2016 held a number of surprises that no one could have predicted at the start of the year and in 2017, global and political uncertainty will continue to be a common theme as business leaders prepare to ‘expect the unexpected’.
This year holds a number of pivotal events in influential countries, such as elections in Germany and France, the outcomes of which could profoundly affect global economies.
Companies therefore must be cautious and keep a balanced view, rather than relying on relentless optimism. Many are revelling that the pound and FTSE 100 have made some progress and claim that UK business confidence is at a high.
>See also: The Fourth Industrial Revolution
But the reality is that businesses must stay wary, resilient and agile to deal with any change or threat, always ready for bad or good trade deals, inflation or not, and growth or not.
This business optimism is set to be tested but there are extensive opportunities to adapt and adopt digital transformation objectives.
The effect of the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Industries are currently in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where collaborative innovation has resulted in exponential growth in some industries rather than the linear growth that dominated previous revolutions.
At the same time the possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices and the emergence of new breakthrough technologies have the potential to disrupt workplaces the world over.
Embracing these changes to update and build on legacy systems is no longer an option for businesses, but a necessity, and those who have digitally and fundamentally transformed their business are making significant gains and pushing ahead of their competitors.
By adapting a different approach, these companies create new platforms to connect with their customers in meaningful ways. Think AirBnB and Uber.
In times of uncertainty, being wary, yet open to seizing on new digital technologies that specifically address processes and collaboration will ensure that organisations risk not being left behind or worse, going out of business.
The aforementioned uncertainty means that it will be impossible to predict the next five years. Therefore, businesses should focus on building core competencies and building resistance to withstand both subtle and severe changes, within which digital capabilities should be a key priority.
Digitisation is an important survival tool to enhance the way information is processed and generated from different sources. This will improve enterprise organisations’ ability to deal with both new threats and beneficial opportunities.
It also means that a business will advance its dexterity and ability to respond to new requirements.
Emergence of platform thinking
Another way of future-proofing is by moving away from the linear approach of doing business and implementing platform thinking and design thinking.
In this way, a business will be much more agile and able to maximise opportunities as they arise. This will help leading edge enterprises to thrive and become more resilient.
A platform thinking approach creates a single, scalable, central solution through which organisations can route information, automate processes, and integrate third-party innovation.
A business must view themselves as a platform and harness the ability to connect people, organisations, and resources to the customer base as well as suppliers.
This way of working breaks down silos and allows seamless collaboration across disparate groups. Importantly, this continuous flow also provides feedback to inform future decisions, as it disrupts the linear way of working and enables quicker innovation and problem-solving.
How the platform economy will evolve
Once adopted, to secure ongoing and future resilience, instead of building business plans, new digital enterprises should consider composing their business outcomes through design thinking.
This new way of working acknowledges that customers are also facing times of uncertainty and puts the user’s needs at the heart, in order to anticipate and solve problems for them intuitively.
Using this approach will help enterprises design and adapt digital initiatives to respond even faster.
The other piece of the puzzle is the challenge of ensuring employees and partners are well-equipped to work effectively and efficiently, but anticipating what tools they need and providing these seamlessly. By employing design thinking both within and outside the business, impediments to the flow of information are overcome.
Technology that integrates well into existing systems will be the most advantageous, ensuring a smooth transition, as well as agility and scalability, so that organisations can face what the future brings head on.
In this vein, legacy systems provide solid foundations on which to build digital platforms and bridge the rapid reaction enabled by the cloud with the need to consistently deliver for the customer and work within existing ecosystems and supply chains.
But to ultimately compete, enterprises must think differently. It is imperative to constantly challenge how new initiatives are approached and for the customer’s perspective to always be considered.
If the laggards and slower players are not into a major transformation in the next 18 months, then it may be game over as they let a new generation come and displace or surpass them.
Sourced by John Newton, co-founder and CTO at Alfresco