The business landscape is evolving - but are you proactive or reactive?

Martyn McDermott

Martyn McDermott

3 min read

Neon sign that reads 'Ready or Not'.

OK, the term business transformation gets thrown around a lot.

But although it's starting to sound cliche, it's not without reason.

In a rapidly changing - and increasingly technical - business landscape, it's more important than ever to scan the horizon to see what's out there; from AI and Web 3.0 to blockchain and the metaverse, disruptive technologies are emerging at a terrifying rate. And it's only by fully understanding what's around the corner that you can maintain a clear vision for the future.

Essentially, it's crucial to be prepared in order to reshape your business in good time. Because if you find yourself having to react, it's almost certainly too late.

"Rivers are easiest to cross at their source."

Publilius Syrus

So what is business transformation?

Basically, business transformation is the process of making fundamental adjustments to your business in order to meet the challenges of change. It can come in many forms, including changes to your:

  • organisation
  • management
  • culture
  • digital tools
  • processes
  • strategy

So with an effective business transformation programme, you can change entire systems, processes, people and technology to make your company more agile, efficient and user-friendly.

Much more than a corporate catchphrase, right?

OK, but where do I start?

As you can probably gather from its scope, business transformation does require some heavy lifting.

But by using this simple innovation process of Imagine-Test-Activate, you'll soon be able to map out a clear roadmap for success and start becoming more responsive to change.

Here's how it works:

1. IMAGINE

Start by picturing different future scenarios for your company, asking yourself:

  • What future needs could your users have that you could meet?
  • What new technologies or approaches could they demand you use in order to do things better?

You can gain some real insight in this phase by using a horizon scanning process. If you're unfamiliar, this is a technique that helps detect important developments via a systematic examination of threats and opportunities. It's particularly useful here because it emphasises new technology and its effects on a business. It helps you to:

  • identify and understand important development
  • increase organisational agility
  • find potential threats, risks and opportunities
  • create future-oriented strategies.

Although there's no one set horizon scanning process, it should include the following elements:

  1. A definition of the topic - shortlist the most crucial issues and find the common themes.
  2. A way to broaden your perspective - scan the key strategical issues that are relevant to your industry. But do this from multiple viewpoints.
  3. A scan of the horizon - add more potential issues into your criteria, e.g. environmental, technological, social, political and economic.
  4. An internal assessment - ask your team to assess and prioritise the issues.
  5. Create an action plan - make sure each step has a solid timeframe and plan ahead.

But there's one crucial step you've got to take before rolling anything out.

2. TEST

It's important to not only test different possibilities but to do so through real user experiments.

Start by running small, low-fidelity experiments with your customers to 'try out' different ideas. That way you'll soon see what works best for your company and also resonates the most with test candidates.

Next, make stronger strategic choices based on your findings. Use the test results to refine your strategic plan, choose the path you think best prepares your company and focus on making it a reality.

3. ACTIVATE

Now it's time to activate and optimise your chosen strategy using design thinking.

Design thinking is a well-documented process that helps you first understand the needs of your customers and then create a solution that satisfies them. That means it's ideal for activating business transformations that make sense for customers. Very briefly, it involves five key stages: empathy, definition, ideation, prototyping and testing.

  1. Empathy - this is all about understanding your customers and their problems.
  2. Definition - this is where you define the problem that you're trying to solve.
  3. Ideation - this stage is about coming up with ideas to solve your problem.
  4. Prototyping - this part is all about creating assets to test your ideas.
  5. Testing - finally, test your ideas to see if they work.

But this is not a one-time activity; it's an iterative process. So try and continuously brainstorm, prototype and test different aspects of your plan. This will help you hone and improve it, making it as effective as possible.

Just stay curious, rinse and repeat

To summarise, successful business transformation requires a constant future focus. So, try and get into a regular cycle of imagine-test-activate. This will help you generate new ideas, test to see if they add true value for your customers and ensure you're always ahead of the curve. It will also ensure you're able to make impactful decisions based on evidence instead of a gut feeling.

Crucially, it will prepare for whatever comes over the horizon - wherever that excites or scares you. After all, just because consumer behaviours are driven by advances in technology, doesn't mean you can't evolve right alongside them.