Business Transformation – 2025 almost sounds like science fiction. 2025 was once the far future, now it’s part of the next business planning cycle.
Years ago, I read a book about planning for the future, and one of its principles is even more relevant today. The book cautioned that an organization could try to perfectly plan every step of its immediate future, but that plan would never be finished, and little would be accomplished because most assumptions and conditions would not remain constant. A better approach was to have a clear vision of what was to be accomplished and work towards that goal every day, with modifications as resources and conditions necessitated.
Transformation happens — it’s usually not a plan.
Historically, transformation, particularly in the business world, is more a matter of reacting to changing conditions than planning for an unknown future. But everything is moving faster today — more and faster data, new issues are driven by social media and digital communications, more global interconnections. Many organizations are paying attention and beginning to respond. The business transformation events and practices that will be likely the norm in 5-10 years has already started, but they are not yet headline events.
The current literature about business trends is becoming more inclusive of new concepts and traditional organizational and economic issues. There is an evolving list of critical requirements for businesses to operate and succeed in the near future.
The traditional elements of the business trend list are widely known and well underway:
• Resources to operate in a global environment
• Utilize technology for productivity, profitability, and competitiveness,
• Market segmentation and targeted communications, with emphasis on digital media.
In the last few years, the rapid advances in digital communications have forced new considerations to the business planning list. Right now, the technology is ahead of the systems in place to manage those technologies safely and productively. Some of the most widely cited next levels of business trends include:
• Data privacy
• More personalized and targeted marketing based on big data, predictive analytics and use of related digital technology.
• All things related to automation, artificial intelligence and other laborsaving and economic performance improvement systems.
And now the good news. The social movements of the last few years are beginning to take hold and influence both consumers and businesses. Another tier of norms is becoming a routine part of the literature about business trends. The generic terms are not necessarily new, but they are receiving a new level of recognition.
• Sustainability (applied to numerous topics)
• Environmental impact
• Social responsibility
• Ethical standards
The next steps for more socially conscious transformation.
In the business planning models and matrices, the societal/human component for the “greater good” is not yet given a prominent weight relative to the immediacy of technological and economic requirements, but that is changing rapidly. Despite the economic and political turmoil around the world, social movements are increasingly effective in influencing how corporations view their responsibilities, react to inequities and connect what’s occurring in society to their bottom line.
Several things seem to be occurring. A new generation of people is entering the corporate world with more enlightened views of corporate governance and responsibility and with more tolerance of the many aspects of diversity.
It’s interesting to observe that many of the transformative social issues, e.g., gender equality, income parity, me-too issues, and discriminatory practices are being respected and enforced far better by businesses than by the current administration and some political groups. Social change for the greater good is moving ahead, sometimes with diversions, but it’s inevitable despite the conservative resistance. In my business career, I encountered situations where top management acknowledged inequities and injustices in society and their companies but publicly had to remain cautious and quiet.
But corporate reluctance and a choice to remain in the background are disappearing quickly.
Here are two citations that are representative of how businesses are acknowledging today that will inevitably be part of the corporate norm.
Business Trends 2018
“Corporate social responsibility has been gaining steam for years, but 2018 saw a star-studded vindication of the movement. Early in the year, Blackrock CEO Larry Fink told executives that his firm would take social responsibility into account when allocating funds.
Values over bottom line It’s November 2016. REI has made a dangerous decision. They’ve decided to shut their business down on the busiest day of the year, on Black Friday. They shut their distribution centers, retail locations, and headquarters down completely. They paid their employees to take the day off and spend it outside. They called it #OptOutside.
The current literature on future trends in business is showing an increasing inclusion of issues that will give more consideration, and that can benefit both corporations, its employees and citizens.
The goals of the IFGT Business Department
We will be producing a series of articles and proposals for how businesses can begin to accommodate the changing social structure and economic implications and still meet traditional responsibilities. Models of business planning have to become more flexible to accommodate the rapid advances in technology impact, sustainability of a vibrant society, ethical government and corporate governance, and a fair bottom line for businesses and households.
One of our objectives will be to define a new symbiosis of business + society.
The people-centric transformation has started but needs more definition, organization and systematic disciplines that are practical for a business to utilize. We will have to redefine traditional concepts, probably create some new lexicon and buzzwords. A simplistic way to describe the necessary transformative process, in ways that benefit the company, employees and citizens for the greater good is a simple administrative update. The new transformative concepts have to move from being solely in the realm of “human resources” and be elevated to the comparable status of corporate finance, manufacturing, and marketing. The seeds of the greater good transformation have already been planted; evidence is becoming more common. The goal of IFGT is to help provide guidance and proposals for businesses transformation with minimal disruption and disappointment and help achieve traditional corporate goals.
Rich Spitzer April, 2019