25 October 2017

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A turbulent transforming world; how to re-imagine this as an opportunity

It’s time for business leaders to seize the digital era, says Gordon Wilson, CEO of Advanced

A turbulent transforming world; how to re-imagine this as an opportunity

British businesses are facing turbulent times. First there is the ongoing debate about Brexit, then the latest reports that the UK has gone from being the fastest growing to the slowest performing economy against its counterparts in the G7. In addition, the disruptive nature of the digital era is adding a further level of change - dubbed the 4th Industrial Revolution, this continues its journey to transform the offline world in which we’ve lived for decades to an online world of opportunity.

So how can businesses look ahead and reimagine this scenario as a world in which they can all thrive?  The Government’s Industrial Strategy is all about improving living standards and economic development - by increasing productivity and driving growth across the UK. With the 10 pillars that form the backbone of the strategy selected for their proven ability to drive growth, the rhetoric is powerful but is it delivering on its promises? Do business leaders even know enough about the Industrial Strategy to maximise the opportunities it reportedly presents?

The CBI itself stated in its recent Budget submission that the Industrial Strategy needs to be brought to life through concrete action, as a means for reinforcing the UK economy against future challenges. Carolyn Fairbairn stated: “Brexit must not be allowed to crowd out vital action at home.”

We agree that focusing on vital action – in areas that businesses can control – is critical.

Brexit may remain a hot topic, but the fact is that nobody knows what the outcome of the talks will be. The danger is that as it consumes so much focus, it detracts businesses from more important considerations that they can deal with today. For example, real and present threats of cyber security and adhering to General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) – looming new legislation that will impact the majority of British businesses from May 2018.

In our 2016 Trends Report, it revealed that 63 per cent of businesses claim to be prepared for Brexit yet only 26 per cent are prepared for cyber attacks. This means one in four businesses are simply not ready for a cyber security breach that has the ability to destroy a business – yet with the right procedures and planning, it is within our control to minimise this threat. Our 2017 Trends Report, launching at the CBI Conference on 6th November, will show to what extent this has been achieved and how ready UK businesses now are.

Again, surely of great priority to business leaders should be GDPR, where preparation today is key – putting in place the right skills, talent and processes to meet the new legislative guidelines.

Regardless of the outcome of Brexit negotiations, refocusing efforts on real challenges today empowers businesses to take control and influence outcomes, and realise the potential of the Industrial Strategy. For every organisation, part of this push must be to reimagine their position in the context of a digital-first industrial landscape.

The reality is that the rules of business are being thrown out of the window. Digital first businesses are disrupting established industries. Millennials – the born-digital generation - will make up 75 per cent of the global workforce by 2025[i] and come with new ways of working and an expectation of the right digital tools to do their job effectively. At the same time, technology is driving new levels of automation and new areas such as Artificial Intelligence and Robot Process Automation are eradicating many mundane tasks – providing the opportunity to free up employees to focus on more skilled and value added tasks.

Embracing digital transformation gives businesses the opportunity to reimagine their future vision by transforming business models and services. Part of this vision needs to include reimagining the skills,  people and products the business will need to compete effectively with the disrupters and challengers.

Business leaders with the confidence, skills and expertise will successfully navigate their organisation forward in this digital era. All of which paint a very positive outlook for the future of Britain, with or without Europe, provided businesses seize the world of opportunities open to them, today.