Open Foresight Project
These 8 quality trends will affect Austria’s companies in the next 10 years
The study “Quality 2030”, which was carried out by the Institute for Integrated Quality Design of the Johannes Kepler University (JKU) on behalf of Quality Austria, maps out how the concept of quality will change over the next years. Ten renowned companies from the economic sector were also involved in this project, among them Lenzing, BWT, Infineon Austria and KEBA.
“Quality Austria has always been a pioneer in the area of quality. This is why we found it so fascinating to explore the quality requirements of the year 2030 based on a substantiated study in the present day,” explains Anni Koubek, innovation manager and authorized representative at Quality Austria. For the study “Quality 2030” on behalf of Quality Austria, scientists at the Johannes Kepler University (JKU) in Linz carried out research for more than one and a half years, analyzing trend reports, organizing workshops with reputable companies and interviewing futurologists. Via an open foresight approach, B2B and B2C companies of varying sizes and from various industries were deliberately included. After all, when it comes to trends, these are so big that they affect everyone. Specifically, the following eight trends emerged:
1. Simplicity: a push for intuitive operation is necessary
Purchasing decisions are made more and more rapidly. And the attention span of online customers is correspondingly short. “Therefore the future has to be simple, convenient and uncomplicated. If a company does not fulfil these customer expectations, it won’t last long in the market,” study project leader Melanie Wiener from the Johannes Kepler University Linz (JKU) summarises the situation. In online business, after all, the competition is often just a click away. Major retail groups in particular, with their intuitive operation and one-click orders, have set the bar incredibly high for everybody else.
2. Sustainability: Europe has more raw materials than we thought
While in recent years, even the batteries in many phones were installed so firmly that they could not be removed by the user, in future the trend will shift in the direction of a circular economy. For this, as many products as possible need to be designed, as early as in the development phase, in such a way that they are simple to upgrade or repair. Furthermore, at the end of the product life cycle, it should be possible to recover and recycle materials to as high a standard of quality as possible. “Technically, Europe is a continent with few natural resources, but when you look at the building materials that are ‘stored’ in our buildings waiting to be reused, for example, then in fact we are a continent with a rich repository of natural resources,” the Head of the Institute for Integrated Quality Design and academic leader of the study, Prof. Erik Hansen, clarifies.
3. Sense of purpose: companies need to live by their values
Greenwashing will become more difficult for companies to pull off in future. Corporate groups whose product quality is sound but who define their values without living by them can expect a boycott from consumers. “Trust and transparency are values that in future will have an even greater influence on the concept of quality,” explain the experts.
4. Digitalization: algorithms can make decisions
In a similar manner to autonomous driving, in future digitalization could be so widely implemented that corporate decisions are based on “big data”. “Who says that a clever algorithm can’t be better than a strategist” was the provocative thesis put forward by a collaborative partner of the study.
5. Certifications: consumers want independent verifications
Consumers are becoming more critical of influencers, even if they have thousands of followers. Young people are becoming more and more aware of the fact that social media stars are often paid to praise products on YouTube or similar platforms. “People don’t like to trust someone who has been bought. Most people prefer for an independent institution to carry out an audit and confirm the quality with a certification,” according to expert Wiener. On the part of the companies, there is a desire to sift through the jungle of certifications, since the number of standards is constantly on the rise.
6. Individualization: data collection will continue to rise
The high consumer demand for standardized mass products of the past decades is increasingly giving way to a demand for goods and services that are as individually customized as possible. However, this individualization will most likely lead to a further increase in data collection and the associated data protection issues.
7. Quality conflict: products must be brought to market rapidly
Consumers are demanding the very latest products in ever shorter intervals. This is why in some sectors, speed and innovative power are already more important than complete accuracy, since the companies anticipate a competitive edge thanks to this pioneering strategy. “The higher the percentage of software in a product, the faster it is brought to market, since any potential defects can be remedied retrospectively by means of an update,” Wiener clarifies this quality conflict.
8. Agility: doing away with hierarchical and bureaucratic organizational structures
To a great extent, the organizational structures within Austria’s companies are set up in a very hierarchical, bureaucratic manner. A typical organizational chart consists of around five levels. In order to survive in these fast-paced times, therefore, businesses need to become more agile. In line with this, one project participant completely eliminated the management hierarchy within his company. Instead, the employees are assigned roles within their self-organized project teams. This means more freedom for those involved, but also greater responsibility for their own actions.
“As the study results show, there is a clear trend development from ‘little q’, which is only concerned with whether all of the product requirements are fulfilled, towards ‘Big Q’. This means that the concept of quality is becoming ever broader”, Wiener explains. “As a consequence of this development, companies that want to continue to be successful in the future need to orient their quality not just by what their customers want, but also by the needs of relevant interest groups and stakeholders”, is Hansen’s conclusion.
About the study
In June 2018, experts and visionaries from a broad spectrum of Austrian organizations initiated the project “Quality 2030” with the objective of identifying developments that will influence future quality requirements. Alongside Quality Austria, which commissioned the study at the Institute for Integrated Quality Design at the Johannes Kepler University in Linz, the following companies also participated in the study: AVL LIST, BWT, Erdal, Infineon, the Geriatric Health Centres of the City of Graz, Grüne Erde, KEBA, neoom group, Lenzing, TGW.