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Building a Sustainable & Future Ready Business


A scan of the political, economic, social, and technological developments and events leads one to  conclude that the market environment that businesses operate in has become more complex,  challenging, and uncertain. Recent events like wars, pandemic, bank failures, extreme weather  conditions, the rapid rise of artificial intelligence (AI) applications, trade protectionism, digital  transformation, etc., have only exacerbated the situation. 

The question on most, if not all, business leaders’ minds are “How do I build a Sustainable and Future  Ready Business?” It is normal for businesses to pivot; however, it is more important for business to  be prepared and ready to pivot when needed. This puts emphasis on the business model that must  be Adaptable, Flexible and Responsive. The context of being sustainable and future ready is even more  so for SMEs and Mid-Sized companies.  

SMEs in many countries account for more than 90% of all enterprises and up to 70% of employment.  Unlike larger corporations, their size makes them nimbler in producing and integrating innovations.  These businesses play significant roles not only in the global economy and labour markets but also in  enabling, constraining and shaping the nature of innovation within those markets. 

A white paper (Nov 2021) by the World Economic Forum entitled “Future Readiness of SMEs:  Mobilizing the SME Sector to Drive Widespread Sustainability and Prosperity” looks deeply into the  issue of “defining and understanding the future readiness of SMEs”. In particular, defining future  readiness and breaking down the concept into its different drivers and sub-drivers that allows the  identification of levers that will enable SMEs and mid-sized companies to improve their chances of  success while generating positive impact in the future.  

In 1997, Hugh Courtney wrote about “Strategy Under Uncertainty” where he said that despite having  powerful analytical tools to help with forecasting and strategy, these tend to work only when the  environment is stable. His view was that: 

“…at the heart of the traditional approach to strategy lies the assumption that by applying a set  of powerful analytic tools, executives can predict the future of any business accurately enough  to allow them to choose a clear strategic direction. In relatively stable businesses, that approach  continues to work well. But it tends to break down when the environment is so uncertain that no  amount of good analysis will allow them to predict the future.” 

As the levels of market uncertainty confronting business leaders today are so high, what is needed is  a “new” way to think about strategy. The approach perhaps is to not think of the future in a binary  way, i.e., to assume that the market in which we are operating in is either certain, and therefore open  to precise predictions about the future, or uncertain, and therefore completely unpredictable. Rather  to consider that there exist two other possibilities between these binary extremes; one where  alternative futures exists and another where a range of futures can exist. 

These new approach/views brings into focus the need for business leaders to evaluate their current  competitive advantages and assumptions that can be lost through innovation by competitors, rapid  technological advancements, cultural and social changes, environmental events, digital  transformation, and many more. In a market environment that gets ever more complex and  unpredictable, this approach – evaluating uncertainty in different dimensions – to thinking about  business strategy can possibly open up new ways to get at future opportunities, rather than to wake  up one morning to find that your business model is not relevant anymore. 

Course Objective

The objective of this course is two-fold. The first is focus on understanding the factors that are putting  pressure on companies to build a business model that is both future ready and sustainable. The  second is to look at how to apply business strategy in an uncertain and complex future.  

Teaching Methodology

Through a mix of lecture, pre-reading materials and interactive workout sessions, participants will  have a better understanding of what it means to be future ready and what business strategy  management and business transformation is needed to be successful and sustain that success.

Course Outline

In this course, we will be covering the following: 

  • The nature of SMEs and their challenges, 

  • Key Drivers and Sub-Drivers for being Future Ready, 

  • Business Strategies and Business Models, 

  • Understanding “uncertainties” and how to formulate strategies around them, • Using well-known frameworks like PEST, SWOT, and Porter’s 5-Forces, to assess capabilities  and operating environment. and 

  • Business pivoting and transformation. 

Session 1: About Enterprises – their nature and their challenges 

Session 2: Being Future Ready – the key drivers and sub-drivers

Session 3: Business Strategy in Uncertainty

Session 4: Transformation for Sustainable Success

Session 5: Group Presentation by Participants 

About the Trainer

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Mr. Francis Tay is currently a lecturer at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Wee Kim Wee School for  Communications and Information (WKWSCI), teaching Business Intelligence and Information  Entrepreneurship in the Master of Knowledge Management course. His courses are also taken up by  students reading for their Master of Information Systems, Master of Information Studies and Master  of Mass Communications. He has also taught Organizational Leadership and Information Sources and  Services in the Master of Information Studies course. He has been teaching at NTU for more than 10  years. 

Francis has authored three books “Latent Factors”, “Turning Good Ideas into Great Businesses” and  “Picking Winners”. The first two books focus on business advantages and financial models and the  third book is on market intelligence and building up market and sector models for benchmarking  analysis. 

He founded NextGen Ventures Pte Ltd, an equity investment company that focuses on technology and  Internet-related businesses. He has held senior positions in government and government-linked  organizations. 

Francis obtained his Honours degree from NUS, majoring in Economics and Computer Science &  Applications, and his Master of Science in Management (Sloan Fellowship) from the London Business  School in the UK. Francis served 5 years on the National Youth Council’s Singapore Youth Awards  (SYA) Entrepreneurship committee and has provided mentorship to companies and others under  various business programmes at universities and start-up accelerators.

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