Suits The C-Suite

(Second of two parts)

Consumer product companies face the challenge of transforming to stay relevant to rapidly changing consumer needs, but global research commissioned by EY reveals concerns in whether leaders are taking the right actions to steer their organizations.

In a recent global C-Suite survey, “Becoming Future Fit: Challenges and Opportunities for Today’s Consumer Products Companies,” which was commissioned by EY from MIT SMR Connections, 86% of the surveyed C-Suites said transformation was essential to become future-ready, but they face uneven progress due to conflicting priorities and a shortage of talent necessary to facilitate change. Unless companies find ways to overcome these hurdles, they will fail to achieve their transformation goals and grow increasingly out of step with the demands of tomorrow’s consumers.

In the first part of this two-part article, we discussed the first two key design principles necessary to drive agility, responsiveness and resilience: becoming part of dynamic business ecosystems and building upon data and analytics with data fabric. In this second part, we discuss the remaining three key design principles: encouraging talent flexibility, innovating at scale and embedding Purpose into every facet of the organization.

For these principles to be at their most effective, it is best that organizations excel in all rather than merely do well in one or two, and they must be accomplished in a manner that builds and sustains trust not just with consumers but with their people and all their ecosystem partners.

Transformation will require developing people with deep skills in key areas such as data transformation, but organizations will also need generalists across functions capable of working together in new ways. An adaptive workforce and culture will be able thrive when supported by emerging technologies and new methods of collaboration in a reimagined workplace. In the EY 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey, emphasis is placed in putting humans at the center with the future of work enabled by transformative digital tools.

Everyone must be involved in the effort to innovate. People on the frontlines are often the best sources of ideas, as they deal with consumer and ecosystem partners directly and on a daily basis, but these ideas are often either not captured or are weighed down by rigid processes.

By taking a future-back approach to strategic planning, investing in data and moving toward resilient supply networks driven by data, companies will be able to innovate at scale and enable hyper personalization. The most successfully innovative ideas support technologies and cultures that capture, rapidly develop and scale ideas that work, and move to the forefront of reshaping both customer and industry expectations.

The purpose of an organization defines its value propositions, its role in ecosystems, how it attracts and retains talent, its partners and which consumers it serves. Although purpose and sustainability are key drivers of value, they are not always made an integral part of operations. Although sector-specific issues vary, a purpose-led growth strategy can address critical issues of trust, technology, trade and sustainability while keeping humans at the center of every decision.

As leaders look to reframe for the future of their organizations, investors, consumers, employees and the wider society mandate them to become more purpose-led in creating long-term value. The objectives are growth that is accelerated yet sustainable, a stronger market position, and a better working world for all stakeholders.

While there is no clear finish line in the race to become future fit, organizations that transform around the five principles will be in a much better position to stay ahead of changing market forces. Fostering better relationships with their consumers will lead to long-term relationships on foundations of trust while being in a stronger position to collaborate with partners with increased agility, enabling them to bring products to market quicker.

CEOs can take three key actions that are crucial in delivering a future-fit operating model, the first of which is to set a leadership vision that disrupts organizational barriers. Although the organization is on a transformation journey, it is essential to ensure the entire organization is on the journey as well. CEOs are meant to challenge the orthodox and inspire action, but the Becoming Future Fit global survey reveals that 63% of leaders expected corporate culture to be a source of resistance, while 55% cited the failure to orchestrate a transformation roadmap to be another potential barrier.

Second, CEOs must be realistic in setting timelines to build capabilities. In the global survey, 61% of leaders said it was critical to create a flexible talent pool within two years, but an adjunct professor quoted in the survey reports that it takes three to seven years just to onboard everyone, align incentives, and get buy-in.

Lastly, leaders must start from what is necessary in the future, and not based on what they are capable of today. The global survey found that although 77% of leaders said they had the emerging technologies necessary to transform their operating model, 70% identified the need to upgrade their technology infrastructure as a significant barrier to transformation. This contradiction highlights the gap between having the needed capabilities for today instead of tomorrow, creating consequences in delivering the transformation agenda.

It should be established that there is no single business model that can win in the future at scale, as CEOs will need to deliver many different models, strategies and propositions from a core operating model. Leaders will need to keep adapting business strategies and priorities to anticipate potential disruptors and reflect volatile market conditions.

This requires a perspective that does not make the present and future mutually exclusive. Leaders must employ the mindset that the value they create today will fund their transformation in the future, while investments made in future transformation will aid in creating value today — presenting the opportunity to create a virtuous cycle.

This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.


Maria Kathrina S. Macaisa-Peña is a business consulting partner and the consumer products and retail sector leader of SGV & Co.