Resilience and forward planning are key to success

Harry Goddard, chief executive-elect of Deloitte Ireland, reflects on how businesses can maintain focus in an ever-changing marketplace

3rd March, 2019
Harry Goddard, chief executive-elect, Deloitte. ‘Employees today are choosing the organisations they want to work with based on their values’ Pic: Jason Clarke

Increased uncertainty, shifting patterns of globalisation, technology enablement and technology disruption, increased competition across borders, deal or no deal - just some of the characteristics of the marketplace in which Irish companies are now operating. But that is today’s reality.

And in that reality, the importance of effective management and leadership of organisations and taking a longer-term and strategic view as part of decision-making and investment considerations have never been more important.

That can seem like a lofty task - maintaining focus with so many competing areas for attention can be challenging. But there are a number of factors that can help in driving this focus, and we see a couple as particularly important for Irish businesses.

Get technology working for you

There are a myriad of options with regards to technology investment and it can be daunting. But there is a real danger of being left behind.

As part of the company’s overall strategy, take the time to assess the options regarding technology and how to make it work effectively in your business. It’s by no means a case of tech for tech’s sake.

We’ve seen private companies successfully implement cloud, robotics and automation processes that have a real impact on driving significant efficiencies, quality, competitiveness and increase overall margins, particularly in the engineering and industrial sectors.

And that is just one element – embracing technology innovation and digitisation in other areas such as finance or talent management, for example, can not only drive efficiencies and free up people’s time for more value-add activities, it can also provide enhanced data and reporting processes.

Take the long-term view

Of course, such investments in technology take significant investments of capital and management time.

When resources are tight and there are multiple, sometimes conflicting, areas that require investment, it can be useful to take a long-term view on the strategic direction of the business and the requirements for your organisation to be successful and to drive growth over the medium term, rather than just in the current or next financial year.

Quick wins are great, but when it comes to driving sustainable growth, taking a longer-term view can support making the right decisions to drive the long-term equity value of your business.

This can be particularly important when it comes to weighing up the pros or cons of significant capital expenditure, including technology.

Yes, it is a big outlay now, but what level of savings, business development/sales opportunities or new product opportunities will it deliver over the course of the next five years, and how compelling is that? What other problems does it solve in your business? What are your competitors doing?

Do you need to embrace technology to avoid disruption, or are you at risk over the medium term of putting your business in a fragile position if you fail to invest? How robust and well-invested is your asset base?

Focusing on this year’s P&L may not always show the full potential of an investment or opportunity.

Data-driven decision-making and prioritisation

With so many competing priorities, they can all seem like they are top of the list. Businesses that do get technology working for them and invest in producing good data, often in real time, can use that information to guide decisions on business priorities and investments. This can really be to their competitive advantage. Information truly is power, and can deliver real insights in areas such as customer preferences or production processes, to name just a couple of examples.

Assess where the opportunity is – at home and away

In an open economy, and particularly considering the potential impact of Brexit, a focus on international markets has never been more critical. The winning Best Managed Companies are a case in point.

In fact, approximately a quarter of sales among the winning companies are export-driven, and scaling for growth internationally is a key theme. Actively looking at how your company’s presence can expand beyond the domestic and traditional markets needs to sit high up on that priority list.

Ensuring that the adequate funding structures are in place to expand, acquire or build strategic alliances is crucial, and carefully planning for the operational challenges that come with entry into a new market with different cultures and a different competitive landscape is key. Invest the time and do it right.

A commitment to talent development

We say it time and time again - businesses are about people, and this isn’t going to change. While the mix of people that any organisation has, or may need in the future, is changing and the tasks they are doing may be changing, it is people that do and will drive success.

Our Best Managed Companies programme recognises high-performing teams, not individuals. This is reflective of the importance of a strong management team across all key functional areas and with differing perspectives, experiences and viewpoints working effectively together to drive the growth of a business.

Investing in talent development strategies that embrace diversity, that provide people with interesting and varied projects, and that engage them in the company’s purpose and what it is trying to achieve will be a strong differentiator in a competitive employment market.

In addition to customers, suppliers and wider stakeholders, employees today are choosing the organisations they want to work with based on their values, the impact they have on communities and society, and how sustainably they operate.

Businesses right across the world are moving head-on into the fourth industrial revolution, where the marriage of physical assets with digital ones allows for the creation of a digital enterprise that is not only interconnected, but also capable of more holistic, informed decision-making.

This is the reality for businesses today. So much so, in fact, that Deloitte has carried out research with more than 2,000 executives globally about what leadership traits can drive success in the new world of work.

And what did these traits include? A commitment to do good; a defined, data-driven approach to decision-making; a bold, longer-term vision of technology; and a focus on workforce composition, capabilities and development featured prominently.

Here in Ireland, the Deloitte Best Managed Companies shine a light on just how well Irish and Northern Irish businesses are navigating this ever-changing, uncertain, increasingly competitive, technology-enabled, technology-disrupted environment.

They are resilient and well placed to succeed. And that is also a reality today.

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