2018: the year of risk or reward?

What’s the best strategy to take into 2018 to maximize your chances of success in an environment where market disruption is the norm and the pace of dynamism is accelerating?

overcoming obstacles / minding gaps / new territory / risk and reward
Thinkstock

Best known for his contribution to the science of evolution in the 1800s, Charles Darwin declared: “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”

As we get ready to greet 2018, we’re surrounded by a world that is witnessing huge technological and social changes heralded by the fast adoption and development of innovations such as cryptocurrency Bitcoin, blockchain, IoT (Internet of Things) and AI (artificial intelligence). It has never been more important for organizations to assess their change management capability.

By 2020 it is predicted that there will be 75 billion devices connected to the web and McKinsey and Co says every occupation has at least partial automation potential with estimates that around half of all staff activities could be automated. Meanwhile a whopping 90% of banks are exploring how they can take advantage of Blockchain technology.

At the same time, there are other economic and social forces at work that will fundamentally influence how businesses are operated, from globalization through to the gig economy.

Risk or reward?

Why is it that some organizations thrive in this environment while others wither? What’s the secret to leveraging the benefits of a world that is in a continual state of flux?

As changes in the Fortune 500 index clearly demonstrate, old ways of operating have resulted in the demise of many organizations. When you compare the list from 1955 with 2017, fewer than 12% of the original names such as General Motors and IBM have survived.

So, what’s the best strategy to take into 2018 to maximise your chances of success in an environment where market disruption is the norm and the pace of dynamism is accelerating?

Unfortunately, anyone looking for a magic bullet is going to be disappointed because a one size fits all approach will not work. Instead individual businesses need to find the right mix of technologies and management approach and apply it in the optimum way.

All that glitters…

Many companies are tempted by the next hyped technology and are constantly jumping on the latest trend in the hope that it will solve all their challenges.

Whilst it’s easy to get distracted by the latest hot trend that promises to transform how an organization performs, adopting a more realistic, practical mindset will actually deliver long-term results.

Robotic process automation is one such example. The headlines may talk about robots replacing vast amounts of blue collar jobs and also removing human involvement in many professional industries such as accounting or financial services.  However, deciding what should and shouldn’t be automated needs to be carefully considered in the light of how it can boost efficiencies or quality of service for a particular business. Not every process is a great candidate for automation.

In 2018, the organizations that will successfully embrace innovation will be those that focus on the following:

1. Beware of BAU

To achieve the best results in an era of constant change, you need to view everything with a critical eye. Existing processes and approaches must be constantly reviewed to ensure they deliver as much value as is possible, and if they’re no longer fit for purpose they should be amended or replaced.

Across an organization, every member of staff should feel they have the freedom, and be encouraged, to speak up and suggest better alternatives to established methods.  A red flag for organizations is when teams say they follow a particular process, because that’s the way they’ve always done it and they don’t feel empowered to identify and suggest improvements. A collective drive towards incremental on-going changes can result in significant long-term results.

2. Act fast

With the exception of death and taxes, no one can predict what the future holds, so it’s vital to be agile and prepared to alter your course in response to fresh challenges and opportunities. Trends will come, stay or fizzle out, so it’s a matter of learning to spot the opportunities and squeeze the maximum value they can deliver to customers. Focus on creating a structure that delights in re-inventing itself, so you have an innate capability to act fast, seize the moment and gain powerful competitive advantage.

3. Concentrate on execution

If you want to model some of the best performing organizations, you need to introduce solid processes and procedures. Both well-established companies and market disruptors all grasp that it’s not sufficient to have a brilliant strategy on paper - you also need the ability to be able to execute it fully and effectively. According to the Harvard Business Review, the best performing organizations are those that consistently achieve operational excellence. No matter how intelligent and mind-blowing your strategy is, without robust execution it will die on the vine.

Nurture the change gene in your organization

At the start of 2018, a sound BPM approach has never been more critical to instil an organization’s ability to evolve and take advantage of emerging technologies and / or market opportunities. Yet many organizations struggle to introduce process management practices that facilitate positive change, leading to missed opportunities or failure to respond to threats. Ultimately failing to deal with either can result in loss of business.

It’s impossible to know what’s around the corner, but one certainty is that the volume and speed of change is not likely to slow down any time soon. Make 2018 more about relishing fresh opportunities and mitigating risks.  What may initially be seen as threats could actually be a catalyst to take a new direction.

By nurturing the change gene in your business, you’ll be best placed to take advantage of whatever happens in the months or years to come.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

NEW! Download the Fall 2018 digital issue of CIO