Every strategist knows all too well that it is a position that requires constant flux, transformation, evolution. In fact, change is the beating heart of the role. These skills in flexibility have never been more relevant in a world that is innovating more and more rapidly every day. With the rise of artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality, augmented reality, the IoT and many, many more technological trends, all areas of industry are changing at an unprecedented pace, and effective strategy has never been more crucial.
So how is the role of the strategist evolving? We spoke to several of our speakers ahead of the Chief Strategy Officer Summit in Melbourne on 15-16 March, to find out how they believe the role will evolve over the coming years:
Craig Buszko, Strategy Lead & Advisor World Vision International
"First is how strategists provide insight. We are in the data/information age, where staggering amounts of data/information are flowing in and out of businesses. From detailed tracking of consumer behaviors via mobile devices through to sensors across supply chains. An organization's success is predicated on its ability to use the information flowing around them.
The role of the strategist needs to evolve around employing the use of data and information in new ways to inform business strategy. A way to describe this is to contrast where classical strategy formulation has come from and where modern-day strategy needs to work.
Historically, formulating a strategy based on annual markers of your market, your organization, and your competitors would have been sufficient. Implementing your 5-year strategy into annual business plans with quarterly reviews would have been sufficient. But today, your organization and your competitors literally have access to terabytes of information in real time.
As a strategist, can you honestly sit on that and only sample it a few times a year? The reality is the strategies that succeed are the ones that employ the richness of data in new ways, and strategy processes and strategists need to flex around this. I've noticed many of the leading business schools are evolving their MBA curriculums to include more on business analysis, some even offering dedicated degrees. I think this is a clear sign of the reality today organizations are facing."
Second is tougher; how do strategists provide foresight? I think the time horizon for decisions based on insight is squeezing based on the flow of data. So the directional future strategists help determine for organizations are going to need a more foresight approach.
Running scenarios that model different futures to inform the choices you make today are absolutely essential. At World Vision, we are already seeing things we thought would occur in 5 years are happening now, and things we thought were going to happen in 12 months are more likely a few years away. It's getting tougher for executives and boards to make decisions given the increasing uncertainty that the future holds within many industries and sectors. I think the strategist needs to help provide more in strategic foresight.
Tam Nguyen, EO Research, St Vincent's Hospital
"The role of a strategist is a relatively new role with increasing importance in many organizations, especially in health and medical research sector. In the coming years, we will probably tradition roles such as research business development and research commercialization transforming to the research strategist roles that develop and implement strategies with the drive for innovation. I think the strategist role will gain wider understanding and acceptance as the sector moves into the innovation era and disruptive technology. If health and medical research organizations wish to shift their focus on maximizing the growth opportunities that lie ahead, they will need to reorientate their strategy function into a proactive business role. Depending on how established the organization is, the function of a strategist could be one of or a combination of the following: 1. Internal Consulting - focusing purely on strategy formulation 2. Specialist - with specific skills that missing from the organization 3. Facilitator - to facilitate strategy formulation 4. Change Agent - to execute strategy."
Jo Clancy, Senior Strategy Analyst & Innovation Lead, Transport Accident Commission
"I believe the role of a strategist is going to ramp up in terms of adaptability to change. Developing flexible strategies with key success measures that can be reviewed and refined on a regular basis. Also, a focus on continual scanning and review of rapidly changing circumstances, both internal and external to the company. This is one of the key imperatives for companies to employ innovative approaches for execution of their strategy. Ensuring that they are focussed on rapid experimentation and regular customer feedback provides a great objective platform. Ensure you are using the right data and measures for refining, adding, improving or pivoting your strategic initiatives in adapting to change."
Jacques Markgraaff, GM Strategy, Planning & Innovation at Coca-Cola Amatil
"My prediction is that the role of a strategist will become increasingly important as businesses try to make sense of growing levels of uncertainty and disruption. Automation and AI will undoubtedly impact a number of traditional strategy areas such as planning & forecasting; trend analysis etc. Augmenting the strategy capability with these tools will lead to increasing levels of sophistication in modeling and more accurate predictions on the likely future and resulting economics of strategic options. This will be an exciting development. There will, therefore, be a need for strategy professionals to 'move up the value chain' and offer a broader level of disciplines and competencies including Strategy Alignment, The psychology of building a winning mindset, while developing new capabilities such as AI training etc."
The overall consensus of our experts is that the role of the strategist is set to grow exponentially over the coming years. What's more, it's a role that will diversify at the same speed as the current rate of innovation. This means that senior level strategists will need to ensure they are consistently up-to-date with trends and technology, and always adaptable in the changing landscape of the future.
To hear more from our speakers, join them on the 15-16 March in Melbourne for the Chief Strategy Officer Summit.