Charting the Course for 2021

Published on February 3, 2021

The global economy is under immense pressure, with fundamental political and social issues complicating the outlook for almost all industries. Coronavirus has seemingly changed the world we live in, but CEOs still need to plan the next 11 months of business strategy. Having a roadmap is vital to success, and uncertainty can paralyze even the most experienced decision-makers.

Although a vaccine is dominating the public discussion and is a key variable in any economic outlook, COVID-19 isn’t the only caveat to plan for. The results of the U.S. election present yet another significant variable. New policies could increase volatility in the markets—and soften economic investment and output. CEOs should also consider the possible reemergence of U.S.-China trade tensions, fueled by another rise in tariffs. Not to mention civil unrest, social justice reform, climate change, and unemployment.

As CEOs navigate 2021, there are likely more economic and socio-political risks and uncertainties to forecast than ever before. And while most CEOs specialize in putting out fires, the global economy is facing an uphill battle (including literal fires), and planning for 2021 should focus less on extinguishing business perils and more on adapting to new market forces and shifting priorities based on immediate needs and long-term goals.

Most CEOs today have only led their companies through years of steady growth. Today, CEOs are tasked with navigating their companies through a once-in-a-century event while trying to future-proof their businesses for the “new normal.” While there are lessons from prior economic downturns that can be leveraged, the unique circumstances of today will influence how those past lessons should be applied. Smart CEOs realize that today’s uncertainty, is in fact, an opportunity to recalibrate their organizations.

In unprecedented times, how can chief executives plan, future-proof their organization, and navigate what’s to come? The answer is to focus on making agile business decisions while staying true to the company’s vision, mission, and values.

Adopting an Agile Framework

Being agile as a business means leveraging data to identify problems and opportunities in real time, and then being able to test, evaluate, iterate, and deploy solutions quickly. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

Plan: When employing an agile approach, never lose sight of the desired outcome. Successful planning requires organizations to test and learn with a customer-first mindset, focused on enhancing each touchpoint of the journey.

Process: A strong process backbone enables a network of dynamic teams to operate a continuum of testing and learning with speed and accuracy. To establish stability and efficiency, processes must be both tight-knit and well-defined.

People: Agile teams have well-defined roles and well-defined goals, and they work in a cross-functional capacity. They’re driven by leadership that empowers a company’s best talent to make decisions, to execute with accuracy and speed, and to continuously inject new ideas into a company’s innovation engine.

Platform: Establishing a strong technology backbone is also key for agility, and this can pose a significant challenge to brands. After all, there are thousands of marketing platforms and technologies on the market today. Ideally, brands can call on agency support to help identify the most effective and relevant platforms for their businesses and to customize them to their needs.

Performance Measurement: Teams need to be authentic and measure performance in real-time or near real-time to best understand optimization requirements that ultimately drive desired outcomes.

Taking a pause and evaluating your business can be difficult when you put every ounce of passion, effort, and enthusiasm into growing your business. You’d prefer to continue on this same course, but this type of impartial evaluation is a necessity for truly understanding where and how you can run your business smarter, trim excessive costs, and operate in a leaner, more efficient manner.

An agile framework unlocks new, scalable revenue opportunities through a continuum of testing, learning, and innovation.


Michael Kalman is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of MediaCrossing Inc., a leading, award-winning, independent digital advertising agency. In this role, he leads the advertising team that is dedicated to helping agencies and advertisers earn and then own the “customer conversation” through activating data and engaging audiences across all screens.

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