We are all tech businesses now

“Social media should be on school curriculum”. Imagine a double-Facebook on a Friday afternoon instead of algebra and geometry? The quote comes from Gary Neville, who headlined the DTX Conference held at GMEX for the inaugural Manchester Tech Week.  A bit different from my usual visit here for the CIH conference.

It was good to get involved in something different, to look outwards from the social housing sector for a change. It had a great feel of enterprise and innovation with lots of stands showcasing the latest tech. It demonstrates how vibrant the Manchester Digital community has become. It was planned to be the largest gathering of enterprise IT professionals that the North has ever seen. We are pleased that Golden Marzipan is supporting this initiative by being a member of Manchester Digital.

A DeLorean car is on display at the exhibition

Here were my main takeaways.

Digital skills were at the forefront of the conference.

I was super-impressed by the Co-op bank with their award-winning Digital Bees initiative, where staff had volunteered to become digital experts supporting customers and charities in becoming more digitally inclusive. This is just the sort of thing social housing could and should be doing.

Source: The Good Things Foundation

The UK has a massive digital skills shortage. Hays recently claimed that 3 in 20 UK employers face a digital skills gap. Katie Gallagher, CEO of Manchester Digital says that their recent digital employment survey reveals that 56% of organisations were suffering skills shortages, with recruitment being a key issue. The work from home/hybrid workplace has meant that IT professionals in the north-west could now access London salaries from Eccles, Stockport and Oldham.  The resulting shortage is set to continue to the detriment of SMEs who are unable to match the new going rates.

So speed, agility and efficiency are also critically important.

Innovation vs efficiency

Most businesses now consider themselves to be tech businesses. John Hobson, CIO of Kellogg’s led the debate about focusing on the outcomes of initiatives rather than projects. Just as social housing has started to embrace the PMO concept, it was suggested it was time to disband given the administrative nature of trying to get an initiative accepted. They all agreed that there needs to be more product focus rather than project focus. Check out Mik Kerston. Our panel discussed the future of the CIO and suggested that it was impossible for one person in the organisation couldn’t be ahead of all the latest tech developments. Check out the Future CIO 2022 Raconteur report.

So, to take another overused phrase – we need to fail even faster.

In “Balancing innovation and Efficiency”, the panellists agreed that ICT had now moved from the back office to centre stage in most businesses and had become more influential in strategic decision-making within the organisation. It was also recognised that the volume of tech development requests had now risen exponentially in most organisations leading to resource prioritisation issues.  Low-tech development coding has enabled in-house application development, wholly different from our monster housing management systems.

Finally, in a session about the future of Zoom, it was suggested that we all need to get our heads around the immersive technology of Virtual Reality or Metaverse. So I suggest that you get out and buy your headsets and try it.

An inspiring day. As a result of the pandemic, the level of innovation and need for tech has jumped exponentially, with resulting business transformations. The downside is the skills shortages across the board leading to outsourcing. 

If you want to stay ahead, then get back to social media school. Or talk to us or Gary Neville.


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