Tracking Technology, Trends and Innovation in a Downturn

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Leaders strive to stay on top of the latest technology trends and new digital innovations in a bid to evolve, adapt and serve its customers.

These innovations are key for IT executives who want to continuously develop and improve their business.

In this debate, the speakers discuss major technology trends, business vision and innovating with an uncertain future.

With Peter Stojanovic moderating, the speakers of this roundtable debate include:

  • Leon Gauhman, Chief Product and Strategy Officer, Elsewhen 

  • Christina Scott, CPTO, OVO Energy 

  • Eileen Jennings-Brown, CIO, Exscientia 

  • Andy Caddy, Group CIO, PureGym 

  • Paul Smith, CIO, Amnesty International

Technology trends

Moderator Peter Stojanovic kicked off the debate by asking the speakers about technologies and solutions such as the metaverse and Web3.0, asking them whether they should be shelved or if there is “an opportunity for them to become more mainstream moving forward in the near future?”. 

Group CIO at PureGym, Andy Caddy, focused on business survival.

“At times like this you’ve got to be thinking about how to continue and protect your core business”, he said. He wants technology leaders to be thinking about how they can help their business survive in a challenging environment. He argued that they also need to consider finding some space to reflect on what works for their business. 

Providing the speakers with some background, Andy explained that PureGym is a low cost gym chain and a “lean business”. He said that PureGym is currently trying to understand their cost control and sort out their efficiency while thinking about how to utilise technology to enable and accelerate this. 

“You’ve got to find a way to keep your core and business surviving and doing what it’s doing, but also to find space to do the new and interesting stuff as well”, he said.

Downturn pros and cons

“Never let a good crisis go to waste”, said Christina Scott, CPTO of OVO Energy. 

Despite the energy sector being “turbulent” over the past year, she believed this gave the organisation good opportunities. Christina recognised that consumers are thinking about their energy usage and where the global energy is coming from. Focusing on machine learning, she explained that OVO is building capabilities that will help consumers think about how they can be cost efficient. 

Discussing new technology trends, Christina believes there are trends that will increase and accelerate. She stated that companies are already investing in these kinds of technologies nowadays. OVO, she noted, will pick and choose the technologies that they believe are relevant to the company. On another note, Christina talked about the negative side effects of going into a downturn. “The danger in a downturn is you will go into cost-cutting mode completely”, she explained. The danger in question is that the business would not be able to fully recover from this.

Different perspectives

“Do you think we are actually entering into a downturn?”, asked Peter.

Chief Product and Strategy Officer at Elsewhen, Leon Gauhman, drew from his perspective when working with different clients. Thinking back to previous crises and events, Leon doesn’t believe we are officially in a recession. He argued that this is more a prolonged event that hasn’t made itself clear yet, leaving technology leaders trying to guess what’s next. 

Taking on a different side to the argument, he said: “I’ve seen a huge amount of change in the way clients are operating”. Going back to the pandemic, his view is that organisations feel like they can push through change during these “big” events. On a lighter note, Leon has noticed that organisations are continuing to invest in technologies. Much like Christina, he talked about the idea that even in a downturn opportunities start opening up.

Visions for the future

Exscientia’s CIO, Eileen Jennings-Brown, pointed out that the organisation has already thought of a plan for the next five years. 

“We made some very sensible and considerate decisions a while ago”, she said. The organisation pinpointed what their mission was and how they were going to achieve that. Making these crucial decisions early on left the organisation in “quite a good place” according to Eileen. This, in turn, would allow them to drive forward with their mission. To help the panellists visualise how Exscientia is scaling and responding to this mission, she gave them an example. 

“Two years ago there were 80 members of staff – there’s now 450”, she said. One main concern for Eileen is how the future will be affected by the events happening in society today. “That’s still a little bit foggy”. 

“Our technology landscape management process is kind of agile by design”, stated Amnesty International’s CIO, Paul Smith. 

Despite describing this as a pipeline, Paul wants technology leaders to recognise that they are not working in a vacuum. He argued that the events that are happening in the world are affecting the organisation’s customers and supporters. This is something that cannot be ignored in his view. In agreement with Eileen’s previous point on missions, Paul believes having an agile mindset will help react to the situation in a more effective manner. “Crisis management and agility is also becoming the norm for us”, he added.

Watch the roundtable above to see the full discussion for ‘Tracking Technology, Trends and Innovation in a Downturn’.


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