A Year in the Life of Strategic Planning: Create an Annual Strategic Planning Cycle that Supports Key Roles and Builds Up to a Strong Finish

The first article in our Strategic Planning series discusses how Competitive Intelligence can and should adapt depending on the type of strategic planning model your business employs. Our second piece focuses on constructive CI research queries that help your business target specific issues unique to your enterprise, thus gaining more insightful reporting relating to strategic goals.

We turn next to the concept of setting up CI research building blocks to both monitor progress and propel strategic planning endeavors forward throughout the year. Every quarter, corporate divisions should be working toward specific objectives that build on one another to serve the overarching corporate strategic planning cycle, and by extension, the overall good of the corporation. Under this strategic planning process umbrella, the overall corporate strategic plan must take its cues, so to speak, from each of these divisions’ annual plans. Each of these divisional entities should develop a routine cadence tied to quarterly CI reporting, with specific deliverables being aimed at the strategic planning development stages in the latter parts of the year.

Quarterly business performance indicators within each division are gleaned from several competitive intelligence functions, including, 1) pressure testing competitive strategies; 2) competitive and marketing intelligence reporting; 3) customer insights; and 4) competitive monitoring and alerts. Bearing in mind that a quarterly business review of business performance is essential to keeping everyone on track throughout the year, let’s break down what an annual strategic planning cycle looks like when it leverages these four CI functions:

Q1 – The first quarter cycle places most of its emphasis on research and preparation. During this Q1 cycle, business units put all four of the above CI functions in play to 1) facilitate business war games; 2) create a market entry assessment; 3) develop a customized comparative journey map; and 4) begin the work of timely and relevant insight into market movements, competitors and conferences.

Q2 – In this cycle, research and preparation continues, with BUs taking on more in-depth examinations based on the high-level corporate findings from the previous quarter. Strategic planning now moves into scenario workshops and refinement, with CI functions from Q1 serving as the foundation for additional CI functions that 1) facilitate these workshops; and 2) build new competitor profiles.

Q3 – The third quarter activity takes the intelligence gains from the previous two quarters and progresses toward developing the overall corporate strategic plan itself, with BUs taking up key roles in helping to devise that plan. This work gets a boost from more targeted CI functions that 1) develop a competitor function profile; and 2) create a customer usability study. By the third quarterly business review, all BU stakeholders and management will have a much clearer strategic direction going into the fourth quarter.

Q4 – Once the strategic planning cycle reaches the fourth quarter, a key CI pressure testing component is added, in which BUs develop their own key performance indicators. Throughout the year, competitive monitoring, alerts, and ongoing intelligence functions culminate in a final review communicating cumulative gains based on the strategic planning effort, down through the ranks as well as up the ladder in a board review setting.

One key rule to remember is that your strategic planning process is never really complete. The goal is to repeat the cycle and continually improve over time. Transparency, adherence to a set schedule, and developing reliable KPIs that build up to strong yearly results are excellent ways to stay on this progressive path.

About Proactive Worldwide, Inc.
Proactive Worldwide, Inc. is a global research and strategic intelligence consulting firm that provides evidence-based, constructive information within the competitive intelligence, market intelligence, and customer insights domains. Anchored by primary source research for over 22 years, PWW’s multilingual professionals assist clients with offerings that include but are not limited to market intelligence and competitive research services, market entry and defense strategies, war gaming workshops and scenario planning events, and customer experience and voice of customer studies.

Changes Will Continue to Impact the Trucking and Shipping Industry in 2019

The transportation and freight industry affects nearly all other industries, so it’s important to be aware of new innovations in that industry. Technology already has – and will continue to have – an enormous influence on the way the trucking industry operates. Here are just two possibilities:

  • What if you knew that there would be a lack of shipping capacity two years before it happened?
  • What would happen if you could move product to customers faster than competitors?

Foresight is critical to a company’s competitive strategy and seeing potential future market changes helps keep businesses’ competitive intelligence functions high on the priority list.

A retiring workforce, new regulations, and equipment shortages have created capacity constraints and are likely years away from being solved. There are several trends that have significant impacts on the way goods are transported. Competitive intelligence functions help identify these potential changes and suggest ways to use them to a company’s advantage.

Here are four innovative trends in the trucking space and why they should matter to you:

On-Demand Freight
Technology will continue to advance in every market, and trucking and freight will be no exception. On-Demand Freight Services simplify the way drivers and customers connect. The concept is simple: companies/users find and connect with service providers quickly, easily, and transparently through websites and mobile apps. Making connections this way streamlines the logistics process for low and medium-volume customers, and it removes the need for middlemen, usually 3PLs and other transportation brokers. For example, Uber Freight has transformed the industry with their product, and there are others on the way, including UPS, which launched an on-demand fulfillment networked geared towared B2B e-commerce, matching customers with available warehouse space.

Above all, on-demand applications connect shippers (or owners/operators) to customers directly. As adoption and use accelerates, shipping dynamics will quickly change the way companies transfer products to customers.

Why it Matters
Currently, the use of these services is modest; however, as they develop, local shipments across the country (e.g., less than 300 miles) will see activity. The technology has the capability to deliver products to market faster and improve the execution of just-in-time delivery capabilities.

  • Reducing the number of steps between the customer and shipper can change industry dynamics quickly. The technology under development is seeking to make this a reality.
  • These applications can provide owners/operators further control of the freight market, leading to a notable power shift in the industry (think Porter’s 5 Forces).
  • This technology has the potential to trigger new economic models for investors and companies seeking to support acceleration in this venue.

Electric Trucks
Most organizations understand the implications of electrically powered trucks; however, it’s probably unlikely that those who make strategic decisions have had an in-depth discussion of the advantages and disadvantages.

Electically powered trucks, while still under development, have the potential to change the cost structure of transporting goods. Fuel costs are commonly identified as the second highest cost, outside of driver compensation, to a fleet’s operation and are shared with customers (and consumers). Electric vehicles reduce or eliminate fuel costs in dramatic ways. In fact, many oil companies are closely monitoring the electrification market to determine the potential impact it will have on the U.S. gasoline and diesel market. If the technology advances, it can dramatically change the cost structure of moving cargo.

Why it Matters
Companies that offer price structures that no longer have fuel as the primary cost-driver can be dramatically different. Those who adopt them also put pressure on organizations that are not prepared to change.

Industries that rely on “business as normal” in the trucking space can see change in many industry segments. Truck-component suppliers, fuel companies, service/repair businesses, and insurance companies are just a few that will be impacted initially. Once the technology is proven, the market shift will happen quickly.

New companies may quickly enter the space and as non-industry players enter, it can instantly change the definition of who might be a competitor. Electrification can be a barrier-lowering event and can upend the market as well as create new opportunities.

New services and infrastructure will be necessary to support electrically powered vehicle operations.

Autonomous Trucks & Vans
With organizations like Freightliner showcasing trucks that have passive drivers and others pushing for completely driverless solutions, the way that we currently deliver freight will change dramatically. The change will not be overnight, but as acceptance grows and confidence builds, change will accelerate. Several organizations are testing autonomous trucking solutions. Most notable and successful have been autonomous vans delivering groceries and small parcels to homes. These small-scale delivery examples can help pave the way for larger applications. Success in the use of autonomous automotive vehicles in the private sector will accelerate their use in trucking.

The economic impact of autonomous trucking makes the likelihood of its success more about when, not if. Consumer demand for receiving products faster is higher than ever and organizations desire to keep costs of inventorying product low. Autonomous trucks help make that a reality.

Why it matters
The ability to circumvent bottlenecks in the transportation industry today (driver shortages, fuel costs, driver hour limitations) can drastically change a fleet’s strategy and cost structure. This affects both companies operating in the space and companies using carriers for business.

Semi-autonomous vehicles, which are expected to be mainstream prior to full driverless technologies, can impact the industry just as much. Semi-autonomous trucks/vans can increase operation times, improve safety, and optimize fuel consumption. Companies having these tools first or as part of the strategy moving forward is beneficial for lowering fleet costs or rates to customers.

Similar to the use of electrically powered vehicles, autonomous trucking can impact companies that have operational strategies that do not adjust for change. Playing a role in how the industry develops (versus sitting on the sideline) can tilt elements in some organizations’ favor.

Driverless or semi-driverless environments will require investments, new ways of looking at the freight market, and technology integration that brings rewards.

Industry Consolidation on the Horizon
With the bottlenecks of driver shortages, hours available, and rising costs of operation , consolidation in the trucking and freight space is expected to accelerate in 2019. Although, it’s not only freight companies that will see change; the growth of technology, 3PLs, 4PLs, and telematics companies creates significant consolidation opportunities. Technology and telematics companies are of particular interest because they already offer sophisticated solutions and have a captive customer base. Acquisition of these players by OEMs, freight companies, or non-industry players will dramatically enhance available and future solutions.

Why it matters
For those operating in the market, competitive threats can quickly change and escalate, and acquisitions of technology providers can be significant.

It’s expected that large companies will get larger. Owning more of the value chain or shoring-up capability gaps/ coverage is expected as companies pursue lowering costs or eliminating bottlenecks.

Consolidation can bring chaos or interesting opportunities.

What to Consider
Here are some considerations to think about when seeking to connect competitive intelligence to the critical topic of transportation and logistics:

  • Understand what your organization is doing regarding freight strategies and the possible opportunities the future holds. Chances are, topics like on-demand freight and consolidation may not be high frequency topics, although they should be.
  • Identify whether your competition has adopted strategies to address new technology, such as electrification or on-demand freight technology in their businesses and, if you can, how it has worked for them. Early warnings here can make huge differences.
  • Identify potential disruption risks in customer markets. How much exposure do your customers have? What percentage of your business do these customers represent?
  • Analyze and monitor the market for major events, technology advancements, M&As, JVs, or product launches that can inform leadership of large market shifts. Pay particular attention to companies like Amazon or Uber making acquisitions. Many of these topics are changing the barriers to entry.
  • Explore what investments are essential for the success of autonomous trucks/vans and determine how your organization can align investments. Initial investments can be minimal; however, when the technology is proven, preparation will allow for quick investment decisions that can put an organization well ahead of the competition.
  • Most importantly, consider how your organization can turn this trend into a competitive advantage.

Conclusion
Technological changes accelerate rapidly in today’s world, and trucking and delivery organizations need to consider a myriad of options as this article suggests, but decision-makers have businesses to run. Proactive Worldwide is in business to help lighten the load.

About Proactive Worldwide, Inc.
Proactive Worldwide, Inc. is a global research and strategic intelligence consulting firm that provides evidence-based, constructive information within the competitive-intelligence, market-intelligence, and customer-insights domains. Anchored by primary-source research for over 22 years, PWW’s multilingual professionals assist clients with offerings that include – but are not limited to – market intelligence and competitive research services, market-entry and defense strategies, war-gaming workshops and scenario-planning events, and customer-experience and voice-of-customer studies. To learn more, visit http://www.proactiveworldwide.com.

Legalized Pot: Opportunity Knocks for Savvy Industries

In the not-so-distant past, anyone who wanted to partake of marijuana in any form risked running afoul of state laws, but that’s rapidly changing despite continued federal prohibition, which is unlikely to change under the Trump administration. Today 30 states and D.C. have some form of legalized medical marijuana, and 15 more are considering legalization for medicinal use even in children with appropriate treatable medical conditions. However, some states have gone further.

Legalized Recreational Cannabis: Its Impact on the Economy
Of those states with medical legalization, 10 states have also legalized recreational use, leaving only five states that still follow the federal prohibition guidelines despite public opinion, which indicates that 61% of Americans approve of legalization in some form. And that’s good news, not only for marijuana suppliers and growers but also for enterprises that offer related products or services, such as security. A recent report by Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics estimates that, overall, the legal marijuana industry will have a $40 billion impact on the economy by 2021.

An Expanding Marketplace
The introduction of recreational sales represents a windfall for cash-strapped states in terms of tax revenues, jobs, and reduced law enforcement costs, but states are not the only beneficiaries. There is huge potential for the introduction of all sorts of food, beverage, and topical products with a cannabis component, but the opportunities don’t stop with consumables. If they’re savvy, all sorts of ancillary industries can benefit: growers, packagers, and equipment manufacturers are on this list.

Growers in pot-legal states typically grow their plants indoors or in greenhouses. This practice accrues to the benefit of realtors who rent/sell space, manufacturers of lighting equipment, providers of water and water-filtration products, and those who supply building automation to regulate the growing conditions.

Diverse Uses of Cannabis in Other Products
Seldom does one see a single product used in so many different ways. In the case of cannabis-added products, people can smoke them, drink them, eat them, or rub them on their skins. Each category requires a different type of packaging, and within each category, there may be more than one option, e.g., beer can be canned, bottled, or kegged. Wine can come in a bottle or a box. Food can be dried, frozen, or fresh.

Agriculture Products and Growing Solutions
Besides consumables and topical products, other pot-including products are reaching the marketplace rapidly, and some owe their existence to the development of pot-based fertilizer. Pot-based fertilizer is important for growers to use to prevent the negative effects of ordinary fertilizer, and considerable scientific research and testing has gone into its development. Appropriate growing solutions are now available too. These additions will enable marijuana growers to provide a more-robust product.

Transportation
Other industries that can – and many already do – benefit from cannabis legalization include transportation that moves products to processors and from processors to dispensaries and ultimately to consumers, or in the case of foods and beverages, to bars, restaurants, and stores that sell cannabis-containing products. This area too is expected to expand as other states hop on the legalized-cannabis bandwagon.

Security
Because of the nature of the products, security plays an important role in ensuring their safety and the safety of the buyers/sellers as well. Security firms are hard at work to provide security automation to leverage cutting-edge security solutions that provide safe work environments and reduce operational overhead.

Facilities Maintenance
The needs of growers and processors will change as time goes on and new products/processes come on the scene. Undoubtedly, equipment will need upgrading as the market expands and refines. New capabilities may call for new approaches.

Human Resources
Because cannabis is involved, product growers/developers will need to be vigilant in hiring workers/staff, even in states where the products are legal, but especially in states that are close or contiguous to non-legal states. Background checks will be helpful, but penalties should be severe for workers/employees who cross state lines to sell products in non-legal states. Track-and-trace software can be useful for this purpose.

Digital Strategy
Almost anyone with almost anything to sell has a digital presence today, but not purveyors of pot-containing products, even in states where recreational marijuana is legal. So it is left to blogs and other “personal” accounts to carry any message regarding legal pot-containing products. When questioned, the majority of site owners report that only federal approval would lift their ban.

An Increasingly Competitive Landscape
In states where recreational cannabis is legal, it’s a market on steroids. Legalized pot could possibly be the leading cash crop in the U.S. within the next 20 years, and competition is fierce to be among the leaders of the pack. Competitors are very aggressive in their strategies for seeking new markets, and they’re not wasting time. Many are already developing plans or testing concepts to launch in the coming 12 months. There will be winners, and there will be losers. Those who win will be those who have prepared well and have developed the most effective marketing and competitive-entry strategies.

Where to Turn for Help
Proactive Worldwide (PWW) is in business to help enterprises achieve their goals. In this case, that means taking a sizeable chunk of a $40B jackpot. Our researchers and analysts can help develop innovative market-entry strategies that adapt to the competitive and regulatory challenges ahead. We focus on crafting business strategies that succeed.

About Proactive Worldwide, Inc.
Proactive Worldwide, Inc. is a global research and strategic intelligence consulting firm that provides evidence-based, constructive information within the competitive-intelligence, market-intelligence, and customer-insights domains. Anchored by primary-source research for over 22 years, PWW’s multilingual professionals assist clients with offerings that include – but are not limited to – market intelligence and competitive research services, market-entry and defense strategies, war-gaming workshops and scenario- planning events, and customer-experience and voice-of-customer studies. To learn more, visit http://www.proactiveworldwide.com.

Asking the Right Questions from the Start: Get the Most Value from CI Functions with Queries Structured to Advance Your Strategic Goals

The first article in our Strategic Planning series discusses how Competitive Intelligence can and should adapt depending on the type of strategic planning model your business employs.

This section focuses on common research questions that have varying degrees of value to solving your enterprise’s unique issues and strategic aims. When strategic planning activities start to heat up, it’s crucial that leadership stakeholders first build and foster understanding and consensus on what your business is trying to achieve. Since no two companies are the same, a fundamental part of this phase involves knowing what kind of questions your business should be asking to get the most out of its competitive intelligence functions. Getting this piece right is arguably your best shot at enabling your competitive intelligence program to work in concert with your strategic planning efforts. The set of typical questions that follow offer a broad range of competitive intelligence that may help your business gain the analytical decision support it needs in setting realistic goals during strategic planning season.

  1. How are competitors under- or over-performing against our organization? What do we do?
  2. What opportunities can we take advantage of? What are the top priorities?
  3. What are the threats to our business? Our plans? Our success? What can disrupt our plans? How do we respond?
  4. What does differentiation look like? What should our priorities be?
  5. How can we grow our business? How can we be successful against competition? What will have the largest impact?
  6. What is competition doing to grow their business? Where are competitors investing? What does this mean to our plans?
  7. What partnerships can we create to put us into a better market position?
  8. How are we getting closer to customers than competition? What are they doing that is better than we are? What should our investment priorities be?
  9. How is technology being leveraged to improve speed-to-customer, customer experience, or reducing overhead within competition? What are the implications in the short- and long-term?
  10. How are competitors getting longer-term agreements/more sticky with customers? What can we do about it?

There may be other queries and tangential offshoots that are worthy of consideration. The key is in finding which of these CI functions can best help your organization resolve its business challenges, improve its business bottom line, and achieve the most ROI. We hope these query suggestions help your leadership think more creatively in devising its CI program to more effectively gain valuable insights during this season of strategic planning.

About Proactive Worldwide, Inc.
Proactive Worldwide, Inc. is a global research and strategic intelligence consulting firm that provides evidence-based, constructive information within the competitive-intelligence, market-intelligence, and customer-insights domains. Anchored by primary-source research for over 22 years, PWW’s multilingual professionals assist clients with offerings that include – but are not limited to – market intelligence and competitive research services, market-entry and defense strategies, war-gaming workshops and scenario- planning events, and customer-experience and voice-of-customer studies.

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