4 ways C-suites navigate volatility

John Kurkowski, Andrea M. Meinardi
4 ways C-suites navigate volatility

Discover how forward-thinking leadership teams keep their organizations agile amid uncertainty.

Market turbulence, digital disruption, and regulatory shifts during the past few years have led forward-thinking companies – and their C-suite leaders – to proactively identify and respond to volatile external conditions.

In the short term, many companies are looking for ways to reduce costs and free up cash. At the same time, they’re also seeking to lay the groundwork for long-term success amid rapid and unpredictable change.

Advanced technologies such as AI and machine learning can be a starting point for navigating change. Ultimately, though, driving this kind of shift comes down to a change in mindset – one that acknowledges the fluid, constantly evolving business environment.

Discover four ways companies are adopting the following approaches to manage uncertainty and use volatility to their advantage.

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1. They automate processes to adapt and react to regulatory shifts.

GDPR. TCJA. NIST. One major source of volatility for organizations has been the “acronym soup” of continually emerging and changing standards and regulations.

Simply getting a baseline understanding of the requirements involved with these regulations can be a major challenge. When operational changes are factored in, many organizations are looking at months or even years of time spent on manually adjusting processes.

As a result, many forward-thinking organizations are turning to automation technology. This approach can offer a faster way to effectively meet many of the requirements presented by these standards and regulations – and save time and energy that would’ve been spent figuring out what’s required up front.

For instance, when properly implemented, automation technology can help manage and release customer data in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 with minimal human oversight. This effort can save countless hours in productivity and alleviate concerns about potentially costly missteps and mistakes.

Automation technology also can enable fast and effective responses to process anomalies and outliers. Additionally, it can facilitate quick implementations and adjustments of processes in response to shifting regulations.

Overall, automation can fuel standardizing and streamlining complicated, regulatory-driven processes from end to end.

2. They use advanced business intelligence (BI) to understand what’s ahead.

Businesses of all kinds have become proficient in gathering large amounts of data in a wide range of areas – financial, operational, and sales, to name a few. How they actually employ that data can be another matter, however.

Key questions around data for any organization right now should include:

  • How are we using past and present data to generate useful future projections?
  • How can this and other information help us identify and anticipate volatility in various forms?

Forward-thinking businesses use next-level BI and data analytics to spot and manage risks early. Solutions such as the Tableau platform by Salesforce and Microsoft Power BI™ software serve up data that drives smart, risk-based decisions, particularly when customized for the organizations using them.

High-performing companies also keep a close eye on customer activities and trends, in part by analyzing the data in their customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. But even more insights can be revealed through specialized, targeted forms of BI like revenue intelligence and customer intelligence. These more advanced approaches can tell you not only where your customers are financially and directionally in real time, but the direction in which they’re going.

A final next-level element of BI is continuous monitoring – meaning it’s driven by an “always on” mentality rather than one based on periodic check-ins. At the same time, it’s not just focused on what’s happening now: BI-driven forecasting reaches as far out into the future as possible. Think a year or two ahead, not just the next quarter.

3. They build flexibility into processes as changes accelerate.

Today’s business environment is affected by ever-expanding volatility in various forms, including regulatory shifts, digital disruption, and economic uncertainty. The trap many organizations fall into during such times is becoming convinced that large external changes warrant large internal changes.

Many of the best-performing organizations have informed, well-defined processes and practices in place – and they rarely deviate from those, even as major new political, economic, and technological developments emerge.

That’s not to say these organizations are inflexible and locked into a single way of doing things. In fact, their processes frequently account for many different variables and can be adjusted based on the particular circumstances.

An example of this purposeful flexibility could be in how a private equity firm approaches its evaluation of a potential acquisition. While a deliberate and thorough approach to due diligence and structuring is necessary, the areas of focus might be scaled to be commensurate with the size of the company, the valuation of the transaction, the inherent risks in the business, or the integration efforts required post-close.

Approaching processes with a foundational playbook allows adjustments based on the particulars of a situation and provides the flexibility to adjust quickly in today’s ever-changing business environment.

4. They take on a customer-centric mindset to uncover new opportunities. 

Many forward-thinking organizations are investing ever-greater levels of time and resources into change management and related capabilities.

In the process, they’re challenging and breaking down traditional silos in their organizations by bringing stakeholders in these areas together to share ideas in ways that reveal both risks and opportunities. They’re also changing their views of functions like risk and compliance – not looking at those issues in a reactive way but figuring out how to engineer them into new services, products, and processes.

To be clear, this is a positive trend. But if it’s only focused on internal improvements, it might not be enough. In evaluating future volatility and opportunity, it’s important to take a customer-centric perspective rather than an enterprise-centric one.

Organizational change ultimately should be driven by delivering value to customers. That’s why high-performing businesses think about how to provide their customers with opportunities and beneficial outcomes, especially as they undertake change management. As their customers go, so goes their business.

Microsoft and Power BI are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies.

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