The Christmas season has now well and truly begun and there are fewer than thirty days to go to the start of 2018. For some of you, particularly those in the consumer goods business, this is an extremely busy time at work, the busiest of the year perhaps. For others, this will be a time of busy activity on the personal front preparing for the upcoming holidays and commitments with family and friends. For all of us, it is a time when it can be difficult to look beyond the present moment.

Nonetheless, there is probably just enough time, while the energy is still high and before your head goes into a totally different space, to take a little time aside to think actively, and to flesh out one or two value-adding initiatives to kick off 2018 on the front foot ahead of the pack. To get you going, I wanted to set out for you some of the major trends that I see shaping business in 2018, no matter where you are in the world, the size of your business or the sector you are in.

Two things, it seems to me, are very clear at this juncture, sustainable growth is back in all the major world economies and at the same time uncertainty about the future is on the rise. According to the Global Economic Output report in November 2017 “After exceeding expectations in 2017, the global economy is projected to carry forward its current momentum to generate a 3 percent growth rate in 2018”. Likewise, increased uncertainty is being driven by the gathering pace of technological change as well as the geopolitical shifts that are underway affecting businesses everywhere and the international supply chains that sustain them. In response, here are some areas that I recommend you focus on to gain advantage in 2018:

Resource Constraints: After years of slow growth and underinvestment, stronger growth is now leading to internal and external resource constraints in many economies for both manufacturing and distribution as well as increasing skills shortages across the gamut from HGV truck drivers through to data analysts. Where are your resource constraints likely to surface in 2018 and what can you do now to address them?

Automation: Advances in automation technology may go some way to resolving resource constraints in the longer term. However, the truth is that many businesses haven’t even begun to work out how advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence, big data and robotics can be leveraged to add value to their businesses. How will these technological changes affect your business and what can you do to take advantage?

Diversification: Supply chains will need to be reconfigured in response to developments such as Brexit, the renegotiation of NAFTA, China’s New Silk Road initiative and the rise of the African economies. This is presenting challenges and opportunities that are driving companies worldwide to develop new, diversified markets and reduce their exposure to unpredictable geopolitical shifts. What do you need to do now to ensure that your income and revenue streams are appropriately diversified to ensure the sustainable future of your business?

Risk Management: Given the rate of range in the international business environment, many companies are shifting from a reactive and negatively focused form of risk management to a more explicitly proactive approach whereby they seek out opportunities and competitive advantage in anticipating risk and taking action before the competition even realises there is a threat. How can you get out ahead of the risks facing your business and steal the march on the competition?

I think it is clear, that no matter where we are or what we do there are exciting times ahead in 2018 for us all.

© Patrick Daly 2017

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