The digital future is in our hands. We create it.
We can’t predict the future, no one knows what is hiding just around the corner. Everything is moving, there are a number of uncertainties and extreme volatility. For those who are prepared, this is a world of many opportunities. But for those who are not, it’s a living nightmare.
How can we be prepared for an unpredictable future? One of the best approaches is scenario planning. One of the masters of this discipline is Shell. During the oil crisis in the seventies, they needed to understand how the world might emerge from that situation. And they started to build various scenarios. They even publish these scenarios, take a look for yourself…
Shell and Digital. Why? How? What?
What does the digital future hold for Shell? With their scenario planning capabilities, they have come up with three potential scenarios, rooted in three interlinked centres of power. The public, us the people, have a certain power, because we consume these services, we like or avoid certain apps or platforms. The market, mainly big business, has a certain power. They provide the platforms, the tools and the infrastructure to access and use the digital future. Last but not least, governments/lawmakers have a certain power, since they regulate, incentivise, or penalise certain behaviour, platforms, and even companies or countries.
Derived from the different combinations of these three power centres, Shell created three scenarios, which they call “Comply and Prosper”, “Open Platforms”, and “Digital Island”. So, neither us nor Shell know how the digital future will unfold, but we can expect some similarities to one of these three scenarios at the very least.
Now, the important part is to keep an eye on what’s happening. Look at strong and weak signals, see which direction things are heading and trending towards. If you identify a certain pattern, you might understand how these trends will evolve, and which scenario is more likely to happen. If you are powerful enough, you might even be able to influence those trends, develop new technologies, come up with new business models, transform your industry, influence lawmakers, public opinion, and have an active role in shaping the future. You can shape the future for the public good and/or for your own interest.
Define your Digital Destiny (as much as possible)
Scenarios are not just a forecast. They also look down the microscope on current events. Watching out for trends can be done by researchers, architecture specialists, and teams of innovators. This will help you to understand where investments are going, what is most likely to happen, and how you should position your activities.
Another critical skill is identifying weak signals and trying to understand what could happen. Looking beyond the hype, reading between the lines, understanding the root-causes, analysing the background, and understanding the impact on your business is invaluable.
One other important aspect about scenario planning is that you should have a favourite scenario, the one that is most beneficial for you. You should watch and, if possible, try to influence things to go your way, as much as possible. This will also trigger you to think about what lies in your control within or outside your company, and who else you need to influence or convince that your ideas are meaningful and valuable. In modern language, this is called lobbying.
In this flux, you can only control or change so much. Watching trends, understanding the probability of various scenarios, and then continuously ever-greening your situation is a great exercise to be in the best possible situation to cope with change.
On top of this, if you are able to develop advanced digital capabilities, such as analytics, enterprise agility, automation and integration of processes, applications, and information flows, provide best possible customer experiences, and innovate new digitally enabled business models, you will outperform your competition.
Our digital maturity data provides a competitive edge
For over four years we have analysed hundreds of companies, and many of them several times, usually annually. In our 2021 DMI report we share all our insights. We know the differences between various industries. We see which digital capabilities evolve faster than others. And we see the areas where many companies are failing, which makes for very viewing.
Shell is one of the largest companies on the planet but also a very long-lasting one. For companies like Shell, because of scale and legacy, digital transformation is even harder. But they have a great vision, they invest huge amounts into digital, and they have found a great way to understand what digital can do good for them. Listen to CEO Ben van Beurden present at the Web Summit. Also read how Ed Daniels, Head of Strategy at Shell, describes the most recent future scenarios, and how they use them to succeed.
Companies now understand the digital future, find ways to embrace it, are able to build the necessary capabilities, establish a culture of continuous evolution, and master change, they succeed, they outperform their competition, they create blue ocean strategies and in some cases even disrupt and redefine their industries.
Which side of history do you want to be on? Let’s discuss with passionate experts. Contact us.