How the present can tell you about the future

Mar 6, 2020 | Blog, Software Products

You’re about to read the first blog of our blog series called Future Insights. During the past 20+ years we have developed solutions to the financial sector. One crucial part in the development work is predicting and analyzing future turning points; in this blog series we will enlighten how future could be perceived when developing new solutions.

Though the future is inevitably a mystery, there are signs in the present that can help us see what could lie ahead. Future is in the making in the present, created step by step in ideas and actions happening around us.

Picture: Maria has a long career in software design and product management. She holds a degree in psychology and has specialized in user experience, service design, and corporate foresight. She works currently as Senior Business Analyst in Profit Software’s Pension and Insurance solutions unit.

There’s a growing interest in studying the future in all sectors of the society: government, NGOs, and companies. It doesn’t really come as a surprise when we think about all the changes happening around us – changes that affect how we live, how we work, and how we do business.

The uncertainty caused by the fast pace of changes raises questions of how we can know what will happen and, more importantly, how we can prepare for the changes. Corporate foresight offers tools, process models and guidelines for setting up an activity to scout the external environment for signs of changes, interpreting their meaning, and envisioning alternative futures. The envisioned alternative futures are used for ideation of new products, services, business models, or other strategic decision making.

The basic process of corporate foresight consists of three phases:

  • Perceiving: This is the phase for horizon scanning, that is, gathering information of the political, environmental, social, technological, and economic changes in the operational environment of the organization.
  • Prospecting: This is the phase for analyzing and interpreting the gathered information and making decisions about possible actions the organization could take in order to adapt to the changes. Typically, this means generating ideas for new products, services or business models.
  • Probing: This is the phase for prototyping and testing the interpretations of possible futures and any concepts for new business ideas for desirability, feasibility and viability.

When you start corporate foresight activities, it is important to clarify your goal and define the areas of information that are most important for you. This will guarantee relevance for your horizon scanning. Just remember, that your focus should not be too narrow. For example, do not limit your information to your own industry or competitors. It is better to scan the horizon widely and create focus through analysis of the found information.

We use corporate foresight to learn about changes happening in the market and the society in general in development of Profit Software’s Pension and Insurance solutions. It makes sense to combine corporate foresight with a customer-centered product development approach. User experience, service design and close collaboration with customers offer input for design in an immediate short-term perspective. Methods from corporate foresight allow us to anticipate potential customer needs that may arise in a longer time perspective.

The foresight activities with horizon scanning, identification of drivers of change, and creation of alternative future states offers insights that are used in decision making concerning both product development and business activities. Our experiences of adopting corporate foresight have been encouraging. Results of horizon scanning have generated lively discussions. The results are used in workshops to ideate new business opportunities and product ideas.

Maria Aarneva, Business Analyst, Profit Software

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