The future of business worldwide

2008-09-04 00:00

As the volatility of the global business climate remains unquestionable, the successful business organisation of the future will be the one that regularly rethinks its future. What will it need to look like in three, five or 10 years time? What market(s) will it need to serve? What business will it need to be in?

In July, IBM published the findings of its third biennial Global CEO study. Conducted in conjunction with the Economist Intelligence Unit, this survey sought the opinions of 1 130 CEOs, general managers and senior public sector and business leaders from around the world. Entitled “The Enterprise of the Future”, the study focused on how the world’s top companies will develop themselves so as to remain competitive.

Its sample was drawn from Japan (121), the Asia-Pacific region (248), European Union (364), Non – European Union (39), North America (290) and South America (68). It spanned 32 different industries in 40 countries, with 19% of the companies represented employing more than 50 000 people, and 22% representing companies having fewer than 1 000 employees. South African companies wanting to compete in the global arena, as well as those finding their domestic market(s) under threat from global players, will do well to take heed of the key findings of this survey.

So what will the company of the future look like? According to the respondents, it will firstly be “hungry for change”. About 80% of the study’s participants believe that significant change lies ahead for their organisations. The enterprise of the future cannot be reactive, but rather needs to be proactive in driving change in its industry.

It will be a catalyst in the creation of new trends and will view this as an important vehicle for proving itself better than its opposition. This is summed up by Dennis Jönsson, CEO of Tetra Pak, who stated: “ The rate of change has increased dramatically. Customers are demanding radical change in product innovation. Our company will need to greatly increase its capabilities to deal with these demands.”

Secondly, it will be “innovative beyond customer imagination”. To accomplish this, it will need to adopt a collaborative approach to serving its customers, seeking to use innovation to create a win-win situation by making both itself and its customers successful. It will not view demanding customers as a threat, but rather as an opportunity to become more innovative, and to differentiate itself from its opposition.

Forty percent of the respondents stated that they were currently changing their business models to make their organisations more collaborative. The enterprise of the future will also be globally integrated. This means that it will actively seek to take advantage of globalisation and will proactively look to source and access the best possible capabilities, knowledge and assets from around the world. It will also be what the report has termed “disruptive by nature”, in that it will always challenge its current business model, looking for new and better ways to add value to customers’ lives and businesses.

It will seek to overturn traditional ways of doing things, and will find that it is necessary to reinvent itself and perhaps even its industry, in order to disrupt its competitors.

Lastly, it will be genuine and not just generous. The enterprise of the future may well be philanthropic in nature, but it will develop and build into its value system a real and sincere concern for society.

If you are the CEO or owner of a business in South Africa, how does your organisation measure up to these findings? Are you ready for the future?

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