Blog: Businesses need strategic IQ to stay ahead

Bruce Donaldson

Bruce Donaldson highlights WSP’s Future Ready concept and explains how the design of cities and business infrastructure is likely to change in line with climate, technology and societal trends.

The world is changing, which offers both risk and opportunity for businesses in every industry. However, those which do not engage with key trends correctly are more likely to pay the price than reap a reward.

From climate change and new technologies, through to changing employment practices and energy costs, the reality is that businesses of every size and industry will be affected by external factors.

At WSP we’ve been assessing key trends for some time, born out of our responsibility to evaluate and help both the public and private sectors prepare for the opportunities and threats of their specific industry, location or structures.

We noticed that traditionally-accepted models are no longer safe to assume. For example, the Met Office predicts winter rainfall in Scotland will increase by 10-35% while summer rainfall will decrease by 25-50%. This will have an impact on how long road surfaces will last once built. Longer wet periods and harsher dry periods are affecting the way infrastructure performs meaning that road surface lifespans are different from what is traditionally expected. Changing weather patterns are revealing a much-altered future than previously anticipated, with significant consequences for our design and management of every project.

These observations inspired an internally-developed innovation programme called Future Ready which offers a long-term forecast of multiple factors likely to affect a project. By tapping into our worldwide intelligence network which analyses and translates key trends in all industries across all continents, we help cities, communities and clients see the future more clearly and take practical actions to prepare for the future.  This approach enables us to design for both the long- and short-term, making the solutions we offer ‘future proof’ against rapid urbanisation, heavier rainfall, warmer temperatures, and an increasingly connected world.

In Scotland, we are helping whisky distillers assess future demand for their product alongside how climate change, people migration and technology will affect everything from water sources and risks to barley growth.  Given it can take 25 years to produce a single malt, this industry is already comfortable with taking the long view.  Nonetheless, the additional data we’ve provided is allowing them to plan and adapt their business operations with greater clarity than ever before.

Another example of a project where our team is using various sets of data and recent innovations in both electricity and road maintenance is the design of an electric car charging infrastructure. This will be able to expand with demand, while still being able to cope with future challenges such as increased rain and snowfall in the area.

With Scotland currently adopting electric vehicles twice as fast as the rest of the UK, alongside Scottish Government intentions to actively encourage this through legislation and infrastructure, the look and feel of Scotland’s highways is set to change dramatically. This will have knock-on effects for businesses along every route and supports the premise that it’s not just the whisky producers who can benefit from taking a future-oriented view.

Ultimately, business success in the future is determined by strategic IQ in the present. Miss the trend and you will increase business risk. However, read the trend correctly and you could enjoy untold rewards.

  • Bruce Donaldson is operations director, transport and infrastructure at WSP and is based in firm’s Glasgow office

This article originally appeared in The Scotsman

Tags: WSP

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