Change Trends for 2019 and How to Turn Them into Opportunities

2018 was indeed a year where organisations and business models faced significant change and disruption. The breaking up of the existing models for advertising & media groups is the latest example of this trend which will continue and deepen in 2019. Having operated at the heart of Change across industries, as Change Catalysts, we would like to share our thoughts on Change Trends for 2019 and how these can be turned into opportunities.

We are seeing the successes of change with CEOs and companies that believe “It’s better to disrupt yourself than to let your competitor or the industry disrupt you”. They are dynamic and willing to step up to take action beyond just a mental willingness to change. These bold and courageous companies take this route of anticipatory change instead of waiting to face daily crisis. For instance, Orel Corporation, which is transforming a company into the leading,  electrical, lighting and the fastest growing IT company. 

Here are 5 Change Trends that one can expect in 2019 and some tips on how you could navigate them and turn them to opportunities:

  • 1. More New Models means the need to Reset Now

  •  In 2018, new evolving models have sprouted in many industries to meet with the Change of consumer demands of the new generation consumers. The industry you operated in is going to be drastically different due to the new demands on brand, product and innovative experience. Services that were relevant a few years back, are less so now - giving rise to customisation and customer-centric requirements. Whether it is with the banking, legal, retail, advertising, media agencies, research or consultancy industries – all must adapt to the Change.

    The best way to embrace this Change is to adopt a clean slate and get a new perspective to redesign your company during your planning phase – focusing solely on what consumers would desire in terms of service and product offerings. Thereafter, work backwards to see what is required to fill the gap between what you have and what the “future state” requires.  It is key to ensure that in this Change Architecture process, the owner or change strategy leader does not stick too closely to the original strategy without considering other strategic options - due to his/her “closeness” to the subject matter. The leadership team needs to have the confidence, timeliness and boldness to orchestrate real Change to define and design (like a Change Architect) a new organisational imprint.

    Aside from this, large organisations (who may have had their heydays) need to thoroughly address any lack of accountability, overspecialisation and/or declining productivity, risk aversion, complacency and dilution of the culture. For Business Families, they need to be confident enough to move away from the desire to rekindle the “magic” of leadership of the Founder and “let go” so that succession planning can commence as soon as possible including the injection of external knowledge in order to move forward.  

  • 2. Technology and Digitalisation mean to focus on Talent first

  • With the increasing focus on digitalisation, AI, blockchain etc. means that there will be an increased focus by companies on their talent pool – more specifically their skill set.

    The core part for Change success in this environment is transforming the people in the organisation– to Change beliefs, Change behaviour and retrain them into new roles or help them take on larger roles. There will be an increasing need for companies who want an advantage to focus on the more “ human” aspects including leadership, team work, values and motivations of the talent which will fuel the culture and innovation for the future. Major Change and transformation projects of people and organisations are long journeys, people not only get tired along the way, but they can also get lost – without proper management support.

    Aside from needing to establish and position the right Change Agents vertically and horizontally across the organization and setting and tracking of KPIs with clear and strong communication –  another key success factor is to be able to break down the Change Agenda to a bite-size targets by identifying “low-hanging” fruits. These will allow the organisation to show actual early successes as leverage to keep everyone motivated along the Change journey.     

  • 3. The “New Way of Marketing” will need to be rebalanced

  • A number of CEOs still lament on the lack of accountability of the Marketing function despite data and digital tracking.  They hope more business growth and true brand value and equity can be driven and in some organisations this concern has given rise to the role of CGO (Chief Growth Officer ) instead of CMO ( Chief Marketing Officer) or CDO ( Chief Digital Officer).

    To some extent this is a symptom  of the “New Way of Marketing” whereby there is a disproportionate focus on many tactical measurements that do not deliver the Change KPIs and Marketing ROI which are linked to Business growth and turnaround performance.  Blanket solutions are often “dished out” to build global, regional and local brands which actually require a customised and bespoke solution instead. For example, in Asia, brands are grouped as Asian brands when the entire concept of an “Asian Brand” should not actually exists because brands originate from individual markets e.g. Singapore Brands or Sri Lankan Brands which has its own unique local DNA.

    Our profiled Research & Insights practitioner and Co-Founder of Acorn, Kwan Chong Wah (AGA Market Insights Change Catalyst) who observed this evolution through his focus groups and studies done this year noted that “…to me, this is somewhat overdue. The focus on growth of everything digital [i.e. the proliferation of digital marketing companies, digital advertising companies, content creators, social media monitoring companies, influencers and bloggers, data analytics, and everything in between relative to the traditional media] has been fun, exciting, and engaging. Many Marketers see these as the end all for marketing and branding. The popular belief is that if you are using new media, if you have ‘content’, if you have a ‘brand story’, or you do SEO, or when you are tossing big ’like’ numbers, then you are doing marketing. Tactics become a strategy. Selling is confused with marketing and brand building. Marketing in industries is forced to reset…

    Aside from Growth and Brand health, it is key to ensure that effort is taken to train the future Marketing talent to rebalance the fundamentals and the “new way of marketing” so they can make a greater difference to businesses.

    With regards to the much-discussed technology and data applications in marketing, our profiled Founder of TGH Collective, Tay Guan Hin (AGA Creative Change Catalyst) observed that - from his time leading creative teams in the advertising agencies and having been the global creative executive director of JWT and 4As agencies that have gone through significant Change, “…while we use data and technology effectively to win consumers over, this could come in at the expense of relationships built over time. Your offer to add value and understanding your consumers by finding the right connection is vital in this over the connected world through social media…”.

  • 4. Growth Agenda and Cost Efficiency Requires Alternative Ways of Working

  • The rise of  alternative ways of working has, in turn, given rise to co-working, co-creation and alternative placement solutions. Hence, what has taken place are companies adapting and growing line extensions in their core businesses to meet the new needs of clients.

    For instance, our profiled M&A practitioner and Managing Director Oo Ban Leong of specialist corporate law firm Prolegis LLC, which is in a Formal Law Alliance with leading international Law Firm Herbert Smith Freehills (AGA M&A Change Consultant) has observed the growing availability of alternative legal solutions as one manifestation of the disruption to the traditional law firm model. Clients, in their quest to find legal support for specific projects, without necessarily requiring formal legal sign off, are increasingly open to being provided more cost-effective variations to the traditional law firm support otherwise more customarily provided. Ban Leong adds “… We address this disruption head on and currently provide, through our Services arm, alternative and creative legal solution variations that clients now require, in a cost-effective tailored solution that can combine flexible on-site resourcing and customisable hybrid support…”.

    The trend of placing or inserting an external Change specialist e.g. a CEO, Change Leader etc.  has been taking place in parts of Europe e.g. Norway. Companies hire CEO-For- Hire or CFO, CMO, CTO etc. for a period of time for highly strategic or specialize projects e.g. Mergers & Acquisition integration or sale or revamping of the brand to take it to the next stage. CEOs are realising that they can get external experts on a project basis to supplement the talent in-house with short or mid-term external expertise on assignment. Forward looking Business Families are already trying out new ways of working to deliver their Change results, as they are normally cautious with the external resource they bring in due to trust and cost- value equation.”.

  • 5. Family Business Leaders challenged to train the next generation - as Disruption Deepens means specialist help needed

    Family Businesses are and will increasingly become a stronger part of the global growth engine. Many are successfully listed and overall they account for 30%- 40% of all companies in France, Germany and the US.  In Asia, more than 70% of Asian firms are family businesses with a high number in Japan and Sri Lanka. In Singapore about 61% of the SGX – listed companies comprise the family firms.

    When the disruptive changes occurs, what is relevant to the older generation in terms of running the family organization will be less relevant to the next generation. The trends and complexities of digitalisation etc. which the older generation has not been exposed to, means that they are ill-equipped to train the next generation on these matters. The leadership framework has become more complex. Hence there is greater awareness of global entrepreneurs who are taking active steps to send their next generation to Business Schools and seek private coaching - to take the next generation to a successful destination by easing him/her in and becoming the CEO that will drive the next generation business. Due to this awareness, there is also an increase in assistance needed to identify and recruit interim leaders, talent internally and externally.

    Wong Mei Wai is the Founder & Chief Change Catalyst of AGA (APAC Global Advisory) that scales branded businesses to the next stage of growth for the next generation.

    She hand-picks Change Catalysts and Co-creation Satellites that will come together to deliver the Change cross-functionally. Some of the Change Catalyst featured in the article include Oo Ban Leong, Kwan Chong Wah and Tay Guan Hin.

    She shares her views on what you can expect to see as a Change Trend in 2019 based on in-depth experience and gathering insight from industries and companies facing Change.  In addition to leading and accelerating Change management, APAC Global Advisory with the Change Catalysts provide the bespoke solutions designed to fill those 5 Gaps and market trends discussed in the article. Contact them at . Mei Wai is part of the INSEAD Business School Alumni for AMP and participates in the INSEAD Executive Masters in Coaching and Consulting for Change