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Home » Manufacturing » Navigating volatility in a ‘permacrisis’ world

Les Brookes

CEO, Oliver Wight EAME

Gavin Fallon

General Manager, Northern Europe, Board

Investing in people, processes and technology – not simply focusing on tech – is vital to innovate, empower teams and better negotiate the choppy waters ahead.

In early November, Collins Dictionary announced ‘permacrisis’ as its word of the year. Defined as “an extended period of instability and insecurity” it neatly sums up the ongoing volatility endured by business leaders in 2022. In addition to the pandemic fallout, they have had to contend with the Ukraine war, surging inflation, supply-chain issues, and political precariousness. 

Who can confidently predict what will happen in 2023? The next wave of disruption will surely cascade onto organisations sooner rather than later. But, whatever, those that focus on visibility through quality data and empower their people with the technology and processes to adapt to change quickly, and adopt a longer-term mindset, are most likely to negotiate choppy waters best. As 18th-century English historian Edward Gibbons wrote: “The wind and the waves are always on the side of the ablest navigator.”

While the coronavirus crisis spurred the acceleration of digital transformation journeys for most organisations, who were forced to embrace technology solutions and rethink ways of working, it is vital not to ease up the pace now. On the contrary, the unrelenting speed of change necessitates continuous business evolution that enables speed to transform data into information and decision-making.

Uncovering blind spots and improving visibility

After two-plus years of coping with the pandemic, one would hope that lessons have been learnt and businesses are better prepared for crises. And yes, technology is a great enabler. But it’s a common mistake to think business transformation hinges on investing in and implementing tech alone. Unfortunately, leaders seem to forget this crucial point: it is a tool that must work in sync with people and process integration.

Indeed, there is a growing list of examples where poor anticipation of likely – never mind unpredictable – issues, often due to a lack of data-driven foresight and because of a short-term approach to business, is damaging reputations and the bottom line.

Processes and systems will help people see through the noise and make the best decisions.

Airlines and airports, for instance, displayed woeful preparation when coronavirus restrictions were lifted earlier this year. As a result, the overseas travel experience was appalling during the Easter and summer holidays, when many tourists were holidaying abroad for the first time in three years.

Ultimately, for businesses – and industries – to survive and thrive in tomorrow’s increasingly volatile world, they need to plan much further ahead and invest in enhanced process, technology and people today. By using and gaining new insights from data-hungry Intelligent Planning solutions, better outcomes will be delivered, greater flexibility is achievable, blind spots are uncovered, and the leadership group can plan for new and unknown scenarios.

Real-time data empowering teams

Analysing and sharing more data – perhaps with the guidance of a trusted partner if in-house expertise is lacking – and training teams to use that information at their fingertips at the right time provides a competitive advantage.

More than empowering people in the short term, though, a collaborative and unified approach to data management means the organisation will be likely to withstand the pressure when buffeted by volatility in near and distant timescales. Processes and systems will help people see through the noise and make the best decisions.

Leaders with a progressive mindset can replace the fog of frustration with enlightenment and change tack to achieve the optimal outcome in any scenario. If business executives understand what they need to do and that has been modelled into the technology, then they realign the organisation.

Looking further ahead on the business transformation journey, a hierarchy-flattening, self-service capability, where skilled individuals have the tools and talent to alter course at speed, if required, and shape strategy, is within reach.

The more flexible, forward-thinking and silo-breaking approach may be new. But it only works if people, processes and technology are integrated seamlessly. It’s time to rip up the old model and implement a business process with more integrated and intelligent planning capability, to convert crises into opportunities.

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