On Tuesday the 21st of April, Adam Brown and Jamie Brown hosted a Technology Leadership Forum with 14 Executives from a range of businesses across Scotland in the areas of Cyber Security, SaaS, Online Consumer Services, Digital Learning, Digital Health and Connected Infrastructure.
The purpose was to share experiences and strategies relating to how we are approaching the current social, economic and business impact due to Covid-19, and to explore what future opportunities and challenges may exist post crisis.
What became apparent throughout the open and collaborative discussion was that business and society broadly is seeing the benefits of technology and it is being used globally to solve real world problems. Businesses serving heavily disrupted industries such as hospitality, leisure, retail etc. have immediate and fundamental challenges, and often in those instances they are having to quickly adapt, refocus and expand or diversify their current product offering and shape of their businesses.
The conversation covered, amongst others, the following topics:
- It was felt that business as we know it will change forever. This will not only be in terms of business size and structure, but products and services will need to be adapted, expanded and in some cases will become obsolete in place of new products.
- For many business owners, protecting value and equity will be extremely difficult, with valuations plummeting. This however may be an opportunistic time to invest capital and whilst some valuations may never return to a “pre-Covid” level, the Group did feel there is the opportunity to deliver long term returns with appropriate investment. This may mean that businesses seeking capital or investment in the short term could see increased liquidity from investors.
- It is felt that we are at an inflection point in time around how businesses and their employees operate. Whilst many industries have been moving to online service models (TV, Media, Telecoms) over time, many have made these changes out of necessity in the last 4 weeks, effectively becoming ecommerce businesses overnight or significantly increasing their presence online. It was felt that this may drive further regulation and monitoring of the internet in the future, and many companies (e.g. cyber security) will benefit from this.
- Technology is breaking down barriers across value chains and helping businesses to become more agile, productive, and leaner which will provide some with a distinct advantage “post-crisis”, including the ability to reduce property costs, headcount and other fixed costs.
Government Support & Access to Finance
- Several participants indicated they were having significant issues in accessing Government support and finance in the short term, citing stringent qualification criteria around the CBIL scheme as one example.
- The government-backed funding schemes are felt to be largely irrelevant for the many pre revenue or pre profit businesses in the technology sector as they are ineligible.
- Fortunately many tech businesses are well capitalised, having raised money, and consequently have long cash runways compared to businesses in other sectors.
- Despite the recent Government confirmation that the furlough scheme has been extended until the end of June, they will also need to provide a further update in the middle of May with regards to the applicable time period, given the statutory requirement to allow a 45 day consultation period with regards to redundancies.
- It is apparent that non-governmental creditors and lenders are becoming more stringent around lending criteria and the requirement to understand their customer is becoming more important – this could also create opportunity for technology-based risk assessment and blockchain companies to support lending and investment appraisal in the future.
Maintaining Culture and Returning to Work
- The importance of communication within the workplace was highlighted, and the increase in this area has become apparent over the past month. Many organisations have created several new online company meeting spaces, increased video updates from the Executives and created a number of extra-curricular programmes for employees around wellbeing, fitness, and socialising/fun.
- The focus on people and community has become ever more pertinent, and businesses are doing what they can to minimise the impact and strain on their staff. One company had created a small hardship fund to support employees on a case by case basis should they be experiencing cash flow issues with regards to rent etc. This desire to support and care for staff will no doubt build loyalty and engagement long term.
- Many businesses are using the time to allow and support individuals in learning and development initiatives. Organisations are also using new and creative ways to promote staff engagement with those on furlough such as weekly video conference calls in lieu of social drinks, weekly video updates from the Executive, the implementation of mobile app technology to measure engagement and communications.
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Our next Technology Leadership Forum will take place on Wednesday the 6th May at 1pm.
FWB Park Brown
FWB Park Brown continues to deliver its full range of services which includes providing support and advice during the Covid- 19 Public Health and developing global economic crisis.
We have established a range of cross sector as well as sector focused discussion forums for Chairs, NEDs, CEOs and all the main business management disciplines. We are also working closely with the Scottish HR Leadership Group to provide constructive support including discussion forums and Q & As.
Summaries of the discussions will be posted on our news section and also on LinkedIn.
For further information about any of these forums please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org