After such a long hiatus, it was fantastic to take part in London Tech Week in person. This event is an incredible showcase for London and has always brought together an inspiring collective of executives, founders and entrepreneurs since it began back in 2014 and this year was no different.   

Of course, last year’s event was completely virtual by necessity, acutely demonstrating our view that every company is now a tech company. As leaders we are all expected to be technologists - our shareholders expect it and customers require it… emerging tech is no longer something for the CIO to think about outside of the boardroom. We increasingly see traditional organisations looking to learn from the successes of born-digital companies but speed is of the essence to compete in a rapidly changing landscape.

In a digital age, persistent disruption is the reality that organisations must learn to navigate, be that the complexity of changing consumer behaviours and needs, the mind-bending pace of evolution for tech, or the opportunities and threats that an increasingly connected world brings.

Whilst tech has proven itself to be an incredible enabler, it has also played a significant role in blending our home and working lives together, shaping a bold new future for work as we now know it. The democratisation of technology has brought many benefits (fast, cheap, out of the box), but it has also amplified the digital divide. We therefore have a responsibility to innovate and find ways to address this for our society moving forward, yet must be mindful of how we navigate the difficult decisions required to deliver value – and recognise the difference between gimmicks and game-changers. 

So many themes, diverse perspectives and food for thought. Here are just a few of my other key takeaways from the event so far:

  • The war for talent is huge – it was universally agreed that finding good people is proving to be a barrier to growth; a joint strategy of industry, government and education institutions to develop the right skills for the future workforce - and to retrain today’s – is vital.
  • Geography is no longer a barrier, but there are still complications – the pandemic has highlighted how quickly organisations can pivot their operations if they have to. But careful consideration must still be applied to the regulatory implications and other complexities that businesses will face in the world of “work from anywhere”; for example, legal jurisdictions for data processing.
  • The emergence of data as a currency – the exciting capabilities in AI, edge computing etc. cannot be harnessed if the data these technologies are being fed isn’t of sufficient quality or completeness. Many organisations still have not addressed this foundation enabler and it requires significant investment.
  • The future of work remains a hot topic! – the pros and cons of differing organisational stances to hybrid work, new challenges emerging from this approach, and how to retain and develop people who have very different preferences as to how they work are all still high on the leadership agenda. AlixPartners CEO Simon Freakley shared his views on this topic earlier in the week
  • Gimmicks and game-changers - some technology may be high in hype but some way off from broader adoption across industries. Augmented reality, for example, has still yet to find its groove and bona fide use cases remain limited, such as training and simulation. Similarly, there are exciting advances in quantum computing, but it will probably be nearer to the end of this decade before this technology is at a scale for broader use. On the game-changing front, digital currencies, autonomous transport and the advent of AI show that within such a broad and sometimes bewildering array of innovation, cutting-edge developments continue to be mined and refined for all of our benefit in years to come.

As we return to offices and emerge into the post-pandemic world, it's clear we've learnt much over the last 18 months or so. But, there is still much more to learn and figure out.