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Can the UK tech sector afford to be optimistic about its recovery?


Is the tech sector set for an economic rebound, or is that just wishful thinking? Wes van den Berg, VP & GM UKI at Pure Storage tells us more.

The UK government has set out its roadmap for easing restrictions, injecting a sense of excitement that the much craved ‘normality’ may finally be within reach.

For different industries and sectors, this return provides an opportunity for an ‘economic rebound’ and for the UK to come together and work towards sustainable recovery.

For those of us in the technology industry, our sense of quiet optimism is in part thanks to our experience with remote working conditions.

Technologists have long been accustomed to working away from colleagues, developing software, analysing data or coding in a local coffee shop, on the commute or from the comfort of their home.

Therefore, while the changing working conditions and restrictions have undoubtedly affected us all, this prior experience has allowed us to remain productive and support our ability to bounce back.

However, this alone will not be enough to recover. The industry’s ambition to grow and support the UK’s long-term performance will be measured against three factors:

1. Driving the fourth industrial revolution

A year ago in April 2020, Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, delivered the company’s quarterly earnings to Wall Street and noted that he had seen two years worth of digital transformation in two months.

Almost overnight, physical operations were closed, and services were moved online; technologists have been invaluable in easing the transition, allowing customers to enjoy a digital-first experience and consume services remotely, at scale.

The technology sector has helped businesses to completely shift their modus operandi and introduce a true age of information services.

In turn, this has helped to accelerate the fourth industrial revolution by providing the foundation for data to transform how we live.

Over the last 12 months, we’ve seen just how significant the role of data and intelligent tools can play in our lives.

5G connections have grown an astonishing 66% while collaborative tools like Zoom have surged in adoption.

But over the course of the next year, the fourth industrial revolution could become a pipe dream unless we help build new expectations of data.

Real-time analysis, automation and secure back-ups can help businesses in a variety of sectors, be it healthcare, gaming or retail, to anticipate demand, provide personalised experiences, protect against ransomware and offer new engaging services.

Another essential element to consider as we move forward is to maintain our customer-first objectives, as this is what will help the sector and the UK economy to grow in tandem.

As technologists, it will be our responsibility to help continue enabling the strategies of being data and customer-first. This will deliver on industry 4.0 and grow the sector to the benefit of the wider economy.

2. Building a talent pipeline through flexible working 

All companies invested in the UK can help to support the country’s recovery: focusing on employee engagement and development and narrowing the skills gap through inspiring future generations and retraining.

The challenge we face is that while the UK is a beacon for talent, the technology ecosystem can grow so quickly that it can often be difficult to marry supply and demand.

Some reports suggest as many as 70% of employers foresee a shortage of talent within the next year, and it’s likely this issue will have been exacerbated by the events of 2020.

In recent years flexibility and choice have become increasingly important priorities in our personal and professional lives, and not just for those in our sector.

Allowing technologists to choose how, when and where they work, and providing them with the right remote tools to do their jobs efficiently, will appeal to a broader range of talent and encourage others into the industry, helping to address the concern of a talent shortage in the coming years.

3. Replicating the culture of learning

As an extension to this prioritisation of flexibility and choice, the technology industry must look to replicate a vital aspect of employees’ development in the ‘soft learning’ experiences.

It’s my view that outside of formal training, replicating these practices will help keep the wheel of innovation turning.

For instance, traditionally, technologists learn and develop through workplace osmosis. For developers, analysts or administrators, this is the process of hearing colleagues talk through problems over coffee or the bank of desks and can be a fast and effective way of knowledge sharing.

Similarly, for new recruits, whether that’s graduates or senior hires, the remote working situation we find ourselves in has all but eliminated ‘over the shoulder’ feedback, water-cooler moments, or informal mentoring that can be needed when starting a new project or role.

For me, replicating ‘learning by osmosis’ at home keeps teams productive and I have implemented regular team huddles, designed solely to brainstorm challenges and problem solve.

I also hold one-to-one meetings each week with my team, and encourage them to do the same, taking the time to understand each individual’s personal circumstances and how we can best provide an accommodating work environment and meet future training needs.

Remote learning can create an immeasurable volume of data, and so it’s more important than ever that they have reliable infrastructure that can support this.

Ultimately, it’s this trustworthy service delivery that will help us to develop and attract talent and boost the sector’s recovery.

The age of information services

Despite the challenges of the last year, the UK’s technology sector has reason to be quietly optimistic.

With supply and demand for digital services at an all-time high, the industry is primed to deliver positive, much-needed transformational work for businesses around the world.

However, now that the age of information services has become a reality, the sector must not rest on its laurels.

If we are to continue to be ambitious on our journey of growth and support the UK’s long-term performance, we must continue to drive the fourth industrial revolution, maintain a focus on customer experience and appeal to new and existing talent.

More than ever, we need to champion smart data management, prioritise flexibility and choice and empower our technologists to work productively as they have done all year. It’s then that we can be truly optimistic about recovery and what’s ahead of us.

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