Futurist Says Preparation Is Key To Survival

NASHVILLE, TN — Companies must spend more resources planning for the future if they wish to survive in a rapidly changing economy, futurist Ed Barlow told attendees of the National Conference on Operations & Fulfillment yesterday.

Barlow, president of Creating the Future Inc., told the audience of the NCOF luncheon keynote here at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center that 20 percent of everything they know about their business will be obsolete within a year. To keep up, businesses must put processes in place to let them constantly prepare to meet future needs.

“Individually and collectively, we need to do a better job of keeping an eye on the horizon,” Barlow said.

By 2004, companies should build the “internal capacity to reinvent themselves every 12 to 18 months,” Barlow said, adding that failure to do so could mean going out of business.

With the world changing so rapidly, managers need to familiarize themselves with new trends every day, Barlow said. He suggested keeping close tabs on demographic information.

Within the United States, the demographic makeup is changing, with minorities making up a larger portion of the consumer pool and immigrant employees representing a larger part of the workforce. Worldwide, global markets are accounting for larger percentages of company revenues.

From a customer-service perspective, consumers are becoming much more demanding, Barlow said. They expect to have the ability to track the status of purchases and requests on their own, to get personalized voice and e-mail service and to deal with service representatives that are knowledgeable about their personal history with the company.

“Everything has got to be personalized,” he said. “What people like best is when a service helps them help themselves.”

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