The future of business: How companies should prepare for 2018By Dan Cormack on December 7th, 2017 | Reading time: 3 minutes
It has been said that a good business is one that manages to keep up with the hottest trends, and that great businesses anticipate those trends well in advance. In reality, no one can truly anticipate the future, and this kind of success often hinges on some good luck as much as good judgement. There are, however, certain strategies every business leader can employ to make sure the year ahead is as profitable as possible.
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Start by looking back
The best way to plan for the year ahead is to look at the lessons learned from the year gone by. Step back and do a frank postmortem on the last 12 months of your business, taking note not just of the successes but also the areas that are in need of improvement. Identifying the root causes of any problems or issues can put you in a far stronger position to ensure they do not occur again. At the same time, revisiting the strategies that led to your greatest successes can make it easier to identify how to repeat and capitalize on them for the future.
If you founded the company yourself, it can be difficult to be a brutally honest as you need to be to get the most out of such an exercise, so be sure to discuss the same issues with members of your executive leadership team. Although the process itself may be difficult, the end result will be a solid set of goals for the year ahead and a greatly enhanced level of communication between those in management.
Accept the reality of change
From the death of video rental stores and traditional cameras to the rise of digital music streaming services and social media as a key source of news, the history of commerce is littered with the names of once-giant firms who failed to grasp the changes that were taking place in their marketplaces and found themselves effectively out of business. Accepting the notion that the world is constantly in motion and that the customers and markets you have today might not exist in a few years’ time is sobering but necessary if you want to ensure your enterprise continues to thrive.
Some of the trends expected to have the greatest impact in 2018 include a huge expansion in the use of artificial intelligence to power live-chat tools that communicate with customers and a growth in the number of live events designed to prospective customers, existing customers and members of the media together under one roof to tap into the burgeoning “experience” culture.
Around 20 percent of online searches are currently conducted by voice, but this figure is expected to increase to 50 percent by 2020, forcing all companies to optimize their content for voice if they want to ensure they don’t get left behind. Additionally, enhanced privacy protection is likely to become a significant selling point for corporations, following the many high-profile data breaches in recent years.
Ensure your software systems are scalable
To fully embrace all the coming changes, it’s important to ensure your business systems are fully scalable so that your business can grow or expand into new niches without having to add individual, unintegrated software packages on an ad hoc basis. With the right SAP portal in place, your company can enjoy seamless expansion with minimum disruption.
The best way to deal with a future that is unknown is to have systems in place that allow for as much adaptability and flexibility as possible. For example, the best e-commerce systems will provide all the information you require to enable you to forecast customer demand, allowing you to rapidly adapt to changes in the market and potentially spot emerging trends before they go mainstream.