The Business Improvement Network

Future Proof your Business

By PJ Stevens

P J Stevens


Future Proof your Business



Firstly, what is meant by a future proof business and how does it relate to business improvement?


In the context of business improvement, ‘future proof’ is usually meant as a strategy, approach or solution that is designed to help the business remain effective and relevant in the face of potential future changes, challenges and advancements in that business arena. Future proofing aims to minimise the risk of becoming outdated and ensure long-term viability, relevance and success for the business.


We all know the story of Kodak, and the challenges it faced with the monumental rise of digital photography and instant photos on phones that could be shared globally in seconds. One might argue that Kodak was not future proof, but could it have been better prepared?


By proactively identifying potential challenges and opportunities, businesses can implement measures and focussed activities to mitigate risks and leverage emerging trends and opportunities to their advantage.


Here are some ways in which Future Proofing enables business improvement.


Anticipating Trends and Technological Advancements: Future-proof businesses proactively identify emerging trends, customer needs and technological advancements that may impact their industry. By staying alert and open, they can adapt and integrate changes into their strategies, products and services, which keeps them relevant to customers.


Flexibility and Adaptability: Future-proof businesses are flexible and adaptable, able to adjust their operations, processes and offerings in response to evolving market conditions. They embrace change and have a mindset (and culture) that allows them to quickly pivot and take advantage of new opportunities.


Continuous Improvement: Companies that foster a culture of innovation and continuous improvement are far more likely to be future proof. These companies invest in research and development, encourage creative thinking and are open to experimenting with new ideas and approaches. By maintaining a culture of innovation and an innovative mindset they can keep up with – or may lead - the changing demands of customers and the market.


Embracing Technology: Technology plays a crucial role in future-proofing businesses. Embracing digital transformation, automation, artificial intelligence, and other technological advancements enables businesses to enhance efficiency, streamline processes, and deliver better customer experiences.


Building Resilience: Future-proof organisations are far more likely to build resilience by diversifying their revenue streams, cultivating strong relationships with customers and suppliers and implementing robust and focused risk management strategies. They identify, understand and withstand disruptions, economic downturns and unforeseen challenges far more effectively.


People and Talent Development: Investing in employee development and creating a learning culture helps future proof businesses. A company’s greatest resource is its people, by unearthing creativity, nurturing the skills and knowledge of their workforce, companies can adapt to changing industry dynamics and stay competitive.


Social Responsibility & sustainability: Future-proof businesses recognise the growing importance of sustainability and social responsibility. They integrate environmentally friendly practices, ethical considerations and social impact initiatives into their operations. This is part of their culture and values, not just words on a wall. By aligning with evolving societal expectations, they mitigate risks and enhance their brand reputation. This is evidenced by customers demanding the reduction of single use plastics in supermarkets, for example.


Overall, being ‘future proof’ in business means proactively preparing for and adapting to changes in the market, technology and customer preferences. It involves being agile, innovative and forward-thinking, with a focus on long-term sustainability and relevance.


Perhaps future proof should be a key Leadership, Strategy and Culture element in order to improve and protect and develop businesses.


While future proofing your business is undoubtedly important, there are several barriers that can hinder this process. These barriers can vary depending on the specific industry, market conditions and organisational factors.


You can read about these in my follow up article about barriers to being a future proof business.


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.

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