new inspiration.
Is nostalgia blocking innovation?
Just because a brand has been around for decades doesn’t mean that it’s right for today’s marketplace. If your brand has been tarnished by years of mediocrity or is seen by potential customers as something only their grandparents would use, then a rebranding may be in order.
Ask your staff and customers what they like and don’t like about the operation today. While the company’s past is an asset, you need to focus on what can be accomplished in the present – just like your creditors.
“If you’re not doing what you love doing and are good at doing, you’re not future proofing. Your future may be in jeopardy”. Peter Sergeant
“We all need people who can give us feedback”. Bill Gates