Preparing your company for its future takes many steps, and ensuring you’re planning in the right way is crucial for the success of your company. With nearly 30,000 businesses expected to fail this year due to a number of factors, including high interest rates, it is more important than ever that you’re preparing your business in the right way for the challenges to come.

The business market is always uncertain, with changes and threats creating instability across all industries. The current high interest rates, growing personal debt, and rapid innovations in technology lowering barriers to entry and creating new competitors are a cause for concern for many businesses. Staying ahead of trends, threats, and likely market change is the only way to ensure that your business can prepare adequately for what is ahead.

But what is horizon scanning, and how can you use it to improve your business’ chances?

What is horizon scanning?

Horizontal scanning involves business owners trying to understand the next decade in their industry, attempting to picture the changes and threats they are likely to see and prepare for. It is a common tool for entrepreneurs and big business owners wanting to get ahead of the curve when it comes to business challenges.

Horizon scanning involves systematically exploring potential threats and opportunities that could affect future growth and success. It’s about anticipating changes in the market, technology, regulatory environment, and societal shifts.

By identifying trends and potential market shifts early, companies can adapt their products and strategies proactively. This can be crucial to staying relevant and competitive.

Horizontal scanning is vital for any company looking to gain, or even maintain, a competitive advantage. In this way, you can view the trends of the past year and upcoming movements and attempt to predict future changes to prepare your business in a necessary way to stay ahead of your competition.

Neglecting this activity could mean that you’re giving other businesses the chance to put themselves in a better position in the future, potentially offering the products and services that customers want but that you’re not in a position to offer.

How to implement horizon scanning into your processes

Horizontal scanning can cover plenty of areas within your business, including technology. Keeping ahead of emerging technological trends and developments can ensure that you’re maintaining the best processes going forward, whether this is exploring the uses of AI or automated systems within your own business. Failing to keep up with technology could cost your business time, money, and resources.

However, it also has a hand in other areas of your business. Horizon scanning is about more than just technology; it’s about pre-empting changes in customer behaviour and shifts in the supply chain, as well as the tools that will impact a business in the future.

The outputs from a horizon scanning process should be considered strategically rather than tactically, so that businesses can take a proactive position in the face of change rather than reactive.

Who should be performing this task in your business?

Your management should all be taking the time to keep themselves aware of industry and competitive trends, and the sales team is a critical element too, talking to their clients and prospects about the things they need from your organisation. A common mistake is to leave it to IT, who are generally one step removed from the customer. They can provide valuable insight but should be there to support and guide rather than be a single source of innovation.

Successful businesses not only need to look back to understand and analyse their historical data, but horizon scanning is becoming a much more urgent need. While business owners cannot always predict everything that will happen in the next decade, or even year, of their business, it is important that you’re keeping a keen eye on the future of your industry, technologies, and customer demands to ensure that you’re maintaining or gaining a competitive advantage where possible.