How to Future-Proof Your Organization
Incorporating Forward-Thinking Strategies
October 12, 2021
What is the essential difference between the businesses that rise above challenges and those that fail in the face of adversity? If anyone knew the exact answer, then we wouldn’t see so many businesses closing their doors each year. According to 2020 statistics provided by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, business failure rates have remained consistent over the years, with 20% failing in the first year, 50% by five years, and 75% by 10. There are many factors at play, including misjudging the market demand, running out of capital, not finding the right talent, poor marketing, and more. However, an often overlooked feature that contributes to a businesses’ longevity is its ability to be flexible and respond to changes in the market. According to CB insights, 17% of startups that fail cite a bad pivot or a failure to pivot as a factor in their failure.
New data gathered during the COVID-19 pandemic suggests that the past two years have been especially hard for both businesses and governments. Many businesses that had been growing successfully up until 2020, had to close their doors. Indeed, the Coronavirus pandemic has changed the landscape of our society and will likely have far-reaching effects on how we work, live, and do business.
With this in mind, how can your organization take actionable steps now, to prepare for unpredictable challenges later? Without a crystal ball to look into the future it seems like an impossible task, but truthfully making targeted changes now can make a big difference in staying operational later. This blog will share some timely strategies for preparing for the future.
Identify and Address Risks to Key Areas:
Solving problems that haven’t occurred yet is a tricky proposition. However, it’s still important to audit key areas of your business and try and address them now. Communications, legal compliance, and data security are paramount. Take the time to look at each major system or process and pinpoint weak areas. Are there departments or systems that are entirely dependent on a single person, plugin, or vendor? If so it might be time to build in a backup plan.
The challenge of data security is especially easy to address by migrating your data and workloads to the Cloud and taking advantage of Disaster Recovery as a Service. Centralizing access to your records and securing your data is especially important because very few organizations can recover from something like a total data loss.
Eliminate Analog Processes Where Appropriate
This strategy is especially important for government agencies where it’s still common to complete important processes manually. When COVID stuck and mandates required workers to carry on at home, very few state or local governments had the digital infrastructure in place to enable remote work. By minimizing physical paperwork in favor of secure online forms, improving digital information access, and incorporating more internet available services your business, or government can reach a wider audience and align better with consumer expectations.
Often it’s that first step of uprooting an entrenched process that prevents organizations from making the shift to digital. There is a fear that established users/customers/constituents will respond negatively to the change or that the transition will prove too disruptive. Making the shift can cause hiccups, but the long-term benefits outweigh the challenge of training staff and consumers to use the new method or system.
If you need further proof, consider the example of Netflix. When Netflix shifted its business focus in 2011 from mail-in DVDs to a fully online, live-streaming service, many customers were upset. However, their forward-thinking move ultimately proved successful, and they are now one of the largest entertainment providers in the industry with a subscriber base of over 203 million worldwide. Netflix still mails DVDs to about 3 million subscribers, and while that arm of their business remains profitable, it cannot compare to their online, streaming service in terms of revenue and reach.
Listen to your Customers & Citizens
If you’re looking to get ahead you’re probably using data to back up your business strategy. However, if your customers or populace aren’t buying in then you may be missing something. Staying aligned with customer expectations can be tough, but listening to and incorporating the feedback of your target audience is essential to getting or staying on track. The more in-tune you are with what’s happening with your customers, the better you’ll be able to predict and adapt. Chasing other successful businesses will only get you so far because you’ll always remain one step behind. Instead, going to the source by investing in meaningful customer engagement and nurturing resources will give you the best insight into what needs aren’t being met.
The need to keep an eye on trends doesn’t stop with business. State and local governments should have a hand on the pulse of their communities as well. This extends beyond public works or services but instead building a digital infrastructure that reflects the way the modern citizenry communicates. People have been holding in-person “Town Halls” since the beginning of civilization, but in the past few decades the methods of engagement have changed. People want transparency through readily available documentation and better collaboration and accountability through online platforms. Future-proofing your government means being willing to re-think the “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it mindset” and shift to a mantra of “This works, but can it work better?”
Foster Flexibility and Innovation
Being able to adapt is a key feature of survival and not just in the animal kingdom. Building a culture that encourages and explores new ideas can make or break your organization in the long term. By fostering flexibility and innovation through your policies and within your workforce, you build a team that is better prepared to pivot when challenges arise. Likewise, one of those internal innovations may pay off later as a new source of revenue, a more efficient workflow, or significant cost savings.
These strategies are the foundations of future-proofing your business or government. The common theme is a willingness to adapt. Once the unexpected happens it’s often too late to mitigate the damage. Whether it’s by updating your technology or examining and re-configuring old methodologies, future-proofing is all about making changes now. This is an ongoing process that should be a priority for every organization that wishes to remain sustainable and successful.
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