Strategic Foresight in Business Management
Tamro is known as a pioneering company in strategic foresight. Finland's leading distributor of medicines and health products is primarily interested in what will happen within the next few months and years.
“Many people think that strategic foresight is all about following megatrends and preparing for the future. I sometimes tease people and say that you should not fall for megatrend gibberish,” says Kai Kaasalainen, CEO of Tamro.
“The fact that people are getting older and moving to cities is of no direct relevance to our business. But if we know what is happening in our operating environment and our customers’ operations in two months or two years' time, that is enormously relevant,” Kai Kaasalainen continues.
Tapio Ypyä, head of Tamro’s Health Technology Services business unit, has worked at Tamro for four years. He says that he has never before come across a company that would invest as much in strategic foresight as Tamro does.
“Thanks to strategic foresight, we recognize changes in our business environment at a very early stage and we have a genuinely continuous strategizing process,” Tapio Ypyä says.
Tamro's Quality Director Anni Svala underlines that strategic foresight produces a broad understanding of alternative futures and strengthens the organization's decision-making.
“Of course, strategic foresight is about being able to agilely foresee changes in technology development or consumer behavior – but at its best, foresight also helps us influence the future and shape our operating environment,” Anni Svala describes.
Kai Kaasalainen points out that the ability to make strategic moves based on foresight has a scientifically proven impact on both profit and market value.
“Research shows that the EBITBA for companies that are aware of strategic foresight is 33% higher than that of average companies – and future-prepared firms outperform average companies by a 200% higher growth,” says Kai Kaasalainen, who started his doctoral thesis on strategic foresight in Aalto EE's DBA program in summer 2021.
Tamro's passion for strategic foresight has also contributed to the development of education in the field in Finland. Aalto EE's Strategic Foresight in Business Management program was launched in 2016 after Kai Kaasalainen suggested it. He attended the first program as a participant and has visited all the subsequent programs as the keynote speaker.
Valuable Insight from Aalto EE's Training Program
Tamro actively educates its experts and leaders in strategic foresight. Every year, new key personnel is sent to Aalto EE's Strategic Foresight in Business Management program to learn more about strategic foresight.
“The program was intensive and very well structured. The instructors Eeva Vilkkumaa and Antti-Jussi Tahvanainen were excellent. Both are extremely knowledgeable in the use of mathematical models and tools,” says Anni Svala, who participated in the program during summer 2021.
“With such skilled instructors guiding us, we could immediately delve deep into methods and useful tools that can be used to model different ways to predict the future,” Anni Svala adds.
The program gives you the courage to put strategic foresight into practice, to progress from dreaming to action.”
Tapio Ypyä attended the Strategic Foresight in Business Management program a few years before Svala.
“I was impressed by the instructors’ expertise and skills. There was a strong scientific basis for everything we learned, but there were practical examples to help us understand how foresight can be utilized in business. Above all, the program gives you the courage to put strategic foresight into practice, to progress from dreaming to action,” Tapio Ypyä states.
“Perhaps the biggest lesson was that the purpose is not just to monitor and foresee change, but to be involved in building the future. Many companies are stuck in an adaptation mode. Vision and wisdom lie in aspiring to influence and shape the world,” Anni Svala adds.
Tamro started determined work in the field of strategic foresight in 2016, the same year that Aalto EE held its first Strategic Foresight in Business Management program. One of Tamro's first development steps in strategic foresight was a tool that monitors traditional and social media, public documents, and other sources 24/7, and reports interesting findings to Tamro.
“Our foresight is an iterative process that is developed year by year. Aalto EE’s Strategic Foresight in Business Management program has definitely helped in this development work,” Kai Kaasalainen says.
“Today, we use a number of foresight tools which have been unequivocally useful. I can give a concrete example from a few years ago: just before the summer holidays, I sent our management team an email in which I listed six business-critical things that – based on information provided by our foresight process – could occur by the end of the year. During the autumn, four of these six things happened exactly as we had anticipated,” Kai Kaasalainen explains.
Bold New Business Ventures
Strategic foresight has given Tamro the courage to launch significant new business ventures. Among other things, the company has expanded its operations to consumer business and health technology solutions.
Tapio Ypyä emphasizes that strategic foresight is vital to the Health Technology Services business unit he is in charge of.
“We are a startup within Tamro, and as a new business, we need in-depth knowledge of customer segments and markets. In the management of our operational activities, strategic foresight has already proven its worth. It gives us situational information that enables us, among other things, to target our sales and marketing activities correctly and ensure that we do not miss out on competitive tenders for health technology procurement,” Tapio Ypyä says.
“At present, we are growing rapidly, and strategic foresight is a marvelous tool in Roadmap work. We create different scenarios and harness tools to assess critical assumptions and measure the attractiveness of business ideas. It is difficult to imagine how this work could be done without strategic foresight. It is an organic part of our everyday business,” Tapio Ypyä underlines.
Tamro's expertise in strategic foresight has also attracted a lot of interest from stakeholders.
At present, we are growing rapidly, and strategic foresight is a marvelous tool in Roadmap work. We create different scenarios and harness tools to assess critical assumptions and measure the attractiveness of business ideas."
“Strategic foresight provides important input to the conversations we have with our customers. We create more value for our customers in our everyday encounters because we are able to communicate the various signals that we have observed in concrete terms,” Anni Svala explains.
“Our stakeholders know that we have insight about where our industry is heading. This has opened many doors for us. Some of our customers’ top management have asked us to engage in dialogue about their strategy work. What could be better. It's a salesman’s dream when a client wants your input to their strategy. Political decision-makers have also been genuinely interested in our views,” Kai Kaasalainen remarks.
Anni Svala, Tapio Ypyä, and Kai Kaasalainen affirm that they warmly recommend Aalto EE's Strategic Foresight in Business Management program.
“Although we already effectively utilize strategic foresight – and we naturally share a lot of information internally – it is good to regularly send our employees to Aalto EE to attain new skills. Ensuring that our leaders and a good number of our experts have in-depth understanding of the topic is very important to us,” Kai Kaasalainen says.
“Continual training ensures that we have the competence and skills that are needed to develop strategic foresight. The Strategic Foresight in Business Management program brings new fuel to our iterative development work,” Kai Kaasalainen concludes.
Learn more about the Strategic Foresight in Business Management program