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Seven rules for designing your future business

By Mark Wilson, CEO at Wilson Fletcher

Adapting to a changing world is a priority for all financial services companies.

According to Deloitte[i] 2022 is a pivotal year and an opportunity for financial businesses to shape their – and the industry’s future. Whether a business is stuck in a rut, facing commercial challenges or simply coasting along, reimagining its future is essential for flourishing in the years ahead.

One innovative way to do this is to use ‘Futurestate design’ – a modern approach to business and service strategy that focuses on building a clear vision of how a company will service future incarnations of its customers. This futurestate vision is used as a target to shape strategy and align the people and initiatives needed to make it happen.

The difference with this approach is it’s designed for leaders who are willing to rip up the rule book and embrace a completely different mindset. It’s about creativity and invention and above all, being open-minded and free from current thinking and constraints. The key is to ignore the old rules, and use the following simple rules below:

Rule one – Don’t look at what the business does now

By thinking about the current state of the business, leaders will carry things with them that they assume have to be there, because they are paying such close attention to them.

They should only look back once they’ve figured out what shape the future might take. Only then can they figure out the gap between those two states and map out how to get there from today to a successful future.

Rule 2 – Think digital-only

Assume 100% of future customer interactions are digital.  Leaders should ask “how do we do this with zero people”. Start with this assumption, and then, when they factor people back into the equation, they will find they are focused on doing much better things – more effective, efficient and qualitative work – without ugly legacy processes and systems holding them back.

Rule 3 – Think only about them

Businesses need to think and talk only about the people they hope to serve – potential customers. Imagine a future customer. Someone the business doesn’t have a relationship with today and can’t serve today. Someone they would love to serve in the future. Imagine that they want something that changes how they live their life or do their work.

Rule 4 – Think without tech constraints…ish

If leaders see that someone else is using a particular technology, they can assume that they can too. This frees them up to think more broadly about what’s possible, as technology that’s already in live use, however advanced it seems, usually becomes mainstream rapidly. If their futurestate is envisioned on a three-year horizon, by that point the technology they are blown away by today will almost certainly be easily accessible.

Rule 5 – Imagine the business is competing with everyone

The expectations of future customers will be defined by their best experiences of everything else. When Apple launched their iPhone in 2007 they reset the expectations of a portable device for everyone… they weren’t even a phone company. Almost overnight phone manufacturers were judged by the standards of a business that hadn’t previously existed in their space. When designing the futurestate, leaders should assume they compete with the world’s best, not just the industry’s best.

Rule 6 – Think in the ‘future normal’

It’s easy to be sceptical about behavioural changes.  Saying “that’ll never happen. They’ll never do that” is a dangerous, current-state mode of thinking.  Today’s customer might not do ‘that’, but who’s to say tomorrows won’t? Assume that the change has happened and that people are already doing ‘that’, and this will add all sorts of interesting new potential behaviours to design with.

Rule 7 – Think in alternatives

Don’t just think about how to fix something or overcome a current challenge; instead think about what would make the current business or service completely obsolete. Irrelevant is tomorrow’s customer. Imagine the futurestate business as the one that put the current company out of business. Leaders will only do this by creating an alternative to today. Not a better vision, but something customers would adopt instead.

To conclude

Most leaders find it really hard to step out of today and plan the future, but using the rules of futurestate design, can encourage them to imagine their business without any limitations, which is key to success.

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