In a market that is more competitive than a knife fight in a phone booth, companies cannot afford to waste precious time, money, or resources on projects that do not have a measurable affect on the company’s market share… and ultimately the company’s survival. Sure, it may seem like a good idea to offer your widgets in yet another color, but will that generate significantly more revenue for the company, improve customer loyalty, or significantly change anything else that affects the bottom line? Not likely.
Keep an Eye On Your Tuna Salad Sandwich
Studying market trends is a fantastic way to identify opportunities for new projects that will give you a fighting chance to remain relevant in the marketplace. Simply keeping up with the competition is only enough if you want to survive on razor-thin profit margins… which typically means making your money on volume. Plenty of companies do this and are successful for the short-term, but as we’ve seen in the news lately, even titans of retail such as Walmart will eventually get their lunches eaten by hungry competitors who can offer the same thing… only cheaper and faster (enter Amazon).
Look Directly into the Sun
Take solar energy generation as an example: SolarCity, currently America’s largest solar energy provider, recently announced another development breakthrough with their new 22% efficient solar panels. 22% may not sound like much, but this new level of efficiency is causing many people to start revisiting their previous notions that solar power is not viable. We’re not quite there yet, but if investment in solar panel technology continues and we’re able to see 25%-30% efficiency, then we’ll reach a point where it may actually cost less to generate our own electricity at home… rather than purchase it from a utility company.
Think about that for a moment. Electricity — something that affects nearly everyone in any developed country on Earth — may soon come exclusively from the sky rather than the earth. Many of today’s companies who extract their energy sources from the ground or generate electricity centrally for distribution should be taking note of these fundamental technological developments to predict the market trends for the next century. If solar energy does indeed become a viable alternative to burning things for energy, then they should take immediate actions to (a) protect their livelihood (b) launch themselves ahead of their competition, or (c) launch themselves into new markets entirely.
Future Market-Driven Project Strategy
There are several techniques for identifying, evaluating, scoring, selecting, and prioritizing the projects that should be in your company’s portfolio; we can have that conversation another time. The important point to note is this: the most important projects that end up in your portfolio should have measurable traceability back to a strategy that aligns with future market trends. Developing a new product or service offering simply because the competition has done it should not be sufficient.
It’s amazing how one technological innovation can have such far-reaching effects across multiple industries:
Oil and Gas Companies: Perhaps the most obvious of companies who should feel threatened by the continued development of solar energy technology; what projects should they be running to ensure their continued relevance in the future?
- Perhaps focus on developing fuels for use cases where electric propulsion will not be practical for several decades, such as for aircraft.
- Perhaps focus on developing better, super-recyclable plastics that can be used as replacements for today’s plastics or traditional materials such as metal or wood.
- Perhaps focus on extraction of other types of resources, such as materials for use in batteries or ocean water desalination.
- Perhaps develop new battery technologies.
Electric Generation and Distribution Companies: Perhaps not as obvious, these people should definitely take note of the solar technology threat because it could mean affordable, decentralized electricity generation for the masses. What projects should they be running to ensure their continued relevance in the future?
- Perhaps focus exclusively on environmentally-friendly sources of centralized electricity generation, such as hydro, wind, solar, and tidal.
- Perhaps acquire companies that develop and sell hydro / wind / solar / tidal generation technologies or electricity storage technologies in order to capitalize on the trend.
- Perhaps focus on delivering electricity for use cases where solar electricity generation will not be practical for decades, such as large facilities that would require extremely large banks of storage batteries or areas where solar is not practical because of the climate.
Battery and Other Chemical Companies: Perhaps also not as obvious, these people should take note of a primary disadvantage of solar electricity technology… the continued need for electricity when the sun isn’t shining. What projects should they be running to capitalize on the future solar energy trend?
- Perhaps develop new battery technologies that provide faster charging, less weight, or flexible form factors.
- Perhaps develop large-scale battery supply chain and manufacturing processes to handle (a) larger demands and (b) larger storage capacities.
- Perhaps develop new battery charging technologies such as wireless charging or super-fast charging.
- Perhaps develop non-chemical battery technologies (e.g. capacitors) or mechanical energy storage technologies.
- Perhaps form partnerships with solar technology companies to incorporate batteries into solar panels or provide bundling discounts.
Now Go Forth
You don’t need to be hardcore market analyst to see emerging market trends; you only need to keep your eyes and ears open and know where to focus your attention. News streams in your area of interest are great places to monitor what people are talking about and working on for the future.
You also need to have an open mind. If you don’t think that there are threats to your business around the corner, then one day you will be caught with your pants down… and it’s going to be painful. There are endless examples of products, companies, and industries that collapsed because their leaders could not accept the inevitability of change.
The ability to see future market trends and prepare for them through your project portfolio will mean the difference between thriving and irrelevance.
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