Tech Themes for our business in 2021

Tech Themes for our business in 2021 951 710 Timewade

New year, new trends…

At January’s Technology for Success business group meeting, leaders from across the South West joined Timewade MD Julian Wills to discuss emerging tech trends that their business will be keeping an eye on in the coming year.

Julian was joined by: Dan Pritchard, Managing Director at Astley Media; Magda King, Technical Consultant at King Recruit; Grant Forrest, Head of Business and Operations at Lee Abbey; Teri Allerton, General Manager at Silvalea; Andrew Horton, Managing Director at Exmoor Trim; Tristan Courtney of Stamp James Solicitors; Sky Randall of Sarah West Recruitment; Chris Heron of Time Well Spent, and Vikram Kamerkar of Minerva Lifelong Learning.

The group discussed how one key tech trend from last year will remain significant in 2021: the continued integration of data and automated workflows into the day-to-day operations of SMEs.

A recurring theme at previous Technology for Success meetings has been the importance of maintaining company culture whilst working remotely. At the January business group meeting, attendees agreed that it remains a difficult task to maintain a strong company culture with dispersed teams. The lack of opportunities for staff to socialise both during and outside of work hours is a big stumbling block in this regard. Business leaders will continue to face this challenge in 2021 as remote working continues.

Technology improved and accelerated in 2020 to effectively support home working. Zoom and Microsoft Teams are being used regularly by the majority of those in attendance. However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent rise of homeworking, the majority of the group agreed that 2021 will not see a return to full time office hours. This means that making full effective use of this technology continues to be an important issue for SMEs.

A discussion followed on the importance of human interaction. It was clearly agreed that face-to-face interaction is generally preferred over virtual meet-ups, and this is the end goal that businesses are trying to work towards in the future. The group agreed that technology will never “replace” human interaction, because customers will always prefer face-to-face interaction over the virtual alternative.

Nuances of expression and body language are lost during virtual meetings, which as Julian Wills pointed out hinders effective communication and rapport-building.

These issues become even more problematic when hiring new staff, as some of the businesses in the group look to do this year. They explained that the challenge for them is not so much finding the right person in terms of their qualifications, but finding someone who will ‘fit in’ with the company culture despite working remotely from the outset. This led to a discussion on how technology can be used to make people feel part of the ethos and culture of the company.

“Getting to know us and our culture is the difficult part of recruiting this year.” explained one attendee at the meeting.

The discussion then moved to which technologies can be used to introduce new employees and ensure that they settle into a new team and company.

Another business leader explained that in 2021 their business will be focusing on using technology to build resilience while working in dispersed teams.

They explained: “We have already adapted to working remotely, but we now need to ensure that it continues to be a part of the culture. That means treating home working not just as a temporary solution but as a part of us as we look towards the future and the new ‘normal’.”

Mention of the ‘new normal’ (ring any bells?) sparked a discussion on what this would look like for South West SMEs. One director present commented that it was difficult to comment when their business would hope to return to the office, but when they could it is likely to be a blended mix of office and remote working. The nature of how to implement this, they explained, would be up to the staff and how it would integrate with their lifestyle and routine requirements. Another member of the group agreed that their company will not return to office working 5 days a week.

The next Technology for Business Group is scheduled for Friday February 19, at 09:15 AM. The 45 minute session will provide atteness with the chance to bring their technology concerns, questions and success stories to the table and to gather thoughts and advice from fellow business leaders in the South West.

You can register in advance for the meeting here:

https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJckcO-sqjsjEtLBnYAnscKiHMDfCrtQtL3x

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