Choppy Waters Ahead: CEOs with Visibility Across All Operations Will Sail to Success in 2023

Next-generation integrated business planning that empowers leaders and their teams by providing real-time data to improve decision-making is essential to triumph this year and beyond.

If chief executives are like ship captains, the extremely choppy waters expected in 2023 could fling the most poorly prepared leaders overboard without a lifejacket. Worse, ever- higher waves of volatility might sink their organisations. After all, those at the helm face the high probability of a global economic downturn and numerous additional disruptions, some more foreseeable than others.

The most successful CEOs in the year ahead will have the greatest visibility of information or, put another way, the fewest blind spots. They will be agile enough to react and steer around near-distance obstacles and chart a different course if potential trouble is spied on the horizon.

On top of the volatility caused by the pandemic fallout, CEOs had to contend with the Ukraine war, surging inflation, supply-chain issues, and political uncertainty. In 2023, few leaders can confidently – or accurately – predict future challenges and opportunities without investment in operational and foresight technology.

Indeed, the more comprehensive the overview of past and present data, the more informed and improved the decision-making. And by analysing more and better quality historical and current data, a captain can sail away from upcoming challenges and towards opportunities.

Moreover, embracing an innovative integrated business planning model, which gathers and shares data, and breaks down silos while aligning functions using advanced technology, will empower business leaders and their teams.

Progressive CEOs that focus on visibility through quality data and entrust their people with the technology and processes to adapt to change quickly, and adopt a longer- term mindset, are most likely to navigate turbulence best. As Edward Gibbons, an 18th-century English historian, wrote: “The wind and the waves are always on the side of the ablest navigator.”

Continuous business evolution required

Yes, the coronavirus crisis necessitated speeding up digital transformation journeys, but keeping up momentum is crucial. The unrelenting pace of change now requires continuous business evolution to convert data to valuable information for decision- making.

Now three years after the pandemic hit, CEOs should have learnt lessons. Hopefully, leaders and their organisations will be better prepared for crises. Or is it more that they have been in survival mode and unwilling or unable to think too far ahead? Clearly, technology is a great enabler. But, unfortunately, it’s an all-too-common mistake to believe business transformation is founded on investing in and implementing tech alone.

That technology is a tool that should work in harmony with people and processes is a vital point that seems to elude some leaders. Consider how airlines and airports, for instance, displayed woeful preparation when governments lifted coronavirus restrictions. Poor anticipation of likely – notwithstanding unpredictable – issues, often due to a lack of data-driven foresight and because of a short-term approach to business, damages reputations as well as bottom lines.

It is here where integrated business planning, or IBP, is increasingly essential. In a volatile world, where change is the only constant, organisations that use an IBP process gain the agility to process data quickly, make smarter decisions, and better navigate future disruption.

IBP is a contemporary model that Oliver Wight, a leading management consultant and business transformation specialist, has been promoting for years. Its time has truly arrived in 2023, because it enables greater planning accuracy and corporate performance by aligning strategic planning, finance, human resources, supply chain, sales, and marketing functions.

Implementing a strategic plan has to be a holistic process to ensure the sustainable running of a business united towards growth. There is a balance to strike: if a CEO only focuses on the short-term execution of the capability of the business, then they are unlikely to deliver the longer-term strategy. Conversely, they may fail to execute the plan if the sole focus is on the longer-term strategy.

Steering away from spreadsheet hell

For businesses – and industries – to survive and thrive in tomorrow’s increasingly volatile world, they need to plan much further ahead and invest in enhancing processes, technology and people today. By gaining and using insights from data-hungry artificial intelligence solutions, better decisions will be made, greater flexibility will be achievable, blind spots will be uncovered, and the leadership group can plan for most scenarios.

For CEOs to steer with confidence, more than ever, leaders need to have a role in a planning process that integrates across multi-site, multi-division businesses. Old ways of working and operating mean that organisations usually struggle to capture vital internal data, and therefore can’t transform it into actionable data. For larger enterprises, it’s an exceptionally complex problem, with so many parts of the system making databases hard to access and connect with others.

At the same time, CEOs and departmental leaders are drowning in data. To try and make sense of it all, executive teams tend to fall into spreadsheet hell. As a result, too much of an organisation’s energy is often expended on creating views of the operational process so that opportunities are squandered and threats are missed.

Now, CEOs with progressive mindsets can replace the fog of frustration caused by a lack of quality and timely data with enlightenment and alter tack to achieve optimal outcomes in any situation.

Using IBP, CEOs armed with data from across the business can run and reconfigure operations. This change in approach must come from the leadership, though. An evolved business model with rolling horizons can convert crises into opportunities. If business leaders understand what they need to do according to what has been modelled into the technology, they can realign the organisation.

Transforming how organisations are run

Further, a competitive advantage is gained by those businesses that analyse and share more data – alongside a trusted partner, to increase scale and speed – and train teams to make the best use of the information at their fingertips. This collaborative and unified approach to data management means organisations will better cope when buffeted by volatility in near and distant timescales.

And, scanning further ahead on the business transformation journey, a hierarchy- flattening, self-service capability, where skilled individuals have the tools and talent to alter course at pace if required and shape strategy, is attainable through investment in IBP.

The real value is generated by bringing together data from all functions so that there is executive and operational alignment. With that visibility, minor – or significant – adjustments can be overlaid and implemented more efficiently. Ultimately, the agility required to stay afloat and improve the business process is attainable with the right holistic planning process. However, the flexible, forward-thinking and silo-breaking approach only works if people, processes and technology are integrated seamlessly.

Thanks to technological advancements and a strategic alliance announced in September 2022 with Board International, the next- generation IBP product is on the horizon. The partnership is leveraging Board’s Intelligent Planning capabilities in conjunction with Oliver Wight’s IBP model to deliver a unified, integrated solution.

Having listened to clients’ pain points, we have been working together to build a first-of-its-kind system that can achieve an IBP process, right the way from strategy to execution. CEOs seeking to boost operational visibility to steer away from trouble and towards optimal outcomes in 2023 and beyond are advised to keep an eye out for developments in the coming months.

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