What is “Future State” and Why is it Important?

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: June 11, 2021

A company’s future state is ultimately defined as the greater vision for the business. It’s where you want to be, your long-term goal in terms of the ever-changing state of technology and how that applies to your present-day business. Without a definitive future state, a company will often find themselves lacking direction, making it harder to make pivotal decisions, causing misalignment amongst executives, and ultimately hindering the progression and growth of a company’s mission.

For a company to define and reach their future state, they will undergo a series of process mapping exercises of both their current state of business and what it will look like in the future. Let’s dive into the details on how to clearly define and reach your company’s future state.

Combine Forces

Defining your future state and building a strategy around how to reach that point takes a joint effort. Get ahead of the game by pulling together members of your team across different functions. Hold a session or a workshop led by an experienced facilitator, such as those at Third Stage Consulting, that can help guide them towards laying out those steps needed to reach your future state.

This facilitator can help document your current state and pinpoint the pain points and challenges holding you back. They can ask the right questions that will drill down on necessary process improvements and steer your cross-functional team in the right direction.

Talk to Your Team

If a colleague disagrees with going a given direction, it’s likely due to a lack of engagement on the back end. Although you can’t fully eliminate resistance as you progress to your future state, bringing in the people who are executing on the processes cross-functionally and engaging them in the project can certainly decrease resistance.

Building a business case for your approach, preferably a case that is data-driven, will help to reach a general consensus amongst your greater team. To make a strong case, quantify specific benefits and growth opportunities, and tie those to the goals of the business. Always remember this starts and ends with proper organizational change management. More than communication and training, it’s about analyzing what the impacts of changes that will be made and defining how to address the impacts with ease for each employee.

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Find the Proper Approach

Sure, you could do a blanketed copy of another organization’s best practices, but that comes with some risk. Identifying the proper approach for your business depends on knowing your organization and knowing what you need to look for. If you start with a blanketed copy of someone else’s best practices, you could be leaving out the things that make your business different and unique, which could cause you to miss out on the competitive advantage of your own organization. If you do go that route, it needs to be strategic. Consider, instead, copying just certain processes, selecting which ones are most critical to your business, and altering them to meet your unique needs.

Highlight Your Specialties

As a business, work on an understanding of who you are and what makes you special, and build upon that. Specifically, work with the people on your team that have the expertise around the processes that separate you from your competitors. Sure, everyone’s business is unique in certain processes, but there are a lot of areas of unrealized commonalities.

Identifying the areas of your business in which you are unique starts with a strategic discussion with your leaders and executives about where you land in the marketplace, what your competitors are doing, and your customer feedback. Customer feedback is a particularly critical aspect, which includes understanding why your customers are seeking you out and why they stay with you.

Create a Process Map

The process map can vary depending on the organization. No matter the organization, it is good to have a map of some level of detail for reference, one that people can track and refer to in their daily operations. Some organizations may need to get more in-depth in determining what their steps are, while others may find that it’s enough to have just a framework in order to have people on the same page.

Either way, a process map will help you identify your opportunities for improvement and ways to change how you’re doing business, which could include anything from shifting the way you’re communicating to restructuring teams to finding technology opportunities. A process map might stop you in the middle of your digital transformation initiative and make you reassess the direction you’re moving in. It might make you rethink how you’re prioritizing processes and help you more effectively define the best-fit software through your software selection process.

Why is it important?

Technology is moving, and fast. Your future state is coming quicker than you realize. Changes to processes are essentially forced upon businesses, and it’s now or never to roll with those changes. You have an opportunity to look at the changing landscapes within your industry and forecast what the future will look like. Now is the time to get a handle on your processes and ensure that they’re robust enough to adapt when changes arise, which they inevitably will.

Change is all around us, and it’s a matter of either letting change control you, or you being able to appropriately respond to and thus control change. By being on top of your processes and continually reevaluating them, you’re enabling yourself to be able to respond to changes more quickly and to do so in a way that’s not completely reactive. It’s all about continuous improvement, and you need to have a discipline around that which you can maintain over time. Defining your future state is imperative to being timely, keeping competitive, and keeping your business alive.

If you’d like to bounce ideas around regarding your company’s future state, please contact me directly. I am always here as a sounding board to help your business optimize its operations and grow as we step into tomorrow.

FAQ about Future State

What is the "future state" of a company?

The future state of a company depends on the current market and industry environment. Companies should strive to stay agile and adaptable to best position themselves for success in their respective fields. Companies should also set clear goals and objectives, develop new strategies, and invest in research and development initiatives to ensure they remain competitive. Identifying the target future state is key to any successful technology implementation or evaluation. Engaging expert is a main tactic to ensure independent and technology-agnostic feedback on future state initiatives.

How to analyze the future state of a company?

Analyzing the future state of a company can be done by considering several factors. First, it is important to understand the company's present state and how it has evolved. Companies may have gone through significant changes in their business models, products, or services that could affect their future path. Understanding the projected future state is a crucial preliminary step to crafting an effective digital strategy.

What should a business analyst consider when analyzing the future state?

When analyzing the future state, a business analyst should consider several different factors. They should begin by understanding the company's present state and how it has evolved over time. This can include identifying new technologies that have been adopted or shifts in product offerings or business models.

How is the future state designed?

Designing the future state of a company typically involves setting clear goals and objectives, as well as understanding key performance indicators. This allows companies to track their progress and measure success. Companies should also strive to create a culture that values customer, employee, investor, and other stakeholder perspectives to stay ahead of the competition. Once goals have been identified, companies should then invest in research and development initiatives to ensure they remain competitive. Finally, technology implementation or evaluation is a key component of designing the future state. Engaging experts can provide independent and technology-agnostic feedback. If you have questions on how to map out a future state strategy, please feel free to reach out for an informal conversation: info@thirdstage-consulting.com.

Kimberling Eric Blue Backgroundv2
Eric Kimberling

Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.

Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.
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