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How executives can future-proof their organizations for 2024 and beyond

sangeeta and coworkers

Shifting from defense to offense, where should today’s leaders be placing their bets to prepare for tomorrow’s world?

Today’s executives have more information at their fingertips—and more on their plates—than ever before. In addition to constantly adapting to and implementing new technologies, they’re also responsible for visualizing and setting the course for the future they want to create.

So in a world that’s becoming increasingly complex, how can leaders make technological advancement both simple and approachable?

Throughout Q1, we connected with executives across the C-suite to delve into the most pressing topics in each of their respective functions and found a few common themes:

1. Navigating AI overload

With the influx of emerging tools and technologies, the AI landscape is becoming more difficult to navigate. Do you invest in feature enhancements or place your faith in a new platform altogether? When should you build versus buy? And how do you make sure your teams are properly equipped?

“In this crowded AI ecosystem, it’s becoming more and more confusing for business leaders to know where to place their bets,” says Michelle Page-Rivera, PhD, managing director of Business Advisory Services at Slalom. “They need clarity around solution feasibility and expected business outcomes so they can choose a direction and quickly prepare their organization for what’s ahead.”

2. Balancing a sense of urgency with smart investing

In today’s world, everything needs a business case. This requires C-suite leaders to embrace an outcomes-driven approach, make sure their priorities align to ROI, and keep their sights set on the future instead of worrying about what their competitors are doing now.

“Traditional benchmarks are dead,” says Amalia Goodwin, managing director of Business Advisory Services at Slalom. “We can’t worry about what others are doing if they haven’t even implemented it yet.” While we know at least 30% of today’s roles can be augmented with AI, she says, no one can predict the level of automation and augmentation in five or 10 years from now.

“By waiting for others to create new benchmarks, you’ll simply miss out on market share and put your business at risk of being obsolete.”

3. Preparing for the change ahead

While we’re living amid constant change, C-suite leaders should recognize that the most critical shifts are the ones on the horizon, and preparing for that change needs to happen now. 

“The challenge isn’t what AI can do; it’s what humans are willing to let go,” says Slalom CMO Sangeeta Prasad.

For example, while 86% of chief human resources officers (CHROs) shared that they plan on investing in skill development, it wasn’t considered a top priority by other C-suite leaders. This disconnect regarding how best to prepare for the future—and what it specifically means for the workforce—will continue to be a challenge in the coming year.

By waiting for others to create new benchmarks, you’ll simply miss out on market share and put your business at risk of being obsolete.

Given the widespread interest in emerging technologies across functional areas, there’s an opportunity to move toward more holistic, cross-functional digital initiatives that break down silos, fostering an integrated approach to innovation.

For product and marketing leaders, this could involve evaluating how your customers are interacting with the latest technology, while ESG leaders are likely exploring how emerging AI solutions can accelerate their decarbonization goals. CHROs, on the other hand, might use an AI tool or accelerator like Slalom’s enhanceIQ to evaluate which tasks should be automated or augmented.

Explore our key learnings in the function-specific breakdowns below to learn more about how these trends are influencing the C-suite.

What C-suite leaders are telling us

What c-suite leaders are telling us

Chief operating officer

The COOs’ focus on market growth and product development, combined with the interest in digital transformation, suggests a surprising approach to expansion: leveraging digital tools and AI to explore new markets and innovate products more efficiently, thereby accelerating growth.

Key takeaways:

  • COOs need to communicate clearly with employees, business partners, and customers about how human-machine interactions will reshape day-to-day operations.
  • There are three primary considerations for evolving operating models: new ways of working, deployment and governance, and people and culture.
  • Achieving accurate outcomes starts with evaluating the accuracy, accessibility, and fidelity of your data—including which groups might be under- or overrepresented.

Chief product officer

Today’s CPOs are allocating resources toward creating unique customer experiences, aligning leadership, entering adjacent markets, building new products, and modernizing core technologies. This requires an outcomes-based approach that drives alignment and informs the priorities of product teams.

Key takeaways:

  • Future-proofing your organization requires a mindset shift from focusing on building a set of features to building around a desired outcome.
  • Implementing a framework for defining and measuring outcomes is essential for teams to track and validate assumptions.

Innovation leaders

The alignment toward digital transformation, paralleled with the interest in process improvement, indicates that the pursuit of efficiency is likely to drive innovation within organizations. This means that the next big breakthroughs will be focused on making existing processes better as opposed to creating new products or services.

Key takeaways:

  • Today’s products and services need to appeal not only to human sensibilities but also to algorithmic decision makers.
  • Gesture control, immersive experiences, and the proliferation of personal robotics are some of the trends guiding innovation leaders.
  • Virtual interactions are becoming more meaningful and influential as advanced VR and AI technologies blur the line between physical and digital realms.

Chief marketing officer

While CMOs are focused on enhancing customer experiences, the overall interest in process improvement suggests a move toward using operational efficiencies and digital tools to refine customer engagement models, making them more responsive and personalized.

Key takeaways:

  • Consumers are becoming less loyal to brands while being exposed to increasing volumes of content, leading to content saturation and fatigue.
  • Focusing on strategic marketing initiatives (instead of manual processes and low-value activities) can combat the limited resources, skill gaps, and time constraints that often impede marketing.

Chief human resources officer

The focus of CHROs on building skills and new ways of working, when seen alongside the general interest in efficiency and digital transformation, highlights how HR departments could be pivotal in driving digital literacy and tech-enabled efficiency across the organization.

Key takeaways:

  • Transitioning to a skills-based talent strategy requires​ a well-defined and consistently applied skill taxonomy and job architecture.
  • Growing transferable skills and supporting nonlinear careers are crucial to evolving your talent strategy and reducing the growing anxiety around AI.
  • Learning to evaluate which tasks are “machine-ready” and which require human input allows your workforce to become more agile.

Sustainability leaders

The high priority CSOs placed on operational efficiencies—coupled with the broader interest in AI and digital transformation—suggests that sustainability initiatives might increasingly become intertwined with technological innovation, leveraging AI to optimize resource use and reduce waste.

Key takeaways:

  • Balancing short- and long-term sustainability objectives helps demonstrate progress through quick wins, building trust and buy-in across the organization.
  • More than 50% of leaders say they rely on a centralized model, meaning authority and sustainability expertise are spread across the organization.
  • Strong alliances with financial leaders are crucial to evaluating risk, aligning goals with ROI, and engaging investors and regulators.

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