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What makes a business ‘future ready’?

15 Jul 2020

Vinod Kumar

CEO, Vodafone Business

Our world is changing faster than ever. Never has that felt more apt than in 2020.

Technology has allowed us all to evolve and adapt to our new world. And while we focus our energy on managing the current global crisis, our attention should also look towards the recovery of our society and economy - a recovery perhaps like no other we have witnessed.

Understanding what makes some businesses better equipped to survive and thrive is crucial. That’s why we decided to see what characteristics these organisations have in common that help them be better prepared for what the future may hold.

What is a ‘future ready’ business?

Confident and well-prepared for emerging challenges, we identified six common characteristics of a ‘future ready’ business; they have a positive attitude to change, are open to new technology, have clear steps towards business transformation and a detailed strategy, they are up to date with trends and uncertainties and are adaptable.

And these organisations have a different way of approaching business challenges.

On asking businesses what those challenges are, there were five that stood out across almost all industries, countries and business sizes: rebuilding and reinforcing resilience in the face of disruption, having to adapt quickly to changing customer and societal behaviours, sustainability becoming standard, the new challenges and opportunities of data and rethinking the way they recruit and nurture talent.

All organisations can learn from these ‘future ready’ businesses to better prepare for the future and to embrace it.

Let’s run through the findings.

Future Ready Business

Resilience in the face of disruption

At the start of 2020 no one could have predicted that we’d experience a global pandemic, lockdowns and an economic upheaval unseen since the 1930s.

This has had an enormous effect on companies worldwide. Yet ‘future ready’ businesses (FRBs) were found to be much better prepared for Covid-19, are coping well, and expecting to bounce back faster.

While 49% of all businesses report that profits are down now compared to last year, 30% of FRBs still report increased profits. Looking at the next five years, 57% of FRBs also expect their profits to increase, compared to 45% of all businesses.

But how are they doing it?

‘Future ready’ businesses see the crisis as a natural time to experiment with new ways of working, and have made broader, smarter investments in new technology. They aren’t afraid to adapt and take risks.

It’s more than that though.

FRBs are far more likely to help those around them and are focussed on the health and wellbeing of their employees. In fact, 97% of FRBs have supported their employees further during the pandemic, compared to 90% of all businesses.

Adapting to the times

On top of this, there has been greater empowerment of customers in recent years. 64% of businesses expect the power and influence of consumers to grow, and their ability to sway the behaviour of organisations has grown significantly.

Customers increasingly want to express their individuality and social values through the goods and services they buy.

FRBs are reacting to this. They are focussing on brand purpose, prioritising their ethical behaviour and investing more in their local communities.

Sustainability is key

Sustainability has been creeping up the business agenda for some years now, as the public become more vocal about it and regulations increase.

67% of businesses are improving their sustainability and 46% of FRBs see being sustainable as essential for their business to continue operating.

Global lockdowns have also given us some fascinating insights into climate change that are unlikely to be forgotten so it’s more important than ever that businesses show how they’re tackling this issue.


A data-centric outlook

Data is creating a further set of challenges too. Not only is it becoming an increasingly important strategic asset, it’s vital to store and process it securely.

FRBs are often born on the cloud, and securing and processing data is in their DNA.

Just 20% of all businesses see themselves as industry leaders in storing and processing data securely. Among FRBs, this number jumps to 39%. This puts them a step ahead of rivals and makes it easier for them to get the most out of analytics.

Nurturing talent

A business is only as good as its people, and accommodating the modern workforce has never been a greater challenge.

A new generation of employee wants to work for a business that fit their values, while existing employees need more retraining opportunities.

FRBs see this as an opportunity. They’re using tech to create digital workplaces that appeal to younger workers, and that make it easier for all kinds of employees to work more flexibly, with a focus on their wellbeing at all times.

There is still much room for improvement in being open to diversity in the broadest sense, but FRBs are still ahead and will surely benefit in the long term.

Becoming ‘future ready’

And it’s that human element that’s key for businesses moving forward.

Covid-19 has given us time to reflect and realise that work can be done differently and from anywhere. And for that to be possible, businesses now need to be digital and responsive but not at the cost of their humanity.

We believe we’re moving into a new era, where companies rapidly and purposefully adopt technology to enhance people’s personal and business lives, rather than letting technology control us.

A key element of this is a massive rewrite of the social contracts between employers and employees, and between businesses and their customers, and FRBs are already leading the way.

To learn more about what makes these ‘future ready’ businesses tick and how you can start to align your business to their philosophy – download the full report.

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