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BMC 2019: Companies meeting the future head-on

2019 brings key issues and opportunities for private Irish companies, writes Anya Cummins

This article first appeared in the Sunday Business Post on 27 January 2019.

 

There is just over a month to go until the winners of the 2019 Deloitte Best Managed Companies Awards, in association with Bank of Ireland, are announced. This year, once again, we will recognise Irish and Northern Irish private companies that have demonstrated excellence in their management practices, which has in turn driven innovation and investment in their businesses, and ultimately enabled them to achieve their objectives and deliver growth. Of course, the achievements of these companies are even more impressive given the continually changing marketplace they operate in. While it currently dominates the headlines, that change is not just driven by the uncertainty caused by Brexit – there are many areas that are moving for businesses – the changing nature of work, the changing expectations and preferences of workers, and of course, technological advancements continue at a clip, to name but a few. Of course, change brings both issues and opportunities, and just recently, our team across the Deloitte network globally outlined how private companies can address these issues and capitalise on these opportunities. Here, we take a look at some of the trends we believe are relevant to private Irish businesses, based on our experience with companies in the Best Managed Companies Awards Programme.

 

Getting automation working for you

Without giving too much detail away on this year’s winners, we expect to see the manufacturing and asset intensive businesses fare well this year. Efficiency has always been key to these types of businesses, and more and more, particularly in a competitive employment market and with internationalisation a key focus, we are seeing automation strategies, robotics and digitisation becoming increasingly important to our Best Managed Companies winners. Those private companies that have started their automation journeys know that when considering how, when, and where to automate, they’ll need to do more than create code for recurring processes. Organisations need to define the right operating models for their businesses, assess the potential risks that come with the deployment of automated tasks, and convince employees and customers that automation can help enhance the value of work. Issues such as the quality of data gathering, scaling automated processes and security challenges are all important considerations. But the benefits are there – by reducing time-consuming, manual activities, organisations can focus on higher-value activities and help people become more productive through expanded horizons within their roles.

 

Key questions to consider:

  • Has your company performed a high-level review across the organisation for potential opportunities for automation
  • What are the security risks related to errors, access and monitoring that could affect your organisation’s automation investments?
  • How have you prepared your teams for RPA implementation across the organisation?
  • Have you identified tasks that are repetitive versus those consisting of complex logic that require human judgement?

 

What’s your workforce of the future?

It would be remiss of us to talk about the likes of automation without saying that this is among the potential shifts that could change the nature of work in every sector of the economy. Most see a (near) future in which robots and humans are working side by side. It’s an evolution likely to be driven by tech-savvy millennials, who are already shaping new consumption behaviours. And it’s one that will likely alter historical expectations about the nature of work, with the emerging gig economy as one prominent example. Talent development and workforce diversity also will probably take on more urgency, as will finding the right workspaces to accommodate these changes. Over the last 11 years of the programme, we have continually observed the importance Best Managed Companies have placed on people and their development, and the focus management teams place on their talent strategies. These talent strategies must now be looked at in the context of the changes being driven by not just technology but changing employee preferences and expectations.

 

Questions to consider in this regard include:

  • Has your company allocated enough time in the strategic planning process to assess how emerging technologies will reshape your workforce needs?
  • Have you considered non-conventional candidates with similar skills (eg, onshore, offshore, part-time, contract) to staff job openings challenged by competitive employment markets?
  • What are the implications of these changes for your organisational models?
  • How can diverse and inclusive workforce teams help to solve business challenges?
  • Have you considered the social impacts of these upcoming changes and the best way to transition to the future of work?

 

The value of governance

Winning companies in the Best Managed Companies Awards Programme have increasingly sought the input of a non-executive director to provide impartial advice, experience and an objective external viewpoint on issues of importance. The reality is that the increasing complexity of today’s marketplace and the pace of change means private companies need to be more sophisticated in terms of corporate governance. From technology to risk management, and from talent management to succession planning, having an outside perspective may be particularly important where certain skills and experience may not be present inside the company. In fact, in recognition of the value winning companies told us they placed on the external feedback they receive from the Best Managed process, we’ve expanded the judging panel this year with Feargal Mooney, former chief executive at Hostelworld Group and Rose Hynes, chairwoman of the Shannon Group board and Origin Enterprises – to increase the value we can provide to the participating companies.

 

Questions to consider here include:

  • Does your company have a formal board in place or at least a dedicated team to consider strategic risks to your business
  • Does your board or governance team have access to independent perspectives on the biggest challenges your business is facing?
  • Are you still managing risk from the standpoint of individual business units or are you taking a more holistic, enterprise- wide approach?
  • What is your workforce going to look like in the future and how is that going to affect your business?
  • Is your board involved in planning to address disruption?

We’re getting ready to announce the winners of this year’s Best Managed Companies programme at our Gala Awards on March 1. Each year, we see how successful private companies are driving their businesses forward in an ever-changing world. We continue to be impressed at the way they are embracing change, driving their talent agendas, addressing risks and capitalising on market opportunities both at home and across borders. Best Managed Companies are leading the way in terms of addressing these issues and capitalising on the opportunities. For our part, we are delighted to be showcasing and supporting these companies.

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