Update Capabilities in Your Business Plan to Meet Challenges and Seize Opportunities

By Steven D. Peterson, Peter E. Jaret, Barbara Findlay Schenck

The word rapid is inadequate to describe the speed of change your business faces: shifting population demographics, global trade, digital and technological innovation, climate change, new rules and regulations, economic and political uncertainty, transformations in healthcare. The list of possible challenges — or opportunities — goes on and on.

Keeping business capabilities updated amidst the turmoil is more essential than ever and that’s why you need to focus on how to align your capabilities with the current and looming realities of your business environment.

On a regular basis, not once a year but more frequently, tick through the list of business capabilities — R&D, operations, marketing, distribution and delivery, customer service, management, organization, financial condition, and data management — and ask an important question about each. What’s changed, or what may change, to affect your strength in this capability or, on the reverse side, to provide you an opportunity because of your strength in this capability?

Pay particular attention to megatrends — major shifts that have a long-term impact — and how they’re likely to rock or boost your business capabilities. Associations that serve your business arena likely forecast and share trends you can consider, as do consulting groups whose reports you can find by searching for “business megatrends” online.

Likely you’ll see these trends among those on most forecasts:

  • Population, demographic, and social shifts due to changes in birth rates and life spans, human migration and gender, and ethnic and social diversity
  • Empowered customers who demand transparency, participation, and interactive communication from the businesses with which they deal
  • The digital future including technological advances, connected devices, the rise of mobile device usage, data management, and cybersecurity
  • The rise of interest in bricks-and-clicks businesses that feature both online and offline presence and a seamless customer experience between the two
  • Changes in climate and resource availability leading to an increased focus on consumption efficiency and sustainability
  • The global economy and how it affects everything from product development, marketing and distribution plans, access to resources, and consumer interest in cultural identity
  • The rise of entrepreneurship (The New York Times even renamed its small business section to acknowledge this shift) affecting competition, labor availability, funding options, community and business resources, and more

Add to this list other trends that are likely to affect your business. Then, assess whether your business has the capabilities it needs to adapt to changes on your horizon or to capitalize on the changes you foresee.