Business Technology

Three questions that will help you future-proof business

5 min read

19 March 2018

What's the trick for making your business future-proof? Find out how to know which technologies are the ones to watch, and which are potentially costly distractions.

Technology is moving faster than ever before. Businesses need to constantly adapt in order to stay relevant and keep one step ahead of competitors. We have been speaking to experts to see what questions you need to ask yourself in order to future-proof your business. Here is what they had to say.

Are you looking to the future of today’s technology?

David Stephenson PhD is an expert in data science and big data analytics, as well as author of Big Data Demystified. He said: “New technologies typically take several years to develop into game-changers. The danger is that you miss a trend leading up to the tipping point in an existing technology. If you want to future-proof your company then look out for trends in two ways.

“First, keep a close eye on customers and their use of technologies. Take smartphones, for example. Smartphone adoption grew over the past decade from a limited, somewhat elite clientele to a near-ubiquitous state today. Companies that maintained a close eye on customer data saw the steady trend in usage and realised what the shift meant for ecommerce. These businesses were able to plan ahead and adjust product offerings and revenue streams accordingly.

“Also, think out of the box about existing technologies. Think, for example, about:

  • “The possibilities cloud-computing opens for mid-sized companies;
  • “Which assumptions underlying your business model might be changed by 5G wireless technology; and
  • “How specialised, better-than-human AI can change the economics of your business.

“As you watch technologies develop, think how a slightly better, cheaper or more widely adopted version might change the rules of the game in your industry.”

Do you maintain a curious mindset?

According Jonathan MacDonald, founder of the Thought Expansion Network and author of Powered By Change: “Perhaps the hardest part of doing business is knowing what the right questions are and when to ask them.

“However, our human biases tend to justify why we’ve made decisions far more than questioning things. We have to make an effort to break that pattern to such an extent that being able to futureproof business is mainly about having the right mindset of curiosity. The three key actions of that curiosity are:

  • “Investigate what you are discounting as being unthreatening – whether it is because you see something as currently sub-standard, too futuristic, or any other shortfall;
  • “Identify what could disrupt you – not just in terms of competition but also in terms of changing contexts (for example, the way trade is done); and
  • “Integrate the above findings into your strategies moving forward – ideally in how innovation is directed and developed.”

Are you open to new technologies?

When it comes to being able to future-proof business, here’s what Kirill Eremenko, founder of SuperDataScience and author of Confident Data Skills, had to say: “You’ve probably heard Blockbuster’s story – it had had the opportunity to buy Netflix for $50m, turned it down because it didn’t believe in the technology, and now there are just 12 open stores.

“It’s easy to fall back into a common bias: ‘This happened to them, but it won’t happen to me’. But the truth is that it’ll mostly happen to all businesses at some point. Technology is changing, evolving and re-inventing itself at a speed that’s hard to keep track. And the thing with disruptive technologies is that by their very nature, they arrive without invitation and there is no way to stop them, you have to play along.

“You’ll spot these technologies because they generally get two reactions as soon as they come out. First, they will make you think, ‘that sounds too good to be true’; second, they generally come with great opposition from the status quo.

“So the best way to really future-proof your business is to keep your eyes, opportunities and mind open. It might sound obvious, but I cannot overstate how many businesses agree with this idea, but then don’t follow through. It’s tougher than it sounds.”