Data gathering

Analyzing the various trends marking your company’s future will allow you to be better prepared to meet certain challenges.

Phase 1:
Observation and compilation of trends and early signals

The input phase of the contingency process consists of gathering data which may have an influence on the company's future and compiling them. Ideally, this observation of trends and signals will lead to the development of a successful early detection system.

Analysis of the immediate environment

Analysis of the immediate environment consists of identifying early leading trends and indicators in your company’s immediate environment. The immediate environment is made up of each factor which directly influences the development of the company, its markets and its products. Information about these trends can come from employees, customers, researchers, suppliers, competitors, experts, and printed or online publications.

Here are some practical tips:

  • You can conduct targeted research (that is, on a specific theme) or non-targeted research (that is, without any preconceived notions, which is probably important for your sector). Focusing on the environmental analysis is particularly recommended for small companies.
  • Come up with 8 to 12 assumptions about the future. Discuss these with your employees, colleagues, suppliers and customers. Gather evidence to support these assumptions and draw up a list of signals that contradict them. Check your assumptions from time to time.
  • Accept that results may be imprecise to a certain degree. Leading indicators in particular are often poor and unreliable - but are even more valuable if factually confirmed. However, you should remain critical of all sources.
  • Quality comes before quantity: do not get lost in a maze of unsorted information.

Environmental analysis in the broadest sense

Unlike analysis of the immediate environment, environmental analysis in the broadest sense also includes the major changes which are more difficult to detect (i.e. structural changes in the way the economy and society work), which exercise influence over the company's extended environment. These may include growing individualization, demographic growth or climate change, for example. Monitor these megatrends constantly, bearing in mind their future development along with their possible consequences and relevance to your company.

Here are some practical tips:

  • Several think tanks that research the future have pointed to megatrends and published these on the internet. Enter "megatrends” in a search engine and draw up your own list, according to your requirements.
  • For SMEs, the idea is to get a clear image of a few specific but extremely relevant megatrends.
  • Several interested and committed employees can handle the monitoring and ongoing surveillance of the megatrends that affect your company.
  • Ask yourself whether your company will profit in the long term from these megatrends or whether, on the contrary, it will break away from some of them.

Early detection system

Megatrends and discontinuities are often preceded by warning signs, although these indicators do not always guarantee that the changes they seem to predict will actually occur. An early detection system gathers these indicators systematically and constantly, evaluating them depending on the probability of their occurrence, consequences and mutual independence.

Here are some practical tips:

  • Implementing such an early detection system within SMEs can begin with the establishment of a database—for example, on an intranet—in which the warning signs are gathered, ordered, shared on the network and evaluated in terms of relevance.
  • You can find these indicators on websites, or newspapers or learn about them from customers or during discussions with employees. Pay attention to indicators that signal the advent of a crisis or a technological leap, for example.
  • To ensure continuous monitoring, employees should be trained to become “early warning sensors”.

The themes and timescale of an early detection system for SMEs should always be targeted; otherwise, too many resources will be sacrificed on extensive or unguided research.

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Last modification 23.07.2018

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