Ever wish you had a crystal ball to see the future and plan accordingly? More effective than a crystal ball, future proofing is the process of anticipating what the future might bring, in order to minimize the potential downside of future events. And it is one important way to protect your growth.
Many companies already employ scenario analysis and predictive analytics to help with anticipating what the future might bring. Organizations are becoming adept at using simple exponential or double exponential smoothing models which take past performance into account to predict future performance.
We’re avid proponents of both, but they aren’t the only capabilities you can use to help anticipate that all important question, “What If?” In addition to these tools (and being financially sound enough to withstand future shocks and shifts).
These two key components also aid future proofing:
- Three essential processes to protect your future
- Three ways to keep trouble from your door
Let’s explore both within the context of anticipating and preparing for the future.
Three Essential Processes to Protect Your Future
When it comes to processes to protect your future, these three are essential:
- Keep a pulse on the market and surveil risks. Establish a process to regularly monitor major trends even if they’re not directly related to your industry. This is critical to identifying opportunities for innovation as well as potential failure-points for your organization. For example, cybersecurity is a major potential failure-point. One breach could wipe out your company’s future, or at the very least, stall your growth.
- Keep an eye on your competition. Track what’s happening with your competitors. What they are doing, and how? A simple step that can be part of a process for any size company is to set up a Google alert for every competitor you face.
- Keep in touch with your customers. Leaders can become very busy with the day-to-day details of running a business. Include in your process your cadence for talking and meeting with customers, the key questions to ask regularly, and how the answers will be captured and analyzed. This will help you anticipate where customers are, or will be investing, and how these investments might impact your organization.
Sometimes customers don’t know what they need or want. Ongoing customer conversations and meetings at locations where you are in their environment can reveal challenges and opportunities they’re trying to address.
Remember to not only develop, but also document your processes in order to track growth.
Processes are the first component of effective future proofing. Now, let’s explore the second, plans.
Want to Keep Trouble from Your Door? Plan Long Ahead.
When it comes to future proofing, we can take to heart the wisdom of Confucius who wrote,“A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door.”
When the unexpected occurs, panic and paralysis can set in. Delays can be costly and may result in the loss of customers. Delay
s may sacrifice more than your growth. It may cost you your future.
Having a plan in your back pocket helps you stay focused and grounded. When you think things through in advance, even if the circumstances aren’t an exact match for the situation, it provides a starting point that gives you confidence to move forward.
Plans enable you to move into action mode, productively. They encourage you to think about your strategies and assess whether the ones you’ve been using make sense in the future. No company wants a crisis, yet most companies have some kind of crisis communication plan.
When it comes to preparing for the future, focus on developing three types of future-proof plans to safeguard your growth:
- Reduce dependencies, for example:
- If you are primarily dependent on a particular market, a future-proof plan would identify where and how you might move to an adjacent market, should the one you currently serve become no longer viable.
- As on-premise software evolved into SaaS options, companies that planned for how they might quickly transition were better positioned than those that didn’t.
- Add to the channels and touchpoints you employ. Imagine if companies who depend on events for connecting with customers had anticipated a year without any in-person events? Or restaurants who weren’t prepared for pickup and delivery? Do you have a plan for alternative channels and touches?
- Create a competitive advantage: The ability to leverage data and analytics play a vital role in building a sustainable competitive advantage. Actionable insights enable companies to drive customer value, foster innovation, improve solutions, and identify new opportunities. Data and the ability to apply analytics uncovers those insights.
- Minimize risks: Poor customer experience, poor alignment to the customer buying journey, mismatched touches, channels and personas, all create acquisition, retention, and growth risks that are within your organization’s control. Know what data you need and create models to monitor the current state and know when the situation moves outside the desired operating parameters. While you cannot control what the market or your competitors do, develop plans based on potential competitor moves or market shifts. In the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near one.”
Consider having contingency plans in place to address highly likely What If? scenarios.
No one has a crystal ball. Analytics can help with predicting the future. Processes and planning are tools to helpfuture-proof your growth. To prepare for the future, invest in developing or tapping the data and analytic skills that will help you be ready when both expected and unexpected shifts occur.