Embracing the age of uncertainty

By Billy D’Arcy, Managing Director, Enterprise & Public Sector Business

As I sit writing this early in 2017 the phrase “we live in uncertain times” has never been so apt.  Forgive me for adding yet another instance of it to the Internet, but it’s a phrase that echoes a conversation we had with Dr Graeme Codrington at the end of last year, when we talked about the forecast for businesses in 2017.

2016 was a year of unprecedented change with more twists and turns than many of us could have imagined. From the EU referendum result and uncertainty around Brexit to a commodities price slump and a new PM, as we look ahead it’s difficult to predict what we might see in the next twelve months.

The business impact of all this has translated into strong feelings of economic uncertainty and, as a result, Dr Codrington is seeing many organisations “hunker down and delay new tech deployments for as long as they can afford to”.

But that approach comes with a stark warning. In Graeme’s view, “despite the on-going uncertainty, now is the time for investment…..not the time for belt-tightening”.

Reflecting on 2016 as an historic year for tech development, he believes that organiations should build on those advances in 2017 and really move forward. Specifically, he suggests investment should be targeted internally on systems development. Whether that’s integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) assistants more deeply into mobile services; transforming videoconferencing and skills training with augmented reality (AR); or building real-time language translation into applications for a more consistent global customer experience.

“This is a pivotal moment in history, and you cannot expect to move forward if you refuse to invest in trying new things”, says Graeme. “It’s a mind-set thing. Business leaders must be less cautious, not more”.

His message is about freeing up people to experiment, releasing cash for investment in new ideas, and not being afraid to fail. Companies that embrace a creative approach in these uncertain times will be in a strong position come 2020 – whereas those that hold back and just cut costs will be left on the back foot.

From my perspective, I see it as really positive message. There may be turbulence in the market. Geopolitics may be keeping us captivated by the rolling news. But the fundamental principle of doing good business remains the same: focus on your people.

So let’s keep rethinking and refining how we do things to deliver great customer service, let’s build on all the amazing developments in technology we’ve seen in the last year or so, and let’s embrace the uncertainty rather than let it stifle us.

Discover more insights from our conversation with Dr Graeme Codrington by downloading The 2017 futurist forecast.