The Business Improvement Network

Barriers to Future Proofing your business

By PJ Stevens

P J Stevens

What are the barriers to developing a future proof business. 


If you want to identify specific obstacles or hurdles in your business, that might slow or even derail future proofing or improving your business, we have a proven method ( tried and tested at Cranfield) to do that for you. Our MAE diagnostic will show you specifically where your attention currently is and where it needs to be to future proof your business.


The MAE disagnostic will give you a unique set of hurdles and opportunities to attend to. 


As a more general guide, here are some common obstacles to future proofing a business that we often see and clients are well advised to consider these:


Resistance to Change: One of the primary barriers is resistance to change within the organisation. Employees and stakeholders may be resistant to new ideas, technologies or processes, making it challenging to implement necessary changes and innovations. People can see their losses in change, rather than long term value. Companies – or rather people – may suffer change fatigue, often linked to the culture and environment in the business. Understanding how change-ready or change-resistant you are will go a long way to enabling to create a future proof business.


Lack of Strategic Vision: Without a clear strategic vision, businesses may struggle to identify future trends, anticipate changes and develop effective strategies to address them. Peter Drucker’s old model of Strategy-Culture-Leadership demonstrates this admirably. As per MIT Four Capabilities of Leadership model, Visioning is vital, and a lack of foresight can hinder the ability to future-proof the organisation. Strategy should be a leadership tool, not a to-do list, and engaging people in a purposeful strategy is far more likely to elevate their thinking and behaviours.


Short term Focus: Many businesses are focused on short-term gains and immediate results, which can prevent them from investing in and committing to longer term strategies and initiatives. Future proofing often requires upfront investments, which may not yield immediate returns. Long term recruitment strategies might be a good example - are you recuiting for today to fill a hole, or thinking longer term about where the business is going and the future skills it might need. By monitoring and measuring longer term strategies, a company can better insure it gains value and improves it business. 


Resource constraints: Its said that a high performing team has all the resources it requires. However, limited financial resources, time and expertise can pose significant barriers to future-proofing a business and developing high performance. Implementing new technologies, conducting research and development, and training employees can require substantial investments that may not be feasible for all businesses. It is important to identify and harness the resources which exist in your business, particularly people’s skills, knowledge and creativity. Its amazing how much ‘knowledge’ exists in the business, but which remains untapped.


Legacy Systems and Processes: Outdated technology infrastructure and legacy systems can hinder a company's ability to adapt and integrate new technologies. Inflexible processes and outdated practices may need to be revamped, which can be costly and time-consuming. They can also be very good ‘excuses’, and not always correct, so check in with people about what systems work, what they need and want before buying new tech. Remember that many legacy process are people orientated. People will need to change too. 


Lack of an Innovation Culture: Businesses that lack a culture of innovation may struggle to generate new ideas, experiment with new approaches, explore failures and adapt to changing circumstances. Overcoming resistance to innovation and fostering a culture that encourages creativity and risk taking and experimentation is essential for future-proofing. If people feel they will be reprimanded for (trying and) failing, they are unlikely to explore any new avenues and ways of working to improve business.


Market Disruption: Disruptive competitors or market shifts can pose significant challenges to future proofing efforts. Rapid advancements in technology, changing customer preferences, or new market entrants can render existing business models or strategies obsolete. Look how fast some digital banks appeared on the scene and how quickly they attracted customers. Equally the likes of Revolut grew so fast their recruitment drive impacted many other businesses seeking tech experts.


Regulatory and Legal Constraints: Legal and regulatory frameworks can impose barriers to future proofing, particularly in highly regulated industries. Compliance requirements and restrictions may limit the ability to adopt new technologies or explore innovative solutions. In the States, rules and regulations can change from State to State, which might impact on a growth or future proof plan. 


Lack of Customer Insight: Inadequate understanding of customer needs and preferences can impede future proofing efforts. Without a clear understanding of the evolving market demands, businesses may struggle to develop products, services and experiences that remain relevant. The retail market has been somewhat of a victim here. The huge growth in online shopping - and the data gathered - has challenged many high street retailers, and put some out of business. 


Overcoming these barriers requires a proactive approach, strong leadership and a willingness to invest in the necessary changes. It may involve fostering a culture of innovation, embracing change management practices, seeking external expertise and allocating resources strategically to future proof the business effectively.


Finally, it worth remembering that future proofing is as much about connecting people, ideas and knowledge as it is about the business itself. You dont have to know it all, but networking with colleagues, clients and experts will go a long way to setting you up for success. 



PJ Stevens 




About the author

PJ Stevens is an expert in organisational change, performance and improvement, with 20 years experience. He is chair of the business improvement network.

Enjoyed reading these articles?

Have you got something you can share with the Network. Why not submit an article

Submit an article

"Excellent firms don't believe in excellence - only in constant improvement and constant change"

Tom Peters