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Strategic Trends

a PEST or PESTLE analysis tool.

Political, social, economic, technological and business trends.

This article describes how to use strategic trends in a business strategic planning process

Why trends are important
to strategic leaders.

Strategic leaders use trends to understand and prepare for the future.

Strategic trends are used to:

  • Develop strategic plans as part of a business strategic planning process.
  • Develop plans as part of any organisation's long term strategy.
  • Identify new business opportunities.
  • Develop strategies to achieve business targets
  • Identify new markets.
  • Help teams to recognize the need for change.
  • Encourage innovation in teams. Get people to 'think outside of the box.'
  • Identify new paradigms that may change the way business is done in an industry.
  • Add richness to a SWOT analysis. Provide information that can be used to identify new opportunities and threats.
  • Develop scenarios of the future.

What is a PEST or PESTLE analysis?


A PEST analysis involves researching up to date trends in specific categories such as:

  • Political trends.
  • Economic trends.
  • Social trends.
  • Technological trends.

A PESTLE analysis adds in legal and environmental trends.

Whether you do a PEST, a PESTLE or a trend analysis, you identify strategic trends. These trends are then used to identify opportunities and threats to the organization, or to identify new markets and innovative products and services to offer customers.

What is a scenario?

A scenario is a photograph that shows how the trends of today may develop in the future. Organizations use scenarios to identify new rules they may need to follow to be successful within that future.

What can happen if you don't use strategic trends when planning for the future.

The highlight of any strategic planning retreat is when groups use strategic trends to identify new opportunities for their organization.

When they see the new possibilities available to them, they become excited about the future. This is the turning point of any strategy conference.

  • The world outside of the organization may change without you knowing. The rules for being successful as an organization may change.
  • Your organization may become less competitive and less successful than it used to be - as it tries to compete by doing what it has always done in the past.
  • New competitors from outside the industry may steal your market without you being aware of the threat.
  • You may miss out on an important trend, that may harm your organization.
  • You may miss out on new opportunities caused by shifts in trends.

7 steps to identify strategic trends to use in your planning.

  1. Read. Read magazines, newspapers, and web documents that contain up to date facts or statistics in a broad range of topics. Politics. Economics. Technology. Business. Societal.
  2. Select a group of topics that are relevant to organizational strategy and innovation.
  3. Research these topics further. Find credible sources that provide well researched facts and statistics rather than those that offer opinions. To do this well can take 3 to 6 months.
  4. Test your facts. Compare the information from different sources. Find information that comes from a number of credible sources.
  5. Construct the trend. Write out the facts you can trust. Look for gaps in your information and research these gaps further.
  6. Create a set of trends that cover most of the issues that could impact on the future success of an organization.
  7. Package the trends in a way that your leaders will find easy to read and use.

Examples of strategic topics covered in a trends, a PEST or PESTLE analysis.


  • Structural shifts in the global economy.
  • Legislation.
  • Political power blocs.


  • Population demographics.
  • Energy.
  • Water.
  • Employment and unemployment.
  • Food.

Economic trends:

  • Economic growth areas.
  • Trading blocs.
  • Trade and investments.
  • Infrastructural spending.
  • Where governments and businesses are investing.


  • Technological innovations.
  • How technology is being used for communication, marketing and distribution.
  • How technology is being used to transform products and services of organizations.
  • How technology is changing the rules of success within industries.


  • Ways businesses relate to their customers, suppliers and the societies within which they operate.
  • The changing focus of successful businesses.
  • Systems, processes and technologies used by successful organizations.

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