Growth is undoubtedly easier in a buoyant economy where a rising tide lifts all boats. With global economic waters again growing stormy, growth in 2013 — especially when attempting to follow traditional strategies — may be challenging for many organizations.
Explore transformational technologies
Despite weaknesses in the overall global marketplace, there will be organizations that maintain their growth rates, and a few will grow dramatically. These growth leaders are often innovators, organizations whose above average growth rates are propelled by a unique breakthrough, such as the launch of an in-demand product or the implementation of a ground-breaking business model. Every organization would like to be an innovator and most will find the best opportunities come by finding ways to improve existing products, services and processes — often through the implementation of new technologies — to make them more distinctive and unique.
Over the past few decades, technology has transformed organizations and industries to a greater degree than almost any other phenomenon. Boards may wish to ask management about its strategies for recent technological breakthroughs extending that transforming trend. Among those breakthroughs are social media, mobile devices and cloud computing.
Set out clear business objectives
Today, many organizations are active social media players, utilizing applications such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs to pursue goals like the following:
Promote the brand;
To be successful, however, organizations need to set out clear business objectives for their use of social media, supported by formal programs and policies to achieve those goals. Similarly, mobile devices — smartphones and computer tablets — are increasingly the technology of choice for conducting transactions. Boards should ensure that their organizations develop and apply a mobile strategy that is appropriately supported with business objectives, models, applications and infrastructures geared toward mobile devices (rather than merely scaling down websites, for example) if they are to create a sustainable business advantage.
New and existing technologies have resulted in an explosion of data that organizations can use to gain a competitive advantage and better serve their stakeholders. To do that, however, they must first turn reams of raw data into nuggets of valuable insights through business analytics so they can drive their decision-making through statistical and qualitative analyses, explanatory and predictive modeling and fact-based management.
Assess opportunities and risks
The growing popularity of cloud computing — where the organization’s computing hardware and software resources are provided by a third party and delivered via the Internet — has been spurred by a confluence of changes in the business and information technology landscape. While this presents an attractive opportunity for organizations to streamline their technology costs and resources, boards should also ensure they understand the risks associated with outsourcing critical business services, including those pertaining to data security, confidentiality and privacy issues.
While innovations can occur almost spontaneously — e.g., if someone addresses a routine task a different way — a more formal focus on innovation may yield more consistent results. Boards should inquire about the way innovative activities — through technology or other means — are incorporated and supported in strategic plans since planning how to improve existing offerings for the future and identifying complementary new ones, usually requires both time and money.
Innovation strategies also need to account for risk, since not every idea will succeed, and those that do will likely have their own risks to mitigate.
Leverage technology for growth
How well are we incorporating social media into our customer relations activities? For example, are we using social media to shape the conversation and ensure that customers understand that their interests are shared by our organization?
Are we proactively using social media to identify new ideas and innovations put forward by our employees, suppliers and customers?
Do we understand the risks related to our use of social media? For example, are our practices compliant with privacy regulations and commercial practices? Is the data sufficiently protected?
How well do we understand the way mobile apps may be changing our industry? Are we ahead, keeping pace or falling behind our competitors?
|Chantal Rassart is the Assurance & advisory services knowledge management leader at Deloitte Canada.|