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Unlocking Sustainable Growth in the Middle East: Key Priorities for CEOs   

As the region witnesses remarkable strides in its non-oil economy, we outline four priorities CEOs must adopt now to balance challenges with potential.   

In the fast-changing landscape of the Middle East, strategic investments for sustainable growth and resilience are paramount. With notable advancements in the non-oil economy, diverse sectors are opening up new opportunities for development. The region’s robust economic diversification efforts are positioning it as a leading hub for growth. Organizations need to think holistically as they balance challenges against potential. Those who make the right bets now, navigating those complexities, will yield results that mitigate risks, lead to progress in efficiency and sustainability and improve their employer reputation. 

CEOs should make sure these four priorities are high on their lists:  

1. Navigating EU Green Deal to Unlock Expansion Opportunities   

Many organizations in the MEA are eying market expansion into Europe, which means they must comply with the EU Green Deal that passed in May last year. Some of these issues, of course, are about regulatory mandates. Businesses must invest in sustainability measures to avoid market access challenges. From a compliance standpoint, organizations entering the European market must adhere to the stringent environmental regulations outlined in the deal. Many of these focus on carbon emissions and energy efficiency, which are crucial for market entry.   

But expansion requires thinking beyond regulations. European institutions favor businesses aligned with Green Deal goals. Consumers also prefer businesses that highlight sustainable practices. So do potential employees. Tapping into that environmentally conscious consumer segment means companies should emphasize the many ways they are transitioning to a green economy. Take every opportunity to expand and highlight ways the enterprise focuses on renewable energy, clean technologies and sustainable practices.   

Forward-thinking companies will recognize the EU Green Deal as a two-way street, offering abundant possibilities for transferring technology and innovation. Look for ways to collaborate with European counterparts to foster new solutions. Middle Eastern businesses that can leverage partnerships to enhance their competitiveness in the European market will have a smoother entry into European markets than those that go it alone.   

2. Embracing Sustainability as a Catalyst for Growth  

With international, national and local mandates growing more explicit, it’s easy to continue to view sustainability efforts as a costly drag on profits. That’s short-sighted. For businesses to grow, they need to replace that thinking, enhancing business ecosystems by aligning growth strategies with sustainability.  

Sustainable practices nurture growth. They create a level playing field with companies around the globe and enhance brand reputation. They help attract and retain talent. Middle East businesses can contribute to a greener future and strengthen their resilience and competitiveness by combining growth and sustainability planning.  

In seeking a holistic blend of these initiatives, businesses can look at the bigger universe they operate in, promoting partnerships and interconnectedness. Planning for a future dependent on and interacting with other companies, governments, and community groups makes aligning growth goals with sustainability in clear and measurable ways easier. Goals should encompass carbon reduction and eco-friendly product development.   

3. Fostering Local Growth Amidst Saudi Arabia’s Megaproject Surge  

So many changes are underway in the largest economy in the Arab world that it’s hard to keep up. In keeping with its sweeping Vision 2030, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has stepped up public relations, marketing and communications efforts and is emerging as a top global destination. Last year, the country welcomed more than 100 million tourists, a milestone it had hoped to reach by 2030. That’s a jump of 56% from 2019 and 12% from 2022.  

It has also won plenty of global attention for megaprojects, like NEOM, a $500 billion megacity under development.  

That’s all crucial for the growth of KSA. Yet there seems to be a growing gap in providing sustainable projects that benefit the local population against massive megaprojects. This gap leaves plenty of room for businesses to launch initiatives, better positioning them in this important market, including:   

  • Prioritize local hiring of talent in both skilled and unskilled positions, contributing to job creation and economic empowerment.   
  • Support skill development initiatives and training programs that enhance the capabilities of the local workforce.   
  • Start infrastructure development projects throughout the value chain, which will connect to the vast business needs of megaprojects.  

4. Use Influencers and AI for Human-Centred Marketing  

Using artificial intelligence to power personalization and content creation is a trend that is as big in the Middle East as it is everywhere else. So is the importance of influencer marketing, particularly among larger corporations, and AI makes it possible to dramatically increase its reach.   

We are all for efficiency gains from thoughtfully deployed machine thinking. Yet as companies invest more in technologies, like GenAI for marketing and advertising, a crucial consideration for the Middle East emerges: How can companies maintain a human-centric focus? While consumers in the region are increasingly open to digital options, they’re wary of impersonal bots. They crave a human touch. That means companies need to find a delicate balance that preserves the creativity inherent in human behavior and the next generation of marketing. Even as companies step up investments in AI, they need to run all marketing solutions through customer-centric frameworks. Efficiency can’t come at the expense of genuine human connection.  


FINAL THOUGHTS

The MEA region’s business and investment landscape faces a pivotal moment, demanding strategic investments and holistic approaches to overcome challenges and seize opportunities. Embracing diversification, sustainability, and innovation, enables businesses to flourish in this dynamic environment, fostering a sustainable and more resilient future for the region. 

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Return to Growth: A Corporate Earnings Summary 

After a year of deep cuts and belt-tightening, recession fears have given way to confident resilience. 

The past four years have been tumultuous, with executives, across industries, forced to navigate market-wide headwinds, high-interest rates and a weakening labor market. Thankfully, the recession many feared, never materialized. Yet, leaders prepared for the worst, with 2023 widely considered the “Year of Efficiency.” Companies minimized and cut costs, optimized productivity and — at times — restructured their organizations to get closer to the market and remain above water.  

However, the tide is shifting, and 2024 is widely regarded as a return-to-growth year in which resiliency will reign supreme. To better understand what is behind this sense of optimism, Prophet analyzed over 50 corporate earnings reports from some of the world’s largest businesses, across industries. 

Our research found that last year’s “doing more with less” strategy paid off for most organizations, creating 85% year-over-year growth in net income across the companies studied. That’s a drastic improvement from similar research we conducted last year, which found a 22% decrease in earnings in 2022. 

Now that companies have optimized their organizations, they are getting back to the basics of growth. They are investing in flexible growth strategies that can endure beyond cost-cutting initiatives and efficiency maneuvers, and, thus, 2024 is shaping up to be the “Year of Resiliency.” 

Five Top Learnings From This Pivotal Earnings Season 

Leaning into Growth, Once Again 

“Efficiency” and “budget cuts” were the flash words that bounced around in the first half of 2023. Now, “innovation” and “expansion” are center stage. This earnings cycle saw exciting announcements for new products, services and experiences that transcend traditional industry boundaries.  

In retail, for example, Target announced Target Circle 360, its new paid membership program. It is pulling a page out of Amazon’s and Walmart’s playbooks and living up to CEO Brian Cornell’s promise of “making sure that we make Target a growth company again.” After Walmart’s year of optimizing, it witnessed a significant 23% year-over-year growth burst in e-commerce sales, bolstered by the announcement of a new B2B purchasing site, Walmart Business. 

Others are also expanding their portfolio of offerings and innovating their go-to-market strategies. Apple is rolling out a new B2B service platform, Apple Business Connect. Pfizer is extending its expertise (and brand) beyond respiratory as it goes deeper into oncology. And Peloton is launching “Peloton for Business.” These expansions represent the beginning of an accelerating trajectory toward growth.  

Embracing GenAI as a Strategic Growth Lever 

Almost all the companies in Prophet’s study say GenAI is a top priority, playing a role in driving not just efficiency but sustainable growth. Major technology players are paving the way, both as exemplars of “moving from talking about AI to applying AI at scale” within their business to launching new products like Microsoft Copilot, Google Gemini, and Amazon Rufus that allow other industries to use AI to power growth.  

EdTech company Chegg is embracing GenAI by developing automated, higher-accuracy question-and-answer services. In entertainment, DraftKings is using GenAI to lower customer acquisition costs and improve its targeting capabilities across its marketing efforts, resulting in it raising its 2024 revenue guidance. In the energy sector, GenAI has helped ExxonMobil leverage automated deep-sea drilling and optimize its widely dispersed field assets, helping it beat earnings expectations. 

To be clear, GenAI faces challenges, with mounting social concerns — and lawsuits — tied to privacy and cybersecurity issues. And then, there are the massive costs associated with training, upskilling and managing new systems. While introducing new technologies into an organization is not new news, GenAI is at a scale that requires massive paradigm shifts for most companies to maximize its positive impact while minimizing the downsides mentioned.  

Harnessing Customer-Centricity to Fuel World-Class Experiences 

Companies with the most substantial potential to break through increasingly competitive interconnected marketplaces are discovering ways to harness technologies to enhance customer-centricity, establish deeper levels of relevance and deliver unmatched value. 

In healthcare, CVS Health realized 11.9% revenue growth by harnessing advanced analytics, machine learning, and process automation to predict customer needs and generate tailored care services, such as its ExtraCare loyalty experience. It provides personalized health and beauty products, and members can choose “benefits that best fit their needs.” MetLife uses advanced technologies to create personalized insurance products that cater to specific customer needs and risk profiles. United Health Group, Walgreens and Cigna are all leveraging technologies to coordinate value-based care, enhance digital offerings and improve the patient experience. As a result of these investments, every healthcare company in Prophet’s analysis beat analyst estimates for revenue and earnings in the fourth quarter. 

In transportation, Ford Motor Company brought in a former Apple executive, Peter Stern, to help adapt to the changing EV landscape and build customer experiences through Ford+. CEO Jim Farley describes that hire as “transformational for this strategically vital part of our business.” 

In another way to get closer to customers, GE HealthCare is acquiring MIM Software to complement Predix, its industrial manufacturing cloud platform. MIM Software’s AI and analytical capabilities across practices are reshaping the possibilities of precision care for patients and providers, enabling GE to “meet customers’ most complex and pressing needs, today and into the future,” says CEO of MIM Software Andrew Nelson, proving once more how customer-driven solutions continue to elevate experiences.  

Driving Next-Generation Employee Value Propositions 

It is no secret the workplace has vastly changed as executives grapple with the COVID-induced remote-hybrid debate, the repercussions of mass lay-offs and quiet quitting and the undeniable risks posed by rapid automation. Executives in Prophet’s analysis believe their talent are the critical lynchpin to driving the transformative growth most are seeking. Accordingly, many companies are backing up their claims with significant investments and shifts in compensation, development and employee well-being. 

The Home Depot’s 2023 decision to invest approximately $1 billion in annualized compensation for its frontline, hourly associates — even in a down year — illustrates the importance of nurturing what it considers its key differentiator: the “Orange Aprons.” This strategic move underscores the company’s recognition that maintaining a satisfied, skilled, and motivated workforce is essential for navigating economic uncertainties and securing sustained growth. It is paying off, too, with meaningful improvement in attrition rates and an increase in its customer service score by 600 basis points. 

In leisure, Hilton adapted to the changing dynamics of work by launching the innovative “Hilton Work Anywhere” initiative. By enabling corporate employees to work remotely from its global network of hotels, Hilton taps into the growing demand for flexibility and remote work opportunities. Comparatively, Cisco focused on building external economic resilience by partnering with global HR services company Randstad to equip over 25 million people with digital skills through Cisco’s Networking Academy. Such partnerships and reskilling programs are pivotal in powering the future of innovation, growth and global competitiveness. 

Moving to Profitable Sustainability Impact 

While sustainability has continued to be a top priority for consumers, more companies in Prophet’s analysis are now proving that “doing the right thing” isn’t the only benefit of pushing an innovative sustainability agenda. For instance, building materials and provider Holcim set a goal of achieving 100% renewable energy in U.S. operations by 2050, and its eco-friendly solution ECOPact concrete, now accounts for 19% of Holcim’s ready-mix net sales. The company is also “driving fast-paced growth in circular construction” through its waste-minimizing ECOCycle practice, helping it differentiate and grow as a leader in sustainable construction. 

Eastman Chemical is working to solidify its position as “a leader in creating a circular economy,” capitalizing on customer demand and growth opportunities by replacing plastics with recycled-content-made products and innovative molecular recycling facilities.  

By embedding sustainability into their core growth strategies and moving beyond 2030 or 2040 Net-Zero Carbon commitments, companies are addressing pressing environmental challenges and positioning themselves as forward-thinking leaders in their respective industries, setting a new standard for corporate responsibility and innovation…and driving sustainable growth. 


Acknowledgments: Jason Tan, Jane Lee, Zach Lipkin, Mae Mourtisen, Will Littlejohn, Erik Muenster 


FINAL THOUGHTS

The cost-cutting, optimization and efficiency-grabbing efforts of 2023 have set the stage for a new and potentially powerful growth year. Many companies are at an inflection point, moving from a reactionary state to focusing on the future. Business leaders must have a long-term strategy to position themselves for sustainable, transformative and purposeful growth. They need to bring new products, services and experiences to market, keep AI at the forefront of their agenda, invest in their people across all dimensions of well-being, and fully integrate sustainability into their business model. Hopefully, when we return to you a year from now, we will be writing about the Year of Accelerated Growth! 

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A Formula for Kickstarting Behavioral Change and Creating Lasting Organizational Habits   

Unlock the secrets to organizational change with Behavior Kickstarters. Learn how rapid experiments can catalyze cultural shifts and drive impactful transformation.  

We’ve all been there. We start the year with the best of intentions, convinced that this time will be different. However, as life’s demands and our ingrained habits exert their influence, our resolve weakens. Despite multiple attempts to restart, within a few months, we find ourselves reverting to familiar patterns.  

And it’s no different in the workplace – in fact it’s much harder. Beyond the demands of their job, employees must also fight against the pull of the organizational system. A pull that is so strong that eventually most change efforts are pulled back to ‘the way things are done around here’ and ultimately fail. An IMD global study of 500 executives found that only 50% of attempts to change employee behavior are successful. So, in short, change in a busy, complex organization is hard. 

So how do you overcome these powerful forces to successfully change behavior and build new habits? 

We believe that change happens through doing, not talking. Moving from words to action. You can’t just click your fingers and suddenly become more innovative, creative and collaborative. Humans don’t work like that. You must poke a stick into the organizational system and be intentional about creating change.  

The first step in this magical process is to start really, really small. 

Behavior Kickstarters Formula 

Behavior Kickstarters are rapid experiments designed to activate new behaviors and catalyze cultural shifts. Using a mix of behavioral science and experimentation techniques, our Behavior Kickstarters create a safe space for people to experiment with, and ultimately adopt new behaviors and build new habits. They establish the right conditions for people to try, fail, learn and grow. 

While people are wonderfully different and unique, human behavior has followed consistent patterns since the dawn of time. Not only are we programmed to follow the path of least resistance, but our endorphins also encourage us to seek out the things that are satisfying. And we’re social beings, where the pull of the crowd can have a significant impact on our behavior and decisions. In other words, we only change our behavior when it is easy, feels good or when people we admire are doing it.  

Our Behavior Kickstarter formula ensures the right ingredients are present for driving behavior change.  

  • Trigger – Make it obviousSomething that signals the need to start, gets your attention and shows the need to take action. 
  • Motivation – Make it attractive – Create an image in the mind of the user that makes them want to change. 
  • Ability – Make it easyThe easier a behavior is to do, the more likely it is to be done.  
  • Reward – Make it satisfyingIf it feels good and has a satisfying ending, we’re more likely to repeat it in the future and form a habit. 

While this formula helps us change in the immediate term, we also need to consider how we form new habits to embed the change. This is where experimentation comes in.  
 

Unlocking Organizational Change Through Experimentation  

Experimentation isn’t reserved for labs or innovation teams – it can be a powerful mechanism to drive sustained organizational change. Teams can use it to become more adaptive and to create a safe environment that allows people to try new behaviors and fail, and to apply learnings from their failures to change their approach and try again. Supporting this idea, our Catalysts research, How to Build an Adaptable Organization that Thrives During Uncertainty, identified ‘lowering the cost of experimentation’ as one of the five ways to build an adaptive organization. 

The concept of experimentation is deeply ingrained in all of us. We just don’t apply it in an organizational context. Dave Snowden, founder and chief scientific officer of Cognitive Edge, sums it up beautifully, “The engine of all life on this planet has always changed in the same way. We try things, notice positive and negative patterns, amplify what’s working, minimize what isn’t.” Yet, despite being ingrained in us, the number of people who use experimentation is comparatively small. People seem to struggle to apply it to their day-to-day lives, meaning its potential is often left untapped. Michael Schrage, author of The Innovators Dilemma, uses a wonderful model for driving its adoption whilst solving real business challenges. Teams of five, each generate and test a solution to solve one of five challenges, over five weeks. The winning idea receives financial backing to be taken forward. Along with generating great ideas to solve real problems, this approach creates a fun, engaging way to understand the power of experimentation. 

Like Schrage’s method, putting experimentation into practice with our Behavior Kickstarters is simple. We recommend a timeframe  (~2-4 weeks) and at the end of that period, we reflect on how it went, what went well and whether we achieved the desired outcomes – using this data to define what could we do differently next time. Then, if needed, we make changes to the Kickstarter and go again!  

A Kickstarter can take many forms. Ideally, it will be designed so it fits seamlessly into the employee’s day-to-day world – as part of existing meetings or a regular routine, like a morning cup of coffee, for example.  

  • Trying to make your teams feel recognized? Thank You Thursday: Every Thursday, send a short thank you note, acknowledging the efforts of an individual or team for that week (for something big or small). 
  • Trying to increase psychological safety? Poke Holes in This: Before sharing an idea, ask the team ‘Please poke holes in this’, opening yourself up to helpful feedback and encouraging vulnerability. 
  • Trying to increase collaboration? Don’t Rush Into it: At the start of your weekly meeting,  spend five minutes with everyone sharing what they did over the weekend, building relationships outside of just work commitments. 

Prophet’s research tells us that, by targeting the “Soul” of the organization, we can activate and accelerate key transformation levers, such as ‘Developing meaningful mechanisms to enable employees to adapt.’ We mentioned earlier that beating the organizational system is difficult and most organizations don’t have these change mechanisms in place. Behavior Kickstarters do exactly that, equipping employees with a powerful method to grow, adapt and thrive in the ever-changing world we now find ourselves in.  

The crucial part of this comes not in running the Kickstarter, but in equipping your teams with the permission and ability to constantly repeat it over time to embed the new behavior until it becomes a habit. Wendy Wood, author of Good Habits, Bad Habits estimates that we spend 50% of our time unconsciously repeating actions we’ve already taken. By intentionally repeating the Kickstarter, you train your brain by practicing new behaviors and building the pathways needed to create daily habits. For this instance, fake it until you make it – or in behavioral terms, fake it until you become it. 

The idea of ‘fake it until you become it’ is not new, in fact, it is over 2,000 years old. Aristotle believed that people could not simply know, or study, how to be virtuous. To be virtuous, they must practice virtuous actions: first by imitating others who demonstrate virtuous actions and then turning those imitated behaviors into habits by performing them every day. You practice the behavior you want and then one day you turn around and discover you’re not performing the behavior, you’re living it. 

The beauty of this transformational process is its ripple effect, fostering further change not only with individuals but also throughout the broader organization. On an individual level, the success of initiating the first Behavior Kickstarter inspires you to do it again (following our Behavior Kickstarter formula: we only change when it feels good). If you’re trying to get fit, and you feel good after your first 5km run, you might try 7km, or 10km and then maybe eventually a half marathon. At an organizational level, it can quickly become contagious. The stories of others successfully changing their behavior become the currency of change, creating a sense of envy that motivates others to do the same. Just like when we witness a good deed, like someone helping an elderly person with their shopping, we’re far more likely to carry out a good deed ourselves later that day.  

“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision”

James Clear, Author of Atomic Habits 

To fuel a change movement across the organization,  it’s helpful to share stories of how others are running their Behavior Kickstarters to reinforce these successes with recognition and celebration. This inspires others to initiate their own Kickstarter, setting off a chain reaction that swiftly builds into a potent force for change.  

Change shouldn’t be isolated to those with ‘people’ or ‘culture’ in their title, or limited to company offsites and launches for new corporate values. The beauty of Behavior Kickstarters is that they’re accessible to everyone. Facilitating the adoption of new behaviors is a sure-fire way to accelerate change across your organization. 


FINAL THOUGHTS

Some questions for you to reflect on: How is your organization living your values? How are you living them? Are there new behaviors or ways of working that are not currently being lived? 

If you’re interested in finding ways to create a safe space, enhance collaboration, or ignite innovation and creativity, our experts are ready to help.  

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Tailoring Employee Experience for Asia’s New Workforce 

Adopting an employee-centric strategy for the unique workforce in Asia. 

Hybrid work was supposed to be the future, but now with economic headwinds and continuing uncertainties, existing employee experience strategies are crumbling, even in Asia. Despite robust economic growth, concerns persist over potential slowdowns in major Asian markets, such as China and Japan, and their cascading effects on regional trade, investment and talent mobility. Companies are walking on a monetary tightrope due to rising interest rates and global inflation. This has prompted companies to reevaluate their talent needs and prioritize adaptability and digital skills. Additionally, stressors like rising living costs and geopolitical instability have caused a high mental health risk for employees in Asia. 

The Imperative of Fostering an Employee-Centric Strategy 

In Asia’s complex business landscape, adopting an employee-centric strategy is a crucial imperative for organizations seeking uncommon growth. 

Staying Competitive in a Tight Labor Market 

In the competitive labor market in Asia, the war for talent will rage stronger than ever. The 2023 Hays Asia Salary Guide revealed talent and skill shortages as the foremost challenges confronting employers across Asia, driving a shift towards skills-based talent acquisition as a pivotal strategy for thriving in this fiercely competitive landscape.  

Addressing Specific Employee Needs in Asia 

Despite experiencing increased productivity during the remote work era, the modern Asian workforce faces a multitude of challenges, including burnout, cultural disconnection, and diminishing job satisfaction. This is evidenced by a PwC report revealing that only 57% of respondents in Asia are satisfied with their current jobs. 

Prioritizing flexibility and work-life balance remains crucial, alongside the need for proficiency in regional languages and a deep understanding of cultural and regulatory landscapes. Encompassing nearly 50 countries each with its own distinct cultural and linguistic tapestry, many roles in Asia are inherently regional which means there is a higher demand for businesses to foster agility and cultural intelligence.  Employees find themselves at a crossroads, balancing demands from both Asian and Western headquarters. The ability to comprehend and align with the priorities and expectations of each, while advocating for the unique needs of Asian markets, becomes a critical skill. Moreover, fostering positive cross-cultural collaboration is not merely an option but a necessity for organizations to thrive in the intricate Asia business ecosystem. 

Creating Employee-Centric Offerings 

As business optimism confronts talent challenges in Asia, organizations must prioritize employee-centric strategies, emphasizing cultural awareness, flexibility and work-life balance. By addressing the intricacies of the Asia talent landscape, businesses can attract, retain, and engage with the right talent, ultimately driving long-term and sustainable business growth. 

The New Equation: Flexibility + Connection = Wellbeing 

Prophet’s research highlights flexibility and connection as the main levers for achieving holistic employee well-being. This means adapting to diverse needs and fostering meaningful connections aligned with the company’s mission. The dynamic synergy forms a reciprocal relationship: as businesses prioritize well-being, individuals become dedicated stewards, fostering a harmonious cycle of mutual care and organizational success. 

1. Highlighting Flexibility Through Cultural Transformation 

Mercer’s Global Talent Trends (GTT) Study 2023 reveals that only half of Asia-based employers currently offer flexible work options for all employees, trailing behind the global average of 56%. In fact, a substantial 68% of APAC workers expect their companies to offer hybrid work arrangements in the next year. Hence it is crucial for companies in Asia to create a sense of openness and flexibility in the workforce environment that caters to employees’ emotional needs and changing expectations.  

Cultural transformation programs are an effective avenue to cultivate meaningful experiences and internal trust among employees. A key step to bridge the gap between employee expectations and company commitments is by defining a clear and compelling Employee Value Proposition (EVP). 

For example, Singapore’s UOB (United Overseas Bank) has crafted an EVP centered around care, growth, and trust, actively prioritizing employee well-being. The leadership at UOB aims to strike a harmonious balance between purpose and equilibrium, ensuring employee motivation while allowing ample time for personal pursuits. Notably, their implementation of a two-day remote work arrangement in 2022 resulted in increased employee morale and loyalty without any adverse effects on productivity.  

 Coming out of the pandemic, an Asian luxury travel retailer saw the need to revamp their EVP in 2023. This initiative aimed to boost employee engagement, reignite culture and establish a more powerful employer brand to attract and retain top talent. To achieve these goals, they focused on creating a unified message that clearly defined the company’s values and emphasized the opportunities for growth, learning and exploration that aligned with both the employees’ purpose and the overall brand strategy. 

With a well-defined EVP, businesses can then implement effective internal communication and culture programs to create meaningful and engaging experiences. Many companies in Asia are actively undertaking culture transformation initiatives to enhance employee experience. 

2. Deepening Connection Through Collaboration 

In hybrid and digital workplaces, employees are increasingly seeking meaningful connections, not just with their peers, but also with the leadership. In addition to creating interesting and engaging employee experiences, businesses must also recognize the pivotal role of collaboration in enhancing connections. Deepened collaboration not only enables employees to forge stronger bonds, fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose but also cultivates a profound connection to the core values and mission of their company. This, in turn, leads to a collective commitment to overarching goals, enhancing workplace camaraderie. 

Prophet’s research, The Collaborative Advantage, not only sheds light on Southeast Asian companies’ heightened appreciation for collaboration but also reveals a noticeable lag in execution compared to their counterparts in other regions. The report introduces the Collaboration Flywheel, a comprehensive framework guiding leaders in prioritizing and expediting efforts to strengthen collaborative capabilities. Key tenets of this framework include: 

  • Coordination: Illustrate the linkage between an employee’s individual effort and the organization’s purpose. Guide individuals by showcasing “what good looks like” and granting decision-making authority to lower levels, leveraging digital transformation as an enabler. 
  • Cooperation: Align incentives across the organization, balancing differing definitions of what a “good” incentive is. Consider cultural differences when creating incentives and foster a shared mindset that collectively achieves unified goals. 
  • Collaboration: Focus on the process, not just outcomes, to make room for more agile thinking, allowing synergies and interdependencies to form. Empower employees through a bottom-up, test-and-learn approach, encouraging them to challenge the status quo and implement new, fresh ways of thinking. 

Singapore’s Government Technology Agency (GovTech) provides an excellent case study. GovTech embraces a flat organizational structure that grants partial autonomy to its sub-divisions. This structure enhances agility in market response and allows robust collaboration among its divisions. When recruiting new talent, GovTech prioritizes individuals with strong learning agility, ensuring that its workforce remains adaptable and forward-thinking. This internal culture of collaboration enables it to remain competitive among other tech players. As a result, in 2022, 99% of citizens surveyed expressed satisfaction with Singapore’s government digital services. Moreover, GovTech ranked third place in Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology List in 2023. 

Additionally, representation and diversity are becoming a pivotal piece in strengthening connections within an organization. According to the EY Asia-Pacific Belonging Barometer 2022, employees’ sense of belonging is enhanced from 22% to 70% when they perceive diversity and strong leadership in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. In the dynamic Asian talent market, where individuals are increasingly prioritizing DEI considerations, companies risk losing valuable employees if they fail to invest in creating an inclusive workplace. It is essential for organizations to articulate DEI mission statements and define how these principles align with their core values.  

For example, Microsoft Asia Pacific has demonstrated a commitment to DEI through initiatives like the “Code; Without Barriers” program which certifies women in AI across the region, pushing the company further to continue their mission of empowering Asia Pacific’s digital ambition. Similarly, Ørsted Taiwan exemplifies an award-winning approach to DEI by embedding it in their business strategy, with a goal to achieve a gender ratio of 6:4 by 2030. Right now, over half of the Asia Pacific senior management team comprises females. Moreover, Ørsted Taiwan fosters strong connections through initiatives like utilizing the “Insights Discovery” psychometric tool and implementing “GenderIN” sessions to encourage discussions and guide policymaking, contributing to a high level of employee satisfaction. 


FINAL THOUGHTS

As companies confront unique workforce challenges in Asia, tailoring employee experiences is of paramount importance. By honing in on the simple equation: Flexibility + Connection = Wellbeing, organizations can shape their vision and build a roadmap for gradual implementation. Prophet can help define a distinctive strategy and frame flexibility policies to make them relevant to your organization. 

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5 Archetypes of Digital Business Models 

One of the most effective ways to achieve uncommon growth is through business model innovation. For digital business models, this requires creating a revenue model that is in service of your value proposition. 

If you look at your phone’s home screen, you will see many digital business models in the form of frequently used apps: Uber, LinkedIn, Teams and Spotify to name a few. Each of these companies has a native digital business model in contrast to non-native digital companies that use digital as a sales channel (e.g., Walmart). In this article, we dive into the five archetypes of digital business models with examples to show the tradeoff decisions and investments required to be successful in each archetype. 

At Prophet, we define a business model as how a company creates, delivers and captures value with five main components

Two components of this model can be used to deconstruct the five archetypes of digital business models: (1) the value proposition, what you offer in the form of products and services and (2) the revenue model, how you commercialize those offerings.  

Digital Business Model Decision Tree  

Value Proposition 

The first decision when designing a digital business model is how you will create value. Will you own your own supply or aggregate third-party suppliers? Marketplaces connect suppliers with buyers for products and services. Content providers create or aggregate content that can be read, listened to or watched. Infrastructure providers’ own enablers needed to get things done. 

Revenue Model 

The next decision is how you will monetize your offering. Will it be paid for by end users or by a third party? Marketplaces are primarily monetized through transaction fees charged to both suppliers and buyers. In addition, marketplaces can charge suppliers to advertise or offer their users subscriptions to reduce transaction fees. For content providers, the decision to monetize through advertising versus subscription depends on scale. An advertising model reduces costs on end users, enabling scale and network effects. A subscription model provides more predictable revenue from each user and locks in revenue for longer cycles. For infrastructure providers, an on-demand model can provide a cost-based competitive advantage but requires a huge investment in upfront costs. Infrastructure as a subscription provides more funding for ongoing product development and innovation. 

An Example of Each Digital Business Model: 

1. Commission-based Marketplace (e.g., Uber) 

In this business model, suppliers and advertisers pay to access customers in a marketplace. The main revenue drivers are transaction fees, listing fees and advertising. This business model requires creating a flywheel between multiple parties. Uber’s business model includes a DTC service and separately a B2B and B2D (business to driver/courier/biker) marketplace. In Winning Through Platforms, Prophet Senior Partner, Ted Moser describes the advantage Uber gained through creating a unique “customer coalition edge” among multiple parties: riders and delivery recipients, ride and delivery drivers, app developers, advertisers, restaurants and regulatory bodies. By bringing together such a robust customer coalition, Uber can provide more value to each customer group, while also diversifying their revenue sources and differentiating from competitors. Uber attracts more drivers than Lyft by offering revenue from rides, deliveries and in-car advertising. By attracting more drivers, Uber can also attract more riders to their platform with greater ride availability. That, in turn, has the flywheel effect of bringing on more suppliers – including advertisers, developers and restaurants. As a result of these moves, Uber commands a 20x higher valuation than Lyft today at $128B. 

2. Content via ads (e.g., Google) 

Back in 1999, Google’s founders considered two ways of monetizing: subscription and advertising. The subscription model they considered was $20 a year paid by the end user. For that same user, the advertising market would value them at an average of $52 per year in 1999, so 2.5x more. A Wharton paper found that platforms monetized via advertising versus subscription are more likely to invest in content moderation to expand the user base to large, heterogeneous populations. A central tension in the ad-supported business model is that polarizing content is good at getting attention, but over time, it can lead users to be less satisfied and engage less. In addition, advertisers require a high level of stability to ensure that their ads do not appear next to harmful content.  

3. Content via Subscription (e.g., Netflix) 

Platforms with a subscription model must balance growth alongside increasing the willingness of the user base to pay. There is fierce competition for recurring revenue, so subscription players must continue to increase the value that they provide to end users each month. For Netflix, it became difficult to continue to show growth once almost everyone in the U.S. had access to a Netflix log-in through their family and friends. In November 2022, Netflix launched a new ad-supported tier, and a few months later, Netflix began cracking down on password sharing outside of households to force new customers into the ad-supported tier. Netflix also raised the price of the non-ad-supported tier, which forced customers to choose between paying more each month or allowing Netflix to monetize their viewing with advertisers. These moves caused Netflix to have its strongest quarterly increase in customer gains in three years.  

A note that these first three business models all fit into Ben Thompson’s definition of Aggregators: companies that have a direct relationship with users, zero marginal cost for serving those users, and decreasing acquisition cost as the user base grows. This theory explains how platforms have radically reshaped industries by making control of demand much more important than control of supply. For example, Uber has been much more successful than taxi services by focusing on the end-user relationship rather than trying to control the supply of drivers. In the digital world, attention is a scarce commodity rather than a finite resource, so it is much more important to own the end-user relationship than it is to own the supply.  

4. Subscription Access to Infrastructure (e.g., Microsoft Office).  

In this business model, customers pay per seat to access a service. This provides monthly or annual recurring revenue in the form of licensing fees. It is a capital-intensive model that requires ongoing investment in product maintenance as well as product development to retain and acquire new customers. Microsoft recently debuted Copilot, an AI-enabled enhancement to the suite of Office products to differentiate itself from workplace software competitors such as Google. Another form of competitive differentiation is being the one-stop shop for everything. Microsoft is essentially the operating system of work, with all the necessary applications and services – from communication to email to productivity and presentation tools, in one place and connected to each other. Microsoft does not have to have the best single product for anything, for example, many employees prefer Slack to Teams, but by integrating everything in the cloud, the switching costs are too high to opt out of Microsoft’s ecosystem for a single app.  

5. On-Demand Access to Infrastructure (e.g., Amazon Web Services) 

This business model requires significant upfront fixed costs to have capacity available on demand. One of the most in-demand types of digital infrastructure today is Nvidia’s H100 AI chips, which are used to power ChatGPT and other AI apps. Crusoe Energy, a digital infrastructure provider, raised $200M to buy these chips and is forecasted to make half of that investment back in just one year by charging companies for access. The biggest incumbent in the digital infrastructure model is Amazon Web Services, which Jeff Bezos has likened to the utility companies of the early 1900s. Back then, factories had to build their own power plants to generate electricity, but once the factories could buy electricity from a public utility, they no longer needed to invest in expensive private electric plants. In this analogy, electric plants are physical computing technology. By providing servers and storage in the cloud, companies can reduce their fixed investment in computing and storage and pay for what they use, and when they need to use more, it is easy to scale up the capacity. Today, the cloud platform industry is valued at $180B, with AWS controlling a third of the market. In addition, AWS is responsible for about three-quarters of Amazon’s total operating profits. 

Overview of revenue attractiveness and investment required for each business model: 

These are just a few examples of companies that fit into the five digital business model archetypes. We have partnered with a number of clients to design and launch new business models as well as to innovate existing business models in the face of change. 

Creating a new Digital Business Model: 

  • We helped a hardware manufacturer create a new on-demand access to infrastructure business model by embedding smart home technology into their physical products, enabling our client to become an essential infrastructure and service provider for home security players. 
  • We worked with a healthcare association to transform its business model from membership fees to a new digital learning platform that prepares healthcare workers for the jobs of the future.  

Evolving a Digital Business Model: 

  • We partnered with a content provider to quantify the impact of transitioning from a subscription-only model to an ad-supported model.  
  • We worked with a telecommunication provider to pivot from a usage-based model to a monthly subscription. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Contact us to learn how to partner with us on developing, quantifying and launching a new or evolved digital business model to drive business growth. 

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A Guide to Kickstarting AI Integration in Your Product Organization 

Discover the transformative power of Generative Artificial Intelligence (Gen AI) in reshaping product development and customer experiences.

In the past year, Generative Artificial Intelligence (Gen AI), spearheaded by advanced models like ChatGPT and its counterparts, has revolutionized the customer experience landscape, democratizing intelligent technology as both an interface and an enabler. The rapid proliferation of Gen AI tools underscores a clear imperative: speed is of the essence when it comes to embracing Gen AI.  

Against this backdrop, the significance of AI in product development cannot be overstated. Organizations that leverage Gen AI as a strategic capability in delivering new products have the additional benefit of unlocking new pathways for AI transformation, growth and change. However, amidst the plethora of Gen AI applications and tools (alongside mounting stakeholder requests for AI integration), navigating this new terrain can seem daunting. Yet, the cost of delaying action outweighs the challenges of embracing AI. Its integration requires a paradigm shift, but here are a few actionable kick-starters to usher in opportunities to boost efficiency, effectiveness and innovation, while also addressing the hurdles typically encountered so that product leaders can embark on their AI journey with confidence, clarity and a purposeful approach.

1. Efficiency: Service Operations and Workflow Evaluation 

Efficiency is paramount in today’s fast-paced business landscape and presents an invaluable opportunity to streamline operations. For instance, how can we let Gen AI act as our assistant, adeptly handling cumbersome or repetitive tasks, both at the individual and organizational levels? Imagine not having to write a single product description: with Gen AI at the helm, targeting and performance see significant improvements. Take inspiration from Amazon’s product management team, who seamlessly integrated Gen AI into customer support, effectively managing first/second-level queries, reducing workloads and response times. 

To harness these efficiencies, start by evaluating service operations and workflows, followed by an AI Feasibility Assessment. Prioritize tasks based on their repetitiveness, data availability, scalability and complexity. When prioritizing tasks, consider giving more relevance to those that improve customer time to value. Select one or two pilot cases where appropriate off-the-shelf Gen AI solutions are already available and conduct pilots to assess impact and feasibility. This strategic approach not only optimizes efficiency but also paves the way for transformative change in organizational workflows.  

2. Enhancing Effectiveness: Value Exchange Analysis 

How might the computing power of Gen AI revolutionize approaches to identifying new insights, elevating our creative thinking and strategic decision-making? What if you could leverage Gen AI to analyze user engagement data, uncovering valuable insights into feature improvements and prioritizing them for implementation? Take Citymapper, for instance. This international city travel planning app is used by millions of commuters daily to navigate cities with real-time information. Leveraging data science, the company identified a critical time and route in London underserved by existing transportation options. In response, they established a dedicated private bus route on weekday afternoons to address this gap. By utilizing data collected from their mobile application, they translated insights into a tangible service, enhancing customer experience.

To drive effectiveness in your organization, you should consider embarking on a Value Exchange Analysis exercise to define the value exchanged through your product offering, systems, processes, service partners and customers. Consider what each stakeholder or partner in your ecosystem gives and receives. Visualize these exchanges and explore how Gen AI can maximize value by enhancing efficiencies, reducing errors and proactively recommending new insights, or creating entirely new value propositions. Again, run an AI Feasibility Assessment but instead of focusing on “repetitiveness” focus on “value maximization” potential. Utilize concierge tests to determine the minimum service level for each feature or offering to deliver tangible value. This not only amplifies effectiveness but also fosters a culture of innovation and value creation within the organization.  

3. Driving Innovation: Future-Back Growth 

How can Gen AI drive business model innovation by reconfiguring current assets and capabilities to create entirely new value propositions? With its aptitude for lateral and creative thinking, Gen AI is poised to maximize personalization, attracting previously untapped customer segments. Consider the case of a coffee roasting company that used Gen AI to analyze its customer data alongside market trends to suggest innovative coffee blends, which resulted in boosted sales and customer loyalty. 

To enhance innovation, adopt a future-back growth approach that anticipates and responds to evolving customer expectations. Run a comprehensive trend analysis to identify emerging behaviors and signals of change, laying the groundwork for scenario planning to explore new opportunity areas. Embrace Gen AI tools at every stage, from trend research to product development, to capitalize on its predictive capabilities and ensure alignment with future market demands. By embracing Gen AI-driven innovation, organizations can position themselves as pioneers in shaping the future landscape of their industries.  


FINAL THOUGHTS

We help our clients leverage Gen AI to discover innovative ways to develop digital and connected products that create customer and business value. This not only fuels growth but equips your people with the necessary skills to design superior experiences and products. It’s essential to recognize that leveraging AI isn’t just about data and technology. Our approach to AI is at the intersection of where data and technology meet human intuition and experience. Our aim is to simplify the complexity and pave the way for a promising future. Your Gen AI adventure awaits. 

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Igniting Growth in 2024: Four Trends to Prioritize for Business Leaders in Asia

Here are the top priorities for CEOs and CMOs to unlock uncommon growth in Asia. 

In 2023, businesses in Asia faced significant challenges, including rising costs, economic uncertainties, and persistent inflation. In 2024, C-suite leaders are confronted with the responsibility of driving growth amid tight marketing budgets and increasing cost pressures. 

With a cautiously optimistic outlook for 2024, what should be the top priorities for CEOs and CMOs in Asia to enhance customer relevance and foster business growth? There are four crucial levers to unlock uncommon growth in the coming year: 

  1. Optimize your investment allocation across the brand funnel with a focus on generating demand to continually drive conversion and loyalty.
  2. Be hyper-focused on your customers – leaders need to shift from a product-centric mindset towards a customer experience-led proposition to capture a larger total addressable market size and customer share of wallet, and shape perception as a market leader. 
  3. Adopt a unified marketing operating model to foster effective collaboration and integrated decision-making across business units. This will not only drive synergies but also uncover untapped areas of growth. 
  4. Harness the power of AI to supercharge your growth – from uncovering customer insights for strategic investment decisions, to enabling personalised and engaging experiences for customers. 

In this article, we delve into these strategic priorities, helping leaders navigate the evolving market. 

1. Stepping up Demand Generation as the Catalyst to Ignite Growth 

In the post-pandemic era, consumer behaviors have become more intricate and diverse, challenging the traditional way of capturing the dynamic nature of the customer journey. C-suite leaders in 2024 must shift toward an agile growth strategy, with a strong emphasis on demand generation. 

It is now crucial for C-suite leaders to concentrate on demand-driven strategies for engagement, leads, and conversions throughout the entire customer journey. This involves creating an efficient channel mix using an agile approach for data strategies and crafting unique experiences to promote loyalty, advocacy, and repeat purchases. Most importantly, this requires a human-centric growth strategy rooted in consumer insights. 

For instance, AB InBev Korea collaborated with Prophet to gain a comprehensive understanding of the Korean beverage market, aligning with consumer needs to identify growth opportunities. This insight-driven approach guided targeted investments in channels and brand activations, stimulating growth within their portfolio. Similarly, a multinational athletic apparel retailer partnered with Prophet to tailor a marketing effectiveness model for APAC. This data-driven strategy enabled informed decision-making, optimizing their marketing mix across the brand funnel and driving demand in a fiercely competitive landscape, ultimately leading to accelerated growth. 

2024 Priority: Leaders must strategically allocate resources to strengthen demand generation, steering growth strategies based on iterative consumer and market insights throughout the customer journey. This shift will enable marketing efforts to be more effectively aligned to generate demand and propel conversion and loyalty. 

2. Strengthening Full-Funnel Customer Experience to Accelerate Conversion  

Amid economic uncertainties, 68% of leaders in APAC prioritize business resilience by emphasizing customer service. The Asian Banker reported that 77% of satisfied customers actively advocate for the brand, underscoring the pivotal role of customer satisfaction in retaining the existing customer base and fostering sustainable growth. 

As CMOs now assume a more influential role in strategic decision-making, a unique opportunity arises to integrate customer experience (CX) into the organization’s DNA, shifting from a product-centric to an experience-led strategy. At the core of this transformative shift, three key principles should be considered: 

A compelling example of how an experience-led transformation can drive tangible growth is Singapore Airlines’ Kris+. Launched in 2020, Kris+ was conceived as a lifestyle rewards program aimed at engaging users beyond their air travel experiences. Going beyond traditional mileage rewards, Kris+ consolidates a diverse array of rewards, privileges and payment options into a single app. This innovative approach not only provides users with additional opportunities to enhance their shopping experiences both during flights and on the ground but also adds substantial value. Singapore Airlines’ potential customer base has expanded, and Kris+ currently stands as a significant revenue driver for the airline, boasting over 2.1 million downloads globally since inception. 

2024 Priority: An experience-led growth strategy extends beyond the realm of bolstering engagement and loyalty. When executed adeptly, it serves as a catalyst for broadening the total addressable market, augmenting customer share of the wallet, and solidifying the brand’s standing as a market leader.  

3. Achieving More With Less Through a Collaborative Operational Model  

The role of CMOs has undergone rapid evolution, with an escalating demand for them to demonstrate Return on Investment (ROI) and contribute significantly to overall revenue. Consequently, CMOs are now more intricately involved in decision-making processes that span various facets of business strategy, including CX, product, sales, and, in some instances, directly managing these areas. 

For CEOs, establishing robust connections between diverse channels, disciplines, and departments within their organizations is paramount. This not only fosters effective collaboration but also ensures seamless decision-making across different business functions. 

Prophet’s Collaboration Flywheel 

Our research suggests that a progressive understanding of collaboration takes place over three phases. Read more. 

In 2022, Prophet played a pivotal role in supporting Cisco Secure’s transformation of its marketing operating model. The primary objective behind this strategic move was to enhance efficiency and collaboration across different functions. The result was a more defined structure among business functions, both regionally and locally, underscoring the effectiveness of strategic alignment in achieving organizational goals. 

Another noteworthy case is Luckin Coffee, one of the fastest-growing retail coffee chains in Asia. The brand, once on the brink of bankruptcy, was committed to optimizing its operational efficiency and quickly turned itself around within just two years, reporting a 7.2 billion RMB revenue in Q3 2023 and an 84.9% YoY growth. One of the key shifts Luckin took was to evolve CMO Fei Yang’s role to CGO, Chief Growth Officer, to oversee revenue growth, demand generation and customer experience on top of marketing. By integrating user operations and brand marketing, Luckin was able to increase its agility in identifying customer needs, innovating products, launching marketing campaigns and accelerating demand. 

2024 Priority: This strategic approach lies in not only the optimization of resource utilization but also the revelation of untapped avenues for growth across the entire business. By breaking down silos and fostering collaboration among different functions, businesses can achieve a holistic and streamlined approach to decision-making, ultimately contributing to business success and resilience. 

4. Harnessing the Power of AI as a Transformative Force

Generative AI (GenAI) technology has swiftly emerged as a transformative force on a global scale, particularly within the APAC region. An IDC study reveals that 70% of C-suite leaders in the APAC region are actively exploring or have already invested in GenAI. In our recent article, we also highlighted how the capabilities of GenAI can be harnessed for marketing effectiveness. However, the stewardship of human insights and brand strategy remains key.  

While many AI technologies are still in their early stages, capitalizing on this momentum requires cultivating a culture of innovation. This involves not only upskilling teams to adeptly harness AI but also addressing prevailing apprehensions and skepticism surrounding its integration. 

Beyond utilizing GenAI for productivity, equipping the workforce with essential AI skills positions them to unlock its potential, extracting valuable insights from extensive customer and market data. C-suite leaders, in particular, are encouraged to strategically implement AI to enhance customer experiences and customize offerings based on the dynamic and evolving needs and behaviors of their customers. 

An example of embracing AI integration is 7-Eleven Japan’s plan to leverage AI in 2024 to generate text and visual content for new products. Grounded in the analysis of store sales data and consumer feedback via social media, this approach is expected to significantly reduce the time needed for product planning and align product distribution with emerging trends. 

Similarly, Disney has been a trailblazer in incorporating technology, utilizing data from wristbands, IoT sensors, and strategically placed cameras around its resorts. This data-driven approach empowers Disney World operators to identify and address overcrowded areas, offering personalized promotions to encourage customers to move to less congested spaces based on their preferences. Looking ahead, the prospect of Disney using GenAI to enhance personalization, such as anticipating customers’ dietary needs before they enter restaurants, adds an exciting dimension to its growth trajectory. 

2024 Priority: As AI technologies continue to advance, it is imperative for organizations to possess a comprehensive understanding of AI, supported by clear guidelines and policies. This ensures the quality and reliability of AI-driven insights, thereby facilitating informed decision-making in an increasingly dynamic business landscape. 


FINAL THOUGHTS

In 2024, the key to igniting business growth is to prioritize demand generation and shift toward an experience-led customer journey. Moreover, it is crucial for C-suite leaders to drive integrated decision-making and harness AI as a transformative force to ignite growth in today’s competitive business landscape. 

The synthesis of these strategic priorities will be instrumental in defining success and resilience for C-suite leaders who are navigating the complexities of the year ahead. 

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The $9 Trillion Opportunity Surrounding the Electric Vehicle Transition

The Ripple Effect of the EV Transition: How the global transition to EVs has created growth opportunities across unexpected sectors from retail to smart homes.

Imagine a world where roads hum with electric vehicles (EVs), a vision that is rapidly turning into reality in many parts of the world. The global EV market isn’t just growing; it’s catapulting into a new era of innovation and opportunity. It’s far more than the $1.6 trillion realm of manufacturing EVs, batteries, and charging infrastructure. A more compelling question to ask is, “Which industries stand to benefit from this transition?”  

Simply put: Which industries will be disrupted and who will benefit from this global shift towards EVs to drive business growth?  

In this article, we broaden the aperture to focus on the $9 trillion opportunity (a figure based on Prophet internal modeling) that we estimate will exist across a diverse range of industries that can harness the EV transition as a driver of growth and innovation for years to come.  

The EV Transition has Become a Business Reality 

We’ve applied the shift in consumer behavior towards the transition to EVs and found that there is more than $9 trillion in opportunity if you examine not just the transition itself, but the ripple effect it creates across connected industries. 

Regardless of where one might fall on the political spectrum when it comes to ESG, sustainability, and the transition to the electric economy – consumers’ shift to adopting EVs has moved from being a political debate to a business reality.   

An increasing number of countries have crossed what many are calling the ‘tipping point’ for EV adoption, where EVs account for more than 5% of new car sales – with 23 countries already having reached this milestone. Attempting to estimate the number of EVs on the road in the next few years leads to more unanswered questions, with history showing that once the adoption of technology hits the “tipping point”, growth can quickly become exponential. 

Turn on a sports game or YouTube video, and you can’t help but notice how car companies have increasingly been focusing their advertisements on EV products. Top auto manufacturers have been embracing the enthusiasm for EVs even before they can catch up on production, with 10 EV ads during the last two US Super Bowls alone, and several more EV ads planned for this year’s Super Bowl in 2024. Looking to more digital channels, YouTube ad spending to promote EVs was up 8X over in 2023. 

The Transition to an Electric Future 

The transition to electric vehicles is accelerating despite the many debates about how quickly they will be adopted. The amount of capital being poured into start-ups, infrastructure, and the needed recycling providers has created somewhat of a gold rush beyond solely EV production – with venture capital investment in the space up 50% in 2022 to over $1bn, led by a focus on charging, recycling, and other less flashy but critical components of the EV value chain. Over the last several years, governments around the world have committed huge sums of money to rapidly accelerate the electrification of their economies – with billions of dollars from the recent Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S. allocated to help accelerate EV production and build the needed charging infrastructure.   

2030 Outlook: EVs Reaching 10% of Total Cars on Road?  

Our sustainability team has carefully considered how the global shift to EVs will not just affect the auto industry, but also the myriad of interconnected brands and businesses who should be paying attention to this change as a potential driver of growth.  

Taking even the most conservative estimates, EV sales are predicted to account for over 30% of all global vehicle sales in 2030 – a far more modest estimate than the 50% of new car sales goal set forth by the White House for 2030.  

Simply put, that means roughly 10% of the total cars on the road will be EVs in 2030.  

The predicted large-scale changes in consumer behavior will generate massive ripple effects, forcing companies to decide how to adapt their business models, experience strategies, and value propositions. So how might this shift disrupt the many interconnected industries – Will this mean 10% fewer gas stations are needed? 10% less traditional auto mechanics? Fast casual dining at charging stations versus fast food at gas stations?   

“If 10% of the total cars on the road are EVs, how might this shift disrupt the many interconnected industries that will feel its ripple effects? Will this mean 10% less gas stations needed? 10% less traditional auto mechanics?” 

2030 Outlook: The EV Transition’s Impact on Three Key Groups 

The Ripple Effect of a 10% EV Shift 

Even taking this modest growth estimate, imagine the transformative wave the global shift to EVs will unleash. As we delve into this electric future, we need to answer three pivotal questions: 

  1. Who will innovate and produce EVs?
  2. Who will provide cutting-edge services for EVs?
  3. Where will the EV journey take you – from driving to parking?

This exploration simplifies how to envision the EV future, slicing through the buzz to spotlight real growth opportunities. We highlight a few trailblazing industries in each category, poised to seize the monumental opportunities born from the EV wave. 

Innovators and EV Manufacturers  

This sector, the birthplace of EVs, is hoping to become a $1.6 trillion industry by 2030. This number is comprised of a mix of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), charging pioneers, and battery innovators. For this group, one of the largest challenges will be rapidly scaling battery production and charging infrastructure to meet soaring demand. This necessity serves as a golden opportunity for growth.  

Key Insights: 

  • Unlikely alliances are flourishing in the EV realm. Competitors are uniting, which resonates with consumers who applaud this shared mission for sustainability. This collaborative spirit to achieve a “common goal” is redefining brand relationships for the long haul. 
  • The EV industry’s trajectory is highly dependent on governmental support. As political landscapes shift so do opportunities and challenges. Brands in this space must stay agile, ready to pivot with changing policies and funding sources. 

Example 1: Partnering to Build Efficiency Across the Grid 

BMW, Ford, and Honda recently announced a new joint venture called ChargeScape, aimed at creating a single way to connect electric utilities, automakers and EV customers. This collaboration seeks to create a unified platform for efficient energy management, connecting bidirectional EV charging with electric grid operations. If successful, ChargeScape could be a game-changer, exemplifying how partnerships can spark growth and innovation in the EV sector. 

Example 2: Competitors Collaborating to Charge Up America 

A surprising number of global automakers have partnered together to address America’s charging network challenges, namely, the lack of a reliable and expansive charging network. This ambitious joint venture plans to establish over 30,000 chargers across North America, complementing Tesla’s existing network and contributing to the national goal of 500,000 chargers by 2030. This collaboration showcases how competitive brands are aligning their interests for a sustainable future. 

Service Providers for EV 

Beyond manufacturing, we have the many industries that will service EVs, a group of industries ripe with a $2.8 trillion opportunity by 2030. From renewable energy champions to auto-repair and fleet management innovators, these industries are gearing up for an EV-centric future. 

Key Insights: 

  • Long-term visionaries are investing boldly. Despite short-term uncertainties in EV adoption forecasts, large firms are strategizing about how to effectively harness the full potential of this transition. 
  • Adaptability is key. Companies like Shell and BP have demonstrated that transitioning from traditional revenue streams to embracing the EV shift is not only necessary but a strategic move to remain relevant. 

Example 1: Shell Focuses on a Low-Carbon Future 

Shell is actively steering its brand towards a low-carbon future, aligning its thoughtful approach to building their new purpose with evolving energy market demands. Through comprehensive research and substantial investments between $10-15 billion by 2025, Shell is delving into low-carbon solutions like hydrogen, EV charging, and biofuels. They are already seeing success, with their UK EV-only service station witnessing a 44% utilization increase since 2022. Shell has been investing heavily in the EV transition and its focus on expanding its EV charging network is paying off, as evidenced by EV customers visiting more frequently and spending more. This significant shift reflects Shell’s commitment to leading in the global transition to renewable energy. 

Example 2: Bridgestone Mobility Solutions Launches EV Services Platform 

You might know the name Bridgestone from the globally famous tire brand; however, in recent years the company has expanded its offerings to be focused on mobility and solutions. As part of this transformation, Bridgestone recently announced the launch of an EV Services Platform “to make electrification easier, cheaper, and faster for fleets”. This platform is intended to help fleet managers, EV service suppliers, and drivers alike by creating a more efficient EV service ecosystem that helps manage costs and simplifies the process of using EVs as part of a commercial fleet. 

The New Destinations for Your EV 

Lastly, we explore industries less directly impacted by EVs but poised to innovate and capitalize on this shift. This group has the potential to capitalize on the increasing number of EVs and encapsulates a staggering $4.9 trillion opportunity. 

We focus on quick-service restaurants, convenience stores, and smart home providers. These industries are where EVs will likely spend significant time, especially considering the pivotal role of ‘Smart Homes’ in the EV charging ecosystem and the amount of time cars spend parked. The challenge for these businesses is more than installing chargers; it’s about reimagining consumer engagement and evolving business models in the EV era. 

Key Insights: 

  • Many brands are enthusiastic about joining the EV movement but lag in aligning their operations with their climate pledges. The real work lies in transforming business models to sync with their environmental commitments. 
  • A rich opportunity exists in deeply understanding the EV consumer. Pilot projects and test-and-learn initiatives are underway but grasping the unique nuances of EV consumer behavior – from charging habits to travel and purchase patterns – remains an uncharted territory ripe for exploration. 

Example 1: Fast Food Is Getting in on the Action 

Fast food chains are already beginning to direct their attention to the EV shift in road trip transitions. Subway announced a new pilot, the Subway Oasis, partnering with Gen Z EV Solutions to blueprint what the future of Subway EV charging stations may look like. The Oasis will include Wi-Fi, picnic tables, and green spaces – intending to appeal to the eco-conscious consumer – as well as their EV chargers. While this approach is unique, Subway is not the first company to explore this idea; Taco Bell and Starbucks have begun to pilot their own EV charging solutions, with each brand piloting charging stations at their locations with the intent of seeing how it might drive revenue and customer growth. 

Example 2: Schneider Electric Creates ‘Schneider Home’ App 

The French multinational company, Schneider Electric, recently shared its newest innovation, Schneider Home – an all-in-one smart system with the aim to consolidate the home energy needs of the future. Consisting of solar power, battery backup, EV charging, home automation and connected switches, the ‘Schneider Home’ allows you to visualize your energy use and customize your habits via their app. 

Schneider Electric exemplifies a company that has begun to successfully align its brand purpose, value proposition, and product offerings in the market. With the brand’s purpose of “empowering all to make the most of our energy and resources,” Schneider Electric has moved past articulating a future ambition and is actively expanding the transition to a more sustainable energy future, which includes a push from Schneider into eMobility solutions and the Schneider Home. 


FINAL THOUGHTS

The shift to an electric future is more than an environmental movement; it’s a catalyst for business innovation. This transition opens an array of opportunities for growth and new experiences in various sectors. Yet, we recognize that this transition may encounter speed bumps and face growing pains along the journey, requiring businesses to be agile as they innovate. At Prophet, our focus is on uncovering these potential initiatives and understanding their impact on businesses globally. Join us as we navigate this transformative journey, embracing sustainability as a key driver of change, progress, and ultimately business growth. 

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Leaning into Leadership: A Conversation with Kate Price 

Kate is a partner at Prophet, based in New York, specializing in marketing transformation. She’s all about change, from improving clients’ marketing and branding skills to nurturing a digital mindset. As a former client-side marketing leader, I really enjoyed this conversation as well as the many others we’ve had with the mentorship she’s providing me in my role as CMO at Prophet. She also has a deeply personal take on change, shaped by three teenage sons, a battle with cancer and the realization that she is truly a morning person.  

Amanda Nizzere: What do you do at Prophet?  

Kate Price: I’m a partner leading the marketing and sales platform. I’ve worked in many disciplines, with a lot of experience in consumer products, from Lysol to Tanqueray. Marketing transformations, strategy and planning are my specialty.  

AN: What led you to consulting?  

KP: Even at a young age, I knew that I was a generalist and that I like to connect the dots between art and science. I come from a family of heavy-duty scientists, especially physicists. So, when I added literature to my studies, they were like, “What the heck is wrong with you?”! But coming out of college with a balance of science, English and math, I went into marketing straight away. I started as a 21-year-old trainee marketer and learned that this kind of career is all about joining the dots, all while working with great people. I did that for about 17 years on the client side and then wanted to move to a more advisory capacity. Now I can apply my skills in planning, marketing transformation and marketing excellence across many industries. I’m good at it. And this industry is always full of interesting people and ideas. They’re my people. 

AN: What energizes you?  

KP: Working with teams. There are always new teams coming in and growing and learning, and you get to watch this bench of smart, motivated people develop in front of you. I love that. And then I love when they get to the three-year mark, and they can become your right hand. It’s both the day-to-day interactions and watching the long-term growth, all while building relationships with clients.  

AN: Along the way, is there anyone who’s influenced how you work or your career?  

KP: I’ve taken a little bit from all sorts of people. Our generation of female leaders is much more likely to be women with children than the generation that came before us. So, when I was growing up as a junior mid-level marketer, many of the women ahead of me had broken through the ceiling. But at the same time, they weren’t necessarily people with children. I’ve got three sons. One of the things I’ve learned is how to operate as a woman in the workplace to ’figure out the things that will push you forward and balance it with-  the things that give you energy. They may not be the same. But I lean into them just the same as they will likely balance out and enable you to be your most authentic self at work. I’ve found that to be true for me. My commercial efforts are the ones that push me forward and my mentorship opportunities give me energy. In both, I have found ways to let the real me come through – it enables me to really enjoy the ride.  

AN: What’s your go-to productivity hack?  

KP: I work in the morning, not at night. I’m not very good at anything after 9:00 p.m., including important conversations with my husband. I can focus and get things done early in the morning. And I mean regular-person early. I don’t buy into starting my day at 4:00 a.m. 

AN: That’s great self-awareness right there.  

KP: I’m also working on figuring out where I can get a B+. I can’t believe I’ve gotten to this age without knowing what I must get an A in and when a B+ is OK. I wish I’d learned that in high school! 

AN: If you could snap your fingers and become an expert in something and get that A+, what would you want to be an expert in?  

KP: I don’t want to be a deep expert in anything. I would much rather be the expert in pulling all the pieces together and making sense of it – adding up all the different parts. Like I said, connecting the dots excites me. I like figuring out how to bring the best experts together. 

AN: OK, you’re a connector. If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would you choose?  

KP: It’d be fun to trade places with one of my kids. I love to learn. My oldest just started college, and he is taking classes in things like the anthropology of science and technology, the Big Bang and world-building. I’d even like to go back and take AP physics again. On that note, I’m not sure I could do soccer practice every day… 

AN: If you had to pick one age to be permanently, which would you choose?  

KP: I’m sticking with 50. I thought it was going to be hard to turn 50. But actually, I’m like, “I earned these wrinkles. I have wisdom, perspective and acceptance. I’m good with it.”  

AN: If you were to write a book or a blog about your life, what would you call it?  

KP: Ironically enough, I have been slowly working on a memoir. It’s slow going, but hopefully, someday it will become a book. It’s called “Taming Kate” – after the heroine in “Taming of the Shrew”. It’s the story of how life has tamed me (a bit!).  By the time that we’ve hit this age, we all have lots of life experience that sort of smooths off the hard edges. But in the last decade, I’ve had some adventures that have really worked hard to tame me. I’ve almost died. Twice. I fell off my Vespa onto train tracks and broke every bone in my body — neck, back, legs, everything. That was in 2016, and it took almost two years to fully recover. Then, in October of 2020, I was diagnosed with cancer. So, I spent most of the second half of the pandemic in chemo, fighting breast cancer. I’ve been through that for about 18 months, and these life lessons have also given me plenty of leadership lessons: How do we pick ourselves up and put ourselves back together? But also, I feel tamed. It’s kind of funny. This cultural narrative is supposed to be, “I gave up everything, but these experiences changed me. I now live by the beach and meditate every morning.” Not me. My life is the same. It’s how I know how to be myself. 

I feel very ordinary. The big lesson for me is that everybody has their stuff, everybody. When working with colleagues and clients, everything can seem fine on the surface. Yet almost everyone has something that they need support with. We’re all just doing the best we can. 

With my three kids, I think they’ve learned that life is not easy, but it’s OK. They’ve learned you pick yourself back up.   

Rapid Fire Questions

  • How are you uncommon?  I’m quirky and sometimes a bit much for the workplace. 
  • Do you have a hidden talent or claim to fame? I once met Prince Philip. He used to be a gymnast and came to see one of my competitions and said hello to me. I also went to preschool with Robert Plant’s son (of Led Zeppelin fame!). I was very small, and it was the era of platform shoes. I remember seeing these tall platform shoes at the bottom of his shaggy coat. 
  • Favorite day of the year? My oldest child’s birthday, which is June 9. To me, it signals the beginning of summer.
  • Favorite place? Two places. Africa, because I went to Ghana to do development work when I was 20 and fell in love with the continent. It has a soul that I love. And then any place where I’ve got my nuclear family around me, just the five of us together.     
  • What is one thing in business that no one talks about but should?  That business is one of the things that keeps the world together. An Edelman study says that people trust companies more than they trust governments. I have worked a lot with global corporations, colleagues in China and Russia and many parts of the world. In that day-to-day business context, this is a contributor to world peace. It keeps everybody on the same page. These people are my friends. Brands live across borders. So when my kids complain about Corporate America,  I say, `Businesses employ or affect billions of people. They create jobs and put food on the table. They connect people.’ So yes, big business is contributing to world peace. 
  • What charitable initiatives are you most passionate about?  Children and education in general. It is about helping underserved children, whether inner-city children who need help with reading or immigrant children separated from their parents. Anything that supports their future. 
  • What’s a wish you have for the future? Can I have a wish for my future? I wish for my future to be boring. 

  


ABOUT THE SERIES

“Throughout my career, I have been fascinated with the building blocks of leadership, from motivation, coaching and communication to mentorship, empathy, inspiration and more. Unraveling and understanding what makes a strong and impactful leader tick can help us implement new strategies to grow as individuals and leaders. Over the years, I’ve listened to podcasts, read books, attended conferences and listened to TED Talks about various leadership topics, but some of the most impactful lessons and pieces of advice I’ve learned have been from those around me—my mentors, colleagues and industry peers—which led me to create this interview series. I invite you to join me as I interview various leaders in my network to share new tools and wise advice from them that you may want to add to your leadership toolbox.” – Amanda Nizzere, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

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Four Imperatives for APAC Companies to Drive Human-Centric Transformations 

Our global study showed organizations in APAC often prioritize technological and revenue-driven initiatives. Here we explore how human centricity leads to successful transformations. 

Our latest commissioned global research study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Prophet explored how “human-centric” organizations use human-aligned change management principles to design transformation initiatives and align their business strategy around the human. We have found that human-centric companies are more likely to see results from their business transformation efforts. In fact, human-centric organizations are 10 times more likely to achieve revenue growth rates of 20% or more. Moreover, these organizations experience a remarkable 25% boost in employee collaboration, a significant 23% increase in shareholder value, an impressive 48% improvement in time to market, and a substantial 28% higher likelihood of pioneering groundbreaking innovations, among other remarkable statistics. 

We believe these findings underscore the profound impact of human centricity, which involves prioritizing people, culture, and empathy within the context of organizational transformation. By doing so, organizations can harness the benefits of enhanced collaboration, increased shareholder value, and sustainable change, ultimately positioning themselves for growth and resilience in today’s fiercely competitive business landscape. 

Embracing Human-Centric Transformation: The 4 Pillars of Success 

In the dynamic business landscape of the APAC region, achieving substantial growth requires consistent strategic recalibration. Our research showed that driving long-term transformational growth requires a shift in focus from operations- and revenue-driven objectives to ones that prioritize the needs and experiences of their customers and employees.  

In this article, we identified four key areas of how companies can embrace human-centric transformation through a multifaceted approach. 

1. Enhance Customer Experience (CX) by Better Capturing and Predicting Customer Needs 

Our research underscores a strong focus on high maturity and human-centric companies on understanding consumers through data and analytics and improving customer experience (CX). These transformation value drivers are among the top three priorities for close to half (44%) of the high-maturity respondents. 

However, it is a very different scenario for APAC companies – there is a predominant focus on products and services (54%) rather than a broader consideration of CX (30%).  

Hence a key opportunity for Asian businesses is to pivot their transformation drivers towards enhancing CX by harnessing the power of data analytics. 

Nevertheless, there are pioneers in China who already embed human centricity in their core business strategy. NIO, a prominent player in the electric car industry, stands out as a prime example of a holistic and human-centric approach to its business. The company takes pride in its user-first operation model, placing an unwavering focus on creating long-lasting touchpoints and pleasant experiences across the customer life cycle. One of NIO’s leading innovations is its Power Swap Station which provides users with battery swapping as an alternative to conventional charging. NIO decided to invest in establishing and operating the service on its own, instead of using a third-party provider, in order to maintain the highest customer satisfaction. “User service may show a loss in financial statements, but it can also be interpreted as an investment in customer satisfaction, which I think is the more appropriate perspective,” said Lihong Qin, President of NIO.  

2. Embracing Purposefulness as a Cornerstone of Brand and Culture for Employee and Customer Engagement 

Purpose is more than a buzzword; it is a strategic imperative. Those who embrace this approach are well-positioned for success in the human-centric era. Companies around the world are increasingly recognizing the importance of anchoring their brand identity and organizational culture around a clear purpose to engage both employees and customers effectively.  

According to our research, 56% of human-centric firms globally firmly believe that their culture enables purposefulness in everything they do (compared to 44% in APAC), which shows that those who operate with a clear purpose tend to excel in their transformation endeavors. However, many APAC companies making strides in commercial performance and technological innovation often deprioritize fostering purposefulness with a human-centric lens. Moreover, compared to global counterparts, only 50% of APAC companies strongly consider “society”, “customers” and “communities” as very important transformation initiatives, while only 37% prioritized “employees”.  

Companies in the APAC region have a significant opportunity to strengthen their approach to transformation by defining a clear purpose and applying it to everything that they do. This involves shifting the focus to not only placing a greater emphasis on consumer experience but also broadening the lens to fostering a human-centric culture both internally and externally. It is crucial to align employees with the company’s purpose by developing a clear Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and effective employee engagement programs. Additionally, companies must consider the societal implications of business actions and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles to create a more profound and sustainable impact. 

Sea, a Singapore-based tech company and holding company of Shopee serves as a compelling example of how purpose can be seamlessly integrated into an organization’s human-centric culture. Sea’s overarching mission is to enhance lives and build more connected communities through technology. As it grows, Sea remains committed to nurturing the growth of the broader digital ecosystem and helping achieve digital inclusion for various local stakeholders who are underserved. For example, Shopee, one of the largest global e-commerce platforms, drives e-commerce access to local communities across hard-to-serve regions while also enabling local SME entrepreneurs to succeed. From launching a variety of training programs and platforms like Shopee University and Shopee Seller Center to working with local governments to establish local e-commerce hubs, the firm actively supports local communities to accelerate their digitization journey and grow their businesses. By embracing purposefulness through business initiatives, Sea’s mission transcends boundaries, benefitting all its stakeholders which include consumers, small businesses, local communities and employees.  

3. Empowering C-Level Transformation Leadership 

Another key finding from our research resonates clearly – human-centric transformations are most likely to thrive and yield tangible results when guided by C-level management who leads through their own actions. 79% of human-centric organizations have C-level leaders who lead their company’s transformation agenda, while only 70% of the APAC companies reported the same.  

Human-centricity goes beyond just lines of mission statement, it should be translated into tangible actions within the organization. Hence there is a need for a more direct and hands-on stewardship from C-level executives in APAC to drive crucial transformation initiatives forward. 

A striking illustration can be found in Ping An, a leading financial services company in Asia, which experienced a threefold increase in digital users over the past five years and doubled its retail customer base.  Ping An made the strategic appointment of Jessica Tan as CIO in 2013, who was later promoted to co-CEO in 2018, to play a pivotal role in architecting Ping An’s business transformation into an innovation-driven business. Tan’s leadership brought importance to innovation and a forward-thinking approach, launching various industry-leading initiatives across fintech, healthtech and AI-based offerings. Ping An has invested RMB100 billion over the past decade and committed to investing twice that over the next five years. It now ranks 7th in the Forbes Global 2000 and is the largest insurance company in Asia today.  

The Ping An example serves as a testament to the transformative potential of C-level leaders who actively lead by example, underscoring the importance of leadership in driving human-centric transformation and fostering a culture where technology and innovation thrive through collaboration across teams. 

4. Building Internal and External Trust in the Brand 

Driving near-term revenue growth by enhancing brand recognition and consumer insights is indeed important for an organization to survive in this unpredictable economy. However, the key to achieving sustainable growth is through transformation that is truly human-centric, which requires making focused and consistent investments in building both internal and external brand trust.  

Our research indicates that amid the fervor for technological progress, investments in human capital development and brand trust often find themselves on the back burner among APAC companies. In fact, 98% of human-centric companies globally are investing to maintain trust in their brand while only 85% of APAC companies are doing so. APAC companies are also investing less in their employees as compared to human-centric companies  (81% vs 98%).  

Gojek is a powerful example of the paramount importance of maintaining a steadfast commitment to social impact and brand trust, even when confronted with the challenge of plummeting share prices. Gojek’s continuous investments in initiatives designed to support financially vulnerable riders and drivers, and its commitment to sustainability goals exemplify a forward-thinking approach. For example, recognizing that many drivers prefer greater flexibility and freedom, Gojek continues to update its daily incentives scheme like its Monthly Loyalty Rewards program which allows drivers to have more stable and sustainable earnings. By showcasing such a strong commitment to the community, this approach can significantly elevate internal brand loyalty, build external trust and maintain unwavering resilience, even amidst the most turbulent economic storms.  


FINAL THOUGHTS

As the region continues to evolve, those that lead with purpose and resilience will thrive and make a lasting impact on the world of business. Shifting focus from operations- and revenue-driven objectives to ones that truly prioritize the needs and experiences of customers and employees will give organizations a higher ground. Through the above four pillars, there are opportunities to be more human-centric and achieve successful business transformation.

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Redefining Growth Leadership in 2024

Senior leaders must embrace these 5 strategies to unlock growth in a shifting business landscape. 

The good news is that 2023, a very challenging year for businesses, is over. The bad news is that 2024 may feel a lot like 2023, with many of the same barriers to growth. That means senior leaders should think bigger (about go-to-market innovation and future-back strategies), bolder (about brand-led transformation and new business models) and more creatively (about driving organizational capacity for change).  

Most of the senior business leaders I know were happy to see the back of 2023. The challenging combination of macroeconomic and geopolitical uncertainty, plus relentless technological advancement, created significant barriers to growth. Heading into a new – and hopefully less turbulent – year, growth remains the focal point for senior business leaders across the industry.   

C-suites are being pressured by investors and capital markets to find new sources of revenue and new ways to increase customer loyalty. Every part of the business is charged with identifying new pathways to growth. At the same time, every dollar invested is being closely scrutinized for its impact on overall performance.  

For all the market uncertainty and competitive intensity, however, it’s worth remembering that disruption is born out of turbulent times. In that spirit, we offer five key ideas for unlocking growth in 2024 and beyond.  

Theme 1: Driving Value Through Go-to-Market Platforms 

Given customer expectations today, it’s no longer enough to have a great product or service. You must engage customers and demonstrate your relevance to their lives outside of simple, one-off transactions. Platforms have become critical because “Use journeys” have become more important than “Choose journeys,” as my colleague Ted Moser writes in his new book, Winning Through Platforms

“In the Choose journey, customers explore their needs and options, assess their final choices, and transact. In the Use journey, customers use the products and services they have accessed, then eventually decide whether to access them again – and if so, from whom.”  

Platforms are for the Use journey in the 2020s what websites were to the Choose journey in the early 2000s – the primary way companies engage with customers to deliver satisfying experiences and execute their growth strategies. They are powerful because they enable companies to carefully observe how customers use their products and explore other areas of interest. That creates momentum on the Use journey and provides data the company can use to add features, shape superior offers, and drive increased uptake. 

Platforms are known by many names – apps, super apps, hubs, portals, clouds, suites, exchanges. Whatever they’re called, the platforms convert functionality into valued customer experiences, which lead to renewed brand relevance and, ultimately, market leadership. They also signal advantage to investors and prepare a company for convergent competition.  

Platforms are no longer purely for tech giants or ambitious, well-funded start-ups. Consider how pharmaceutical companies are creating hubs and communities for specific types of patients, with content and connections to help them manage their conditions and lead healthier lives. Or how wealth managers and other financial services firms, in the face of product commoditization and converging competition, have reoriented their offerings and experiences around customers’ goals.  

Companies can no more “pass” on deploying platforms than they could “pass” on having a good website. And if they choose only one, it should be a platform.  

Theme 2: Utilizing a Future-Back Approach to Rethink Growth Strategy

Today’s markets are too volatile to leave growth to traditional cycles, which are not nearly as consistent as they used to be. In fact, growth can accelerate and amplify at any turn. That’s good news because many companies that experienced declines in the last year can’t wait for the next naturally occurring growth cycle to occur organically. Firms that aren’t prepared for the next growth cycle may miss their chance to accelerate growth. 

A future-back approach has helped many firms envision new growth trajectories. Firms that struggle to unlock growth or get leapfrogged by disruptive competitors often make the mistake of expecting patterns of past market behavior to repeat in the future. Obviously, senior leaders know markets keep moving, driven by shifting customer behaviors and evolving societal trends. That’s why companies must invest time and resources in figuring out what’s over the horizon. 

While it’s impossible to predict the future, firms can leverage deep customer insights and formalized approaches to exploration to identify probable developments and their preferred outcomes. Indeed, our recent research found that a leading barrier to increasing innovation is the lack of a long-term planning process. Asking tough questions – Why hasn’t this innovation been tried before? Are we best positioned to deliver a new type of offering? What advantages and disadvantages do we have in the market? – is as important as generating new ideas. The answers to these questions will help define the key capabilities and innovative offers necessary to lead the next growth cycle. 

Theme 3: Accelerating Business Transformation Through Powerful Branding

Unlocking breakthrough value often requires transformation in the form of rationalizing the portfolio, realigning the organization, or digitizing operations. The struggles to realize full value on transformation investments are well documented. Less appreciated is the unique power of brands to increase the odds of transformation success.  

As portfolios of products and services are redesigned and new experiences created, thoughtful branding can drive adoption and engagement, among both customers and employees. Used properly, brands can establish a new frame of reference, highlight a clear and compelling purpose, and identify the ways in which a company can uniquely deliver. Internally, branding can inspire change by giving employees the motivation to get out of their comfort zones and contribute to important transformation initiatives.  

In accelerating growth through business transformation, senior leaders must ask what role their brand can – and should – play. Understanding how brands and a company’s purpose are perceived in the market is a vital first step. In some cases, brands may need a refresh to match updated offerings. In other situations, brand equities can extend effectively into new categories. In either case, careful planning and market insights can help senior leaders find the right way to put the brand to work. 

The regional casino operator formerly known as Penn National Gaming aimed to disrupt a sector undergoing great change. Facing an inflection point in its business – thanks to technology advancements, expansion of online gaming and rapid growth via acquisitions – the company set out a bold transformation agenda to lead the gaming and entertainment industry into a new era.  

Senior leadership decided it was time to redefine the corporate identity to reflect its growth beyond casinos into omnichannel entertainment. The rebrand created stronger connections with consumers, employees, investors and partners, which led to more support for the broader transformation effort.  

Theme 4: Rethinking Business Models to Find New Ways to Make Money

In seeking new pathways for growth, many companies default to product and service extensions rather than exploring entirely new ways to generate revenue and engage customers. We think the latter approach – the development of new business models – is the better option in 2024. Why? Because that’s where the uncommon results come from.  

Identifying new business models requires a deep understanding of the value chain – where and how is money being made today, where the biggest pain and friction points exist for customers and which assets can deliver more value. These insights point the way to value-added services that will resonate with customers, versus mere product wraparounds.  

A major US consumer products retailer not only remained relevant but delivered strong growth by expanding from basic tech support capabilities into a subscription-based total tech support for home entertainment and productivity, building on the strength of its expert service capability Customers love getting direction on the best system for their needs and investors love the margins of the higher-end services. 

Subscriptions have been the most prominent examples of new business models in the past decade. Consider how The New York Times’ expansion of its gaming offers has led to significant user growth for one of the oldest media brands around. Indeed, some observers joke that it’s basically a gaming business that does news on the side.  

Another example – acquisitions: The build, buy or partner question certainly applies to new business model development. Every firm should consider a wide range of options.  

Theme 5: Building a Business Reinvention Capability to Always Be One Step Ahead

Whatever lingering goodwill brands created during COVID is long gone. The loyalty bump from that era has been lost to rising prices, increasing competition and changing behaviors. Current market realities have placed a premium on the ability of companies to drive change effectively, repeatedly and in line with big-picture business objectives like growth.  

Because they know change and disruption are inevitable, companies must learn to disrupt themselves ­– building new offerings and experiences in line with changing customer needs, tearing down to refocus and then reinventing again.  

The legendary toymaker LEGO underwent a stunning transformation to become the “Apple of Toys.” Facing bankruptcy, new leadership formalized its approach to innovation while remaining focused on its core product – the humble brick. The company encouraged customers (both kids and adults) to share feedback and ideas for innovation. Its adoption of “full-spectrum innovation” transcended individual product lines and revealed potential new markets. And it overhauled the culture of its design teams to promote profitable innovation. Even in the age of immersive video games and pet robots, LEGO has delivered impressive results, in terms of both bottom-line metrics and customer engagement, even passion. 

In a turbulent, hyper-competitive environment, this capacity for reinvention needs to become a core competency, as well as a cultural attribute. Establishing a business reinvention capability, distinct from the commercial business, will help cultivate a disruptive mindset and the specific processes and skills necessary to drive reinvention. Those capabilities include methodologies for reviewing portfolios and allocating assets, market scanning and sizing, and innovation labs with strong processes and clear criteria for advancing ideas and experiments through product development.

Self-disruption is never easy but it’s necessary for market leadership. To get ahead, most businesses need to step up their game in terms of reinvention.  


FINAL THOUGHTS

Disruption remains the only constant for senior business leaders, the one factor they can rely on year over year. And 2024 will offer plenty of it. Organizations that view market threats and disruption as an invitation to reinvent themselves will have a distinct advantage in establishing the mindset and capabilities they need to win. The journey starts with rethinking what’s possible, refining strategies and establishing platforms as a foundation for long-term growth. Organizations can advance by reinforcing their brands and retooling key operations, at which point the process of reinvention naturally begins again.

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Unlocking Digital Transformation Success in the Middle East: A Human-Centric Approach

Human-centered transformations are crucial globally, but in the Middle East they take on a distinctly different imperative, shifting from technology to empowering people.  

Digital transformation has come a long way from being a buzzword to becoming a fundamental for business success. But, digital transformation goes beyond technology; it’s an ongoing process where human issues and change management are just as central to a successful transformation process as the tech. And today, organizations are starting to understand that change comes from using technology to achieve human goals. They recognize that such change helps them to be more targeted in servicing customers, creating experiences and becoming more efficient, profitable and sustainable.  

While human-centered transformations are essential all over the world, they take on a distinctly different imperative in the Middle East. The relationship-based culture requires a very human approach – business here is all about the way people connect. 

The region has one of the world’s youngest populations, with about 60% under 25, which means most employees are digital natives. They run their lives using mobile technology and expect the companies they work for to do the same. They are more at ease with artificial intelligence and want all the entities in their lives, from government and employers to shopping and entertainment, to be convenient, automated and personalized. 

There’s no ignoring the need to be digital. It is simply expected in every aspect of life. Yet technology is only one part of the solution. It frees up and increases the demand for organizations to provide a human experience. This is becoming more important every day: Yes, there are plenty of tasks tech can do better than people, from booking airline tickets to delivering groceries. But when it’s time for people to interact with each other, whether with colleagues or customers, those interactions take on outsized importance.  

In the Middle East, this transition to a more human-centered business should foster the growth of the region’s relationship-driven culture by directing employees’ attention more toward the human elements of business. Organizations should allow their employees to use technology to help their customers and stakeholders achieve their goals.  

And this is the crucial distinction: recognizing that humans drive the change in business – not technology. 

Starting a Human-Centered Transformation 

For the last five years, Prophet’s global research has explored how companies can leap from outdated ideas of digital transformation to human-centered change. We’ve found that sustainable change, the kind that leads to uncommon growth, works best by comparing every organization to the makeup of a human being. Every enterprise has DNA, a mind, body and soul. We call it the Human Centered Transformation Model.

These transformation efforts are powered by purpose, values, brand and strategy, which we consider an organization’s ‘DNA’. All enterprises need a clear and compelling ‘why’. That ‘why’ is the North Star, illuminating every effort, so every part of the organization pulls in the same direction. This purpose must be meaningful, a shared ambition that can unite and inspire people to embrace change for a better future.  

Each organization also has a ‘mind’, including the talent, skills and capabilities to take it forward. The ‘body’ includes the organization’s shape, such as governance, processes and systems. And finally, each enterprise has a ‘soul’, the behaviors, beliefs and stories that motivate its people. These soul-based elements are especially important in the Middle East. They include symbols, rituals and a mindset that help ignite change and are deeply meaningful to younger workers.  

Leveraging the Middle East’s Unique Advantages and Addressing its Challenges 

Our research has identified the critical levers – fundamentals and accelerators – that can drive change. These are global findings. Yet there are some specific conditions in the Middle East that support rapid digital transformation and help bring people on the journey of change. 

First, there is speed, urgency and ambition. The race to achieve the national 2030 vision, even as it expands toward 2040, is an amazing driver for change. People who run enterprises feel this vital purpose and are eager to achieve it. Employees are even more impatient.  

Next, there’s a regional thirst for excellence, prestige and creativity, inspired by ambitious projects, whether it’s Dubai’s “20-minute city” goals, Saudi Arabia’s $500 billion bet on NEOM, or Egypt’s audacious plans for a new capital. These ambitious endeavors are not only shaping the future but also instilling a sense of collective national pride, fuelling the appetite for achievement and making people eager to join the journey towards a digital future.

The region also faces barriers. Similar to companies globally, some entities react reflexively in ways that are inconsistent or misaligned with their declared strategy, making it more challenging to coordinate and drive change. 

Organizations are maturing and evolving all the time. Yet, even in flux, it’s essential to connect the dots strategically. Every change should arise from the enterprise’s DNA, relating continuous improvement to a broader agenda. This clear purpose is the North Star, helping companies see how that purpose translates into every employee and customer experience. 

The region also faces workforce challenges due to the transient nature of talent, where professionals frequently change roles and locations. This dynamic environment contributes to fluctuations in productivity, as teams experience continuous turnover, impacting stability. This is why strategies that focus on talent retention, skill development and creating a workplace culture that aligns with the diverse expectations of the workforce are imperative.  

These unique advantages and challenges make taking a human-centered approach even more important, ensuring it is tailored to your organization’s characteristics and strengths.

Studying transformation success stories and digital leaders in the West can be tempting. But that’s a mistake. Only Google can be Google. While it’s fine to be inspired by what others have done, organizations in the Middle East (and everywhere else) must remain authentic to their core identity. They should be driven by and centered around the unique group of individuals within their organization and guided by the strategic purpose they aim to achieve.  

Cookie-cutter methods won’t create the far-reaching, long-lasting transformation required in modern marketplaces. But there are specific steps companies can take to begin this human-centered change in ways that build on what they do best, helping them create more robust, more agile organizations that better serve all stakeholders. 

The Power of Leadership Excellence 

Start by defining what good leadership looks like. Leadership values need to stem from the organization’s unique DNA. And while an enlightened CEO is required to initiate the transformation journey, the passion for the mission needs to be nurtured in leaders at all levels. Organizations in the Middle East need leaders who can work with many cultures and nationalities. They require the ability to co-create a dialogue about what the enterprise wants to achieve with this transformation, deciding how best to prepare employees for the changes ahead. 

Again, there are inherent regional advantages. Organizations can create close-knit, enterprise-focused leadership teams using the power of the relationship-based culture. We see this inherently in start-ups, steering away from traditional hierarchies and driven by innovation, the emphasis is on collaborative cultures that nurture a sense of belonging and shared purpose among team members. Similarly, government entities in the region have increasingly recognized the value of cultivating strong leadership teams to enhance organizational effectiveness and establish relationship-based cultures that resonate with the diverse populations they serve. 

While transformation efforts are still in the planning stage, leaders should remind themselves how much power they have over the outcome of any transformation effort. If leadership isn’t seen as fully on board with changes, efforts will never gain traction. Companies can increase the chance of transformational success by: 

  • Framing the transformation as a positive, modern journey. Make it clear that it helps build pride and furthers national goals, using context that is meaningful and relevant to all employees. 
  • Encouraging creative thinking. As Artificial Intelligence (AI) takes over more operational and administrative tasks, organizations should emphasize the human effort shaping these technological changes. AI can only predict. It can’t think or invent. Constantly seek out new ways to encourage human insight and innovation. 
  • Embracing diversity. Effective transformation in the Middle East requires working with locals, whose motivation and sense of purpose are linked to faith and cultural heritage. But it also requires international workers and customers. Organizations need to serve many segments, tailoring and personalizing every experience.  

Build the Right Employee Value Proposition 

As leadership teams coalesce around this pivotal transformation initiative, it’s crucial to sharpen every element of talent acquisition. That starts with updating the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) – the deal you offer those who join your organization. While encompassing salary and benefits, an EVP transcends these essentials, delving into the fundamental reasons why people come to work each day. A robust EVP that vividly articulates the organization’s purpose unveils the unique, compelling and meaningful aspects of the employee experience. Beyond merely enhancing talent acquisition, this refined EVP serves as a linchpin for retention. Engaged employees, drawn to a purposeful workplace, contribute to the transformational journey, propelling the organization toward unparalleled growth.  

Given macroeconomic challenges, it’s a critical time for regional organizations to make sure these EVPs play across borders, attracting international talent. This can be time-consuming for companies not well-known in other parts of the world. And it often calls for new ways of thinking. For example, flexible schedules and work-life balance are now an expectation of many people in the West and must be addressed in recruiting efforts. 

You can’t skimp on developing an EVP. Successful transformation relies on building new capabilities. And while some of those needs will be addressed by upskilling current employees, attracting talent with new skills and background is essential. The rapid expansion of AI tools has dramatically accelerated the demand for new skills. 

Companies can’t afford to overlook local talent, either. The competition is intensifying as the Middle East region prospers and grows, especially relative to Western economies.


FINAL THOUGHTS

To meet the needs of the Middle East today and tomorrow, organizations can no longer rely on outdated ideas of digital transformation. Instead, they need to find new and better ways to use human-centered transformation, putting the right technology into the hands of the many people they serve. When enterprises put people before technology, all stakeholders benefit – employees, customers, community members and investors.  

If you’d like to discuss your digital transformation effort, our expert team can help you in placing a human-centered focus at the heart of your approach.  

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