climbing up a swinging ladder
While no business can make itself future-proof, certain tactics will help your company succeed at a time of constant change PHOTO: Jason Wong

Why is it that some businesses thrive in an atmosphere of rapid change while others fail? 

As we gear up for 2018, change seems to be occurring at a more rapid pace with each passing year. In the business world, globalization and shifting workforce demographics are completely changing the way we conduct business. McKinsey and Co. believes every occupation has at least partial automation potential and estimates that half of all current staff activities could eventually be automated. Research firm Gartner predicts artificial intelligence will be the most disruptive class of technologies for the next decade.

Clearly, more traditional ways of operating won’t cut it in today’s rapidly evolving business environment, but what’s the best way to maximize your company’s chances for success? Is there a “secret sauce” to help you succeed in a world that is constantly changing?

Adapting to Change: Your Secret for Success in 2018

Some companies are much better than others at being agile and innovative. It typically comes down to finding the right mix of technologies and management approaches that best suit your business.

It is also essential to avoid constantly jumping from one technology trend to another. It’s all too easy to get distracted by the latest and greatest bright, shiny object that promises to hold all of the answers. A more pragmatic approach that is customized to fit your business is more likely to deliver better long-term results.

A good case in point is the robotic process automation everyone is predicting will be the next, must-have technology. The goal of this development is not to have robots sitting at desks, replacing all human involvement. Rather, it is focused on properly using emerging technologies to boost efficiency and remove manual processes wherever it makes sense to do so. Over time, all businesses will need to figure out where such automation makes sense — and where it doesn’t make sense — for their specific operations.

Businesses need to do these three things in order to succeed in 2018:

  1. Maintain a focus on execution. The most successful businesses are those with baked-in disciplines for, and a focus on, execution. These companies understand it’s not enough to have a great strategy. You also have to be able to execute on your current strategy fully and effectively. According to the Harvard Business Review, the best-performing organizations are those that consistently achieve operational excellence. A brilliant strategy means nothing without the ability to implement it.
  2. Respond to change faster. No one knows what the future holds, so it’s important to be agile and prepared to change course as new challenges and opportunities arise. Trends will come and go, so it’s a matter of learning to see the opportunities and then finding the best way to use them to deliver value to customers. Therefore, companies should focus on building the capacity for change within their organizations and on responding to changes quickly and pragmatically to improve the odds of achieving significant dividends.
  3. Constantly challenge the way things are done. To achieve the best results in an era of constant change, nothing should be regarded as sacred. Every option must be on the table. Existing processes and approaches must constantly be examined to ensure that they are delivering as much value as possible. Those that are not doing so need to be replaced.

Having a set-and-forget attitude will not work. Encourage everyone across your business to flag opportunities for improvement that can become a part of ongoing operations. In this way, incremental changes can result in significant long-term results.

The Role of Effective Business Process Management

As we begin 2018, business process management (BPM) fundamentals have never been more important. Properly executed, business processes enable an organization to manage and fully leverage its capacity for change. They allow teams to structure the way in which they deal with various business operations while simultaneously maintaining the agility to constantly adapt to a changing marketplace.

Unfortunately, too many companies are still getting this wrong. In fact, FCB Partners analyst Steve Stanton said, “Ninety percent of the organizations I know have failed at [process] standardization.” In 2018, failing at BPM is likely to contribute to missed business opportunities.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus is credited with saying the one true constant in life is change. Some 2,500 years later, that proclamation seems truer than ever.

It’s impossible to know what the future will bring, but one certainty is the pace of change won’t slow down. Make 2018 more about the opportunity than the risk. By building the “change competency” of your business, you’ll be well positioned to take advantage of whatever is just over the horizon.