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Key strategies for business development in the dynamic world of business
Executive Education / 29 February 2024
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Dr. Götz Volkenandt is Managing Director of K&T Knowledge&Trends GmbH and was previously Managing Director of Kompass Projektpartner GmbH, Executive at IBM Global Business Services (Industry Leader Northeast Europe) and Partner at PwC Consulting (Industry Leader, HR Partner). Dr. Volkenandt is involved in teaching and holds a doctorate in aerospace engineering. He specialises in strategic management and corporate planning, innovation management and transformation, systems engineering and artificial intelligence.

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This is a challenge for many companies today. The large number of candidates for refocusing makes the decision more difficult. For most companies, it can no longer be a case of “business as usual”, as the pandemic, wars, inflation and technology hardly allow for it. So which events and developments should be taken into account in business development?

There are at least three conceivable answers:

1.) “Everything is going to be all right”

If we believe that these challenges will not lead to lasting changes in the market, then we could return to normality. Unfortunately, this mindset has already led to a certain blindness to developments because there have never been long periods of stable development in all areas at the same time. Something has always happened that has forced companies to act, or you could say to react. So, should we really only react when necessary?

2.) “Everything is going to change”

If the “disruptions to the economic system” are considered too big to ignore, then the question of prioritisation and focus arises. How much time, money and other resources should we invest in each issue? The theory that everything is changing inevitably means that we need to embark on a major transformation programme. Since we don’t want to neglect any important issues, this can quickly lead to an organisation being overwhelmed. What’s more, the battle for interpretive sovereignty is much greater, as it’s all about competing for resources, the best talent and attention. Some companies opt for the “shark tank” and let the leaders fight it out. Does this mean that the “best idea” wins, or the “loudest”?

3.) “There are key areas that we need to address”

There will be changes in all areas, but the changes will only be significant enough for us to take action in a few areas of the business. We need to decide today what our priorities are for the future. That means deciding today what role resource constraints, AI and different skills will play. And we need to decide on the focus of business development accordingly. Because of the complexity of future events, we either fall back on the favourite ideas of leaders in the company, or we simply look at what the competition or the market is doing and then do the same. But if everyone is doing it and we are not the first, does that still give us a competitive advantage?

None of these answers sound very attractive, there is definitely a clear personal preference for most of the protagonists, but what is the best approach for the company?

Business development needs a wind of change. The idea of a stable process with only minor changes is a guarantee of failure.

The characteristics of Business Development should be:

1.) Flexible

Business development must not be subject to cycles (such as annual planning) to which all activities are aligned. Instead, we must force ourselves to constantly question our procedures and methods, as the general parameters and requirements are constantly changing.

2.) Proactive

Without a ” glimpse into the future”, we will always be reacting rather than making truly thoughtful decisions about priorities. To make a conscious and considered decision, we need to take the time to talk about the future.

3.) Conscious

When we are proactive, because we want to act rather than to react, we create the conditions for conscious decision-making. Since not all developments can easily be calculated in a schematic business case, alternative decision-making mechanisms are required.

4.) Consequential

The willingness to “stop” is relevant when conditions have changed, when we have misjudged the future, or when projects cannot be realised as expected. This is a good reason to rethink our decisions. This is not a failure! We always learn from it and improve, which means that the whole organisation benefits.

5.) Sensitive

Being “sensitive to what’s happening out there” means taking a look at developments several times a year. Division of labour always helps efficiency, and effectiveness often thrives on intrinsic motivation and genuine collaboration.

These are just some of the requirements for business development from the perspective of current trends and developments. To illustrate this a bit more clearly, a little mental exercise might serve as a fitting conclusion: Imagine that artificial intelligence continues to develop as rapidly as it is today. LLMs (Large Language Models) in solutions like ChatGPT are already doing amazing things. Imagine if AI solutions were available not only as chat partners, but also for specific tasks, such as procurement. Your customers’ purchasing departments would have AI purchasers to buy from you or your competitors, or to prepare purchases. What impact would this have on your sales organisation, etc.?

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