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What mistakes and barriers are preventing tech reaching the top?

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa)

Why do we always want what’s bad for us? Fast food, fizzy drinks. You name it. If it’s not great for our emotional, intellectual or physical health in the long term, we’re there for it.

You can also throw into that the idea of choice. We love options and the ability to pick between a few things that might meet our preferences. But really, we don’t need it. Instead, choice confuses us and can lead to dodgy decision making or buying things that we have absolutely no need for.

But it’s not just the consumer world where choice is leading to bad decisions or no decisions at all. We’re seeing it in the tech industry as well.

Advances in everything from blockchain and IoT to biometrics and AI mean that the game seems to change every other day. With the dual result that businesses struggle to know where to focus their efforts, and innovation grinds to a halt. It’s clear that if the UK is going to meet its potential for technology leadership, we need to find our focus and create some order in the chaos of choice.

Holding back on moving forward

According to TomTom Telematics (a branch of the navigation and mapping giant), around a third of businesses in the United Kingdom are slow to adopt new technology. While research from McKinsey suggests that the adoption rate for a new technology can be anywhere from eight to 28 years.

These stats add a bit of context to what we’re talking about here. Despite the reputation of tech for being fast moving and quick to make big changes, it’s actually anything but. Of course, in part, the reason for this might be finance and resource. Businesses are hesitant at the moment, particularly in the UK where our politics are making it increasingly difficult to have any firm idea on what our working environment might look like come summer 2019. But there is also an element of tech tentativeness at play, which can be attributed to inconsistent strategic decision-making, a lack of the right expertise in businesses, or holding back on investment because of a fear of placing resource in the wrong places.

All of this is compounded by a skills shortage in the UK tech industry. Findings from Explore Group reveal that 94 per cent of employers are seeing a skills gap, which is leading to rising salaries in IT jobs (up by 4.2 per cent according to Experis), and a vast increase in the use of contractors. And while neither are necessarily negative trends, they don’t suggest that technology is benefiting from strategic, long term decision making. If the UK is going to make the most of what could be an exciting future, that’s got to change.

Get strategic, fulfil potential

The reason this all matters is that the possibilities created by technological innovation are truly exciting. Blockchain, AI, IoT and biometrics can help businesses to make strides forward, becoming more efficient and intelligent, and able to meet customer expectations. That’s certainly what our research findings discovered, with 49 per cent of businesses of the opinion that they will lose appeal within two years without innovation, and 60 per cent saying that they’ll become irrelevant without constant innovation.

As with all things digital transformation, there’s no stock way to do things. What works for one business won’t for another, which is why it makes business sense to look at technology providers with a level of customisation in their solutions. However, there are some general pointers that most can follow to get their business in better shape to be one of those that’s able to innovate and be at the pointy end of British commerce in the coming years.

Skills and minds

Our research found that 54 per cent of businesses struggle to turn ideas into reality and 43 per cent find it hard to come up with new ideas. So clearly there’s a problem with who’s influencing things here (interestingly, just over a quarter say that accessing the right skills is a barrier), and it’s no wonder that the myriad technological choices IT leaders are confronted with are causing more than a few issues.

Having the right people on board, with the right level of knowledge, is crucial to having a more structured approach to tech acquisition and adoption. Not least because they’ll be able to align the systems a business invests in with its overall goals; they’ll also be able to spearhead an upskilling and training process that ensures that businesses are able to maintain the right skills for their objectives internally. Suddenly, all those choices will look less daunting. Experts will be able to pick the right thing for their businesses from the pile, both now and in the future.

Beyond that, it becomes a question of mindset. Innovation is not the kind of thing a business can pick up and put down at will. Likewise, technology adoption is not nuts and bolts stuff – simply giving people a laptop and an internet connection won’t cut it today. Innovation is about holistic, strategic and business orientated technological development; about challenging status quos and thinking one step ahead of the crowd to anticipate and cater for future customer needs. Our research told us that 59 per cent agree that partnering and collaborating with external parties leads to the best innovation. It’s worth remembering this going forward, understanding that big ideas come from putting heads together and recognising when and where outside help could make the difference.

The right decisions for a bolder future

As ever, choice is great if you know what to do with it. And it’s only by introducing these kinds of cultures and people that businesses will be able to become better able to navigate the vast array of technological options they’re faced with and make better decisions, consistently. In doing so, the likelihood is that they’ll see their tech investment pay off and become part of righting the UK’s ship when it comes to technology – removing the barriers that prevent the country from fulfilling its undoubted potential.

Ed Addario, Chief Technology Officer, Currencycloud
Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa

Ed Addario
Ed Addario, Chief Technology Officer at Currencycloud, leads a team of over 45 technologists and is the driving force behind the next generation API at the heart of the business.