Saturday, September 8, 2012

External Drivers

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The External Drivers for the 10s

The external drivers are the factors outside an organisation which cannot be controlled directly (except perhaps at the margins) by the management team, but which influence the future success of the business. The external drivers for the 10s include

• the global economy - is there a trend for growth? Will changes in trading blocs provide new opportunities or hinder global trade? How can an organisation combat the threats from low-cost economies?

• changes in demographics and lifestyles - for example, the ageing population; changing employment patterns, including a surplus of people available for work; couples deferring parenthood until later in life; the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots

• environmental issues - more legislation has added cost and complexity, while consumer demand for environmentally-friendly products is increasing

• market factors - there is a greater fragmentation of markets, and consumers demand more variety, better quality and service. This results in a wider range of products with shorter lifestyles

• increased competition - markets are becoming global, and deregulation of public procurement and outsourcing of non-core services will add new pressures

• technology - while offering opportunities for product differentiation, new technology often adds complexity, and may be controlled by a smaller number of suppliers

• suppliers - trends include collaboration (e.g. partnerships and alliances) between suppliers and manufacturers and sub-contracting of non-core services. In some industries supplies are being increasingly purchased from a small number of prime suppliers/contractors.

These result in four requirements which manufacturers should address.

These drivers can be summarised in four key requirements which manufacturers should consider when setting and evaluating their business plans.

First, there is the need to meet higher customer expectations. Customer power is increasingly important, and to remain successful a manufacturer must satisfy existing and new customers profitably. This increasingly requires a comprehensive product package, a competitive price, and the highest possible standards of product choice, performance, fitness for purpose, quality, delivery and service, in order to differentiate the companys offering from those of its competitors.

Second, manufacturers should expect more complexity in their key businesses. This might include multi-technologies in both the product itself and in the manufacturing process. It could also result in a wider product range, the customisation of products, more variety of components used, more types of customer and market niches addressed, and more lines of supply to those customers. Additionally, it may encourage manufacturers to become more focused on their core businesses and competencies, placing investment into the highest value-adding activities.

Third, manufacturers should expect more uncertainty in their business, from a changing customer profile to shorter product lifecycles, more product choice and customisation, shorter delivery lead times, and more competition. These add up to uncertain demand characteristics, uncertain product lifecycles and associated investment decisions, and hence uncertainty about what is needed to maintain competitive advantage. Financial uncertainty will also remain high, affected by factors such as fluctuating exchange and interest rates and varying rates of inflation.

Finally, there is a growing competitive and legislative pressure, which will place additional strains upon the business, forcing product, process or working practices to change. Additional resources and expense will be required to address these issues.

In order to remain successful into the late 10s, a manufacturer must identify and exploit the opportunities created by these external factors, and must develop a defence against the threats arising from them. These principles should be the foundation of his business strategy.

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