How do you manage your technology investments during one of the most unpredictable periods in living memory? This was the question Technology Investments for the Future of Work roundtable participants broached when they met at The Studio @ Home. Philip Clayson, former CIO, SSE Energy; Julie Pierce, Director Openness Data & Digital, FSA; Elena Corchero, former Head of Emerging Technology, NewsCorp; and Chris Merrick, Global Marketing Director, Integrated Systems, Shure Incorporated, all spoke as Miya Knights, a well-regarded technology journalist, moderated the session dedicated to understanding what had happened to business investment strategies this year and what that means for the future.
Industry insights from the ground
Miya Knights turned to Clayson first. What had he seen in the industry that was worth noting?
“It’s interesting to watch my colleagues approach investments with far more rigour that they would have just last year,” he began. “A lot of [those investments] are qualifying as 12-18 month investments rather than the two year cycle we’re all used to. That tells us technology leads are looking at shorter, sharper benefits at the moment.”
Pearce at the Food Standard’s Agency agreed—to a point: “The initial response from business leaders was ‘the shackles are off and the rules have changed’ causing large investments to be released in a very short period. But we’re now in a relatively more stable period so the controls are coming back, the visibility is coming back, but interestingly the pull from the top of the organization is still there.
“There is still the transparency of what’s being spent,” she added.
Corchero herself is well versed in investment profiles. She has built her career around being a Futurist, diving headfirst into emerging technology research in IoT, VR, AR and more. She was recently NewsCorp’s Head of Emerging Technology, testing the most appropriate solutions for the future of media consumption.
“The speed of adoption [of new technologies] from consumers has allowed our research on emerging technologies to really power ahead,” she reported. “So those three to five year investment plans have been brought closer, which is a good thing, but now the focus needs to shift on what that means for the rest of the business.”
Where next for investments?
For Corchero, investment in upskilling and HR adaptation is the next consideration to make. As businesses enter into the application mode of their emerging technologies strategies, they’ll need their teams to be able to work alongside them and understand what’s ahead. That also means hiring different people; HR is critical in navigating the correct onboarding application process.
“Looking into the future we need to have more resilient team members who have a variety of different interests, and, fundamentally, a life-long approach to learning in a self-sustained manner,” she discussed.
One thing that particularly frustrates her when it comes to businesses and how they approach new investments is the obvious hurdle they always dismiss: humans.
“Even when the technology is ready, even when the price is ready and the quality is ready, it is human factors that delay the adoption of a technology,” she said. “It took a crisis to remove those barriers in the decision making process…”
And with those barriers removed, CIOs have relished their new found freedom, her research found.
“After interviewing technology professionals I realized they felt liberated to finally do the plans they had always wanted.”
Maybe that liberation is what’s needed in the future of investments. Clayson made the comment that he had been lucky enough in his career to have been a CIO with shorter deadlines than many of his peers. That gave him, he admitted, more freedom to activate change than many others.
“I think on reflection, if you look at a two to three year period of activity, the first six months reports growth but thereafter the investment pace wanes. Looking to the future I think we need to work harder to make sure the pace of change continues beyond six months, even if during remote working that challenge becomes even more complex.”