The one thing we’ve learned from working with our customers – whether they’re large banks or small fintechs operating in a disrupted financial services sector, or major outfits negotiating their way along the tricky path of omnichannel retailing – is that digital means different things to different people. But we think that what we’ve also learned is that having a single definition of digital may not be possible or even useful – digital is as digital does. For some of our clients, digital means technology. For others it means customer experience. And for virtually all of them it means re-defining business value and how to deliver it.
So even if you can’t help us with a neat definition, we believe that our clients would like to hear from you if your digital skills and experience, gained on a permanent or interim basis, have come via a marketing, technology or business route.
We want to talk to you. Drop us a line and tell us about yourself!
COVID-19 is changing the way we work and live. With the increase of remote working and reliance on screen-time for entertainment and social interaction, the digital industry is said to be booming. The Financial Times reports, “Tech companies are still hiring feverishly as they move to take advantage of a world shifting increasingly to digital as a result of the coronavirus, despite mass lay-offs elsewhere and growing concerns over plummeting global markets.”
Companies with existing online infrastructure are seeing new subscribers, more time spent on digital platforms and increased reliance on e-commerce. According to The Economist, “Alphabet, Google’s parent, saw sales rise by 13% in the first quarter compared with the year before, and profits reached $7bn.”
But will this digital trend last?
Although we expect an eventual return to in-person activities, COVID-19 is expected to have a long term impact on digital engagement. For example, “tech phobia” is commonly cited as a reason why some, particularly those over 65, may avoid new technology. However, with no alternatives, this age group are embracing new technology. In addition, younger family members are taking the time to help them get set-up and familiar with these new apps and services. What this means, going forward, is that mobile and digital offerings will have a much wider audience, beyond tech-savvy customers and digital native millennials.
MckInsey recently highlighted the post-pandemic trends beginning to emerge in China. For example, there has been a 55% increase in customers planning a permanent shift to online grocery shopping and an increase of 3-6% percentage points in overall e-commerce. Once people overcome the initial barriers, this data indicates that customers may permanently switch or significantly increase their use of digital services.
These behavioural changes are being supported by rapid transformation of digital infrastructure. On an individual company level, businesses are investing in digital strategy – for example, Hotel Chocolat recently announced a multi-million pound investment plan. There is larger scale investment from business – Alibaba Cloud will be putting $28 billion into developing their infrastructure over the next three years. Further government support will be available for UK businesses driving innovation and development.
Finally, an internet connection is now essential for information regarding the pandemic and accessing vital goods and services for those self-isolating. The Human Rights Watch have emphasised the importance of achieving equal access to digital services (and particularly a good quality internet connection, which thousands are currently struggling with). It is clear that we can expect further investment in digital infrastructure in our future.
Who will thrive in the post COVID-19 world?
Evidently, those with a strong existing digital service will be well placed to retain their position once the pandemic has subsided. COVID-19 has created a form of ‘digital Darwinism’ according to Mary Meeker, author of the annual Internet Trends Report, whereby businesses with a clear digital strategy will leave behind those without. In a recent report, McKinsey outlined several actions that should be taken to meet customer needs and prepare for the future. These actions include:
Focus on care and concern: prioritise employee needs and the wider community by reaching out and staying true to company values.
Meet your customer needs: adapt or create digital services and models that meet remote and social distancing requirements.
Reimagine the post-COVID-19 world: plan for economic cuts, changes to brick and mortar stores and increased uptake of digital channels.
Build agile capabilities for fluid times: utilise resources such as social media and ‘ear to the ground’ insights to respond to fast-moving customer signals.
It is these companies, who support customers through the crisis by providing efficient digital services, that will retain customer loyalty in the post COVID-19 world. Those who look further ahead, to develop exceptional experiences and utilise developments in infrastructure, will thrive in our digital future.
Times of crisis have often sparked innovation. The Second World War, for example, brought us the forerunner of modern-day computer, advances in radar, the basis of microwaves and mass production of penicillin. COVID-19 is having a similar effect on digital development. Ideas that might have seemed far-fetched (such as the rapid scale-up of online grocery shopping and other e-commerce) are promoted by a crisis-inspired culture of experimentation. Here are five examples of how technology is developing in response to extraordinary demands.
1. Data Analysis Tools
Finding data is easy, understanding it is hard. To this end, the pandemic has inspired several AI tools to help us make sense of the large amount of available information. Data analytics company, Arria NLG, are involved in two projects helping to transform data into an easy-to-understand narrative – the COVID-19 Live Report and the COVID-19 U.S. Tracking Report. AI analysis is also being used by a group of Northwestern University researchers to identify which research will return reliable, usable results that will help aid the search for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.
The power of blockchain was recently demonstrated in a $12 million cross-continent commodity trade transaction of wheat. Usually, a transaction of this kind can take up to a month. However, using dltledgers’s blockchain platform, this was reduced to just five days. More and more businesses are expanding their reliance on blockchain – such as Nestle, who recently extended their use of the IMB Food Trust blockchain platform to their Swedish coffee range. The implications for keeping supply chains running seamlessly – something the coronavirus has highlighted as a serious challenge – are remarkable.
3. Natural Language Processing
With varied applications, such as helping customers navigate online platforms or as efficient medical tools (such as those used by Providence St. Joseph to offer coronavirus-related information), chatbots are proving useful during the pandemic. Chatbots are most commonly used to increase efficiency by answering simple queries, while forwarding more complex requests to a human operator. However, natural language processing, which refers to the deep learning that allows the chatbot to extract meaning from human conversation, improves with increased data. With some custom-made chatbots already proving useful in advanced interactions (such as Replika’s virtual friends, helping some people cope with the effects of social isolation), the uptake in chatbot use may enable the AI underpinning them to become vastly more sophisticated in the years to come.
At their recent virtual event, IBM announced a new range of AI-powered services, designed to support businesses in automating their digital infrastructure. According to Verdict, the new offering will “use automation to detect, diagnose and respond to IT anomalies and will integrate with other products such as those from Slack and Box.” Developments such as these will allow businesses to successfully adapt to a more digital future.
Many companies have reported that they are looking to increase use of robotics for food service, warehouses and cleaning operations. Blue Ocean Robotics have responded to this increased demand by creating a cleaning robot, able to destroy viruses, bacteria and other harmful microorganisms with concentrated UV-C ultraviolet light. It can sanitise environments such as hospitals, offices, shops and schools without the need for chemicals, meaning that people can be present during the cleaning. Production was quickly accelerated due to coronavirus-related demand, and it now takes less than one day to create a robot. The general public have often been uncomfortable with the idea of robots (and the issue of replacing human jobs with robot labour remains). However, with social distancing likely to be in place throughout 2021, robot labour may become more acceptable, stimulating demand for and development of robotic technology.
This article has showcased a small handful of the exciting innovation occurring during the pandemic. Given that there is expected to be a permanent shift towards use of digital services and practices such as remote working, these developments could have far-reaching implications for the technology industry for years to come.
Our Technology Market Insights Report & Salary Guide 2020 provides the latest insights on the market collated by our Technology Recruitment Teams, and from data collected from surveying our clients and candidates.
Our Digital, Marketing & Communications Market Insights Report & Salary Guide 2020 provides the latest insights on the market collated by our Digital, Marketing & Communications Recruitment Teams, and from data collected from surveying our clients and candidates.
Nathaniel Hinds gives his insight and overview of the trends seen in 2018, moving into 2019 and beyond within Digital and Financial Services. He also gives an in-depth look into the Digital desk that he looks after at McGregor Boyall, including the areas and roles which he covers.
Our Scotland Salary Guide 2019 provides the latest salary data collated by our specialist Recruitment Teams covering:
Although the deadline for GDPR has come and gone and the furore has died down, companies must ensure their DPO and legal teams stay on top of the requirements or risk the consequences.
The deadline for companies to comply with GDPR – 24 May 2018 – has come and gone. Despite the panic that most companies felt in the run-up to the regulation, there have (so far) been no high-profile casualties.
While we don't know what the ICO has up its sleeve, it's safe to say that the smooth passing of the due date is in no small part down to the hard work and expertise of the legal teams who helped whittle their companies into shape.
It feels somewhat of an anti-climax. Is that it? Is GDPR over? Can legal teams relax and concentrate on something else?
The all-important DPO
The answer is a resounding 'no', of course. GDPR is very much in swing, and no doubt everyone is itching to see its first victim, partly to put some more definition on some rather fuzzy rules.
The ultimate responsibility for compliance rests on the shoulders of each company's Data Protection Officer. It is they who will have the final say on company processes going forward, and on the actions of the third-party companies they trust with their personal data.
Although they don't have to be a full-time employee, your DPO must have an in-depth knowledge of the rules and requirements of GDPR, be technologically savvy, and preferably backed by an expert legal team who can advise them. If your company isn't 100% confident in this person, it's most definitely time to find one who deserves your trust. Given the size of the fines laid out by GDPR, an experienced and knowledgeable DPO is harder to find and recruit than ever.
Impact on recruitment industry
GDPR has also had a significant impact on the recruitment industry. Given the need for individuals to opt-in, the position of bad-practice and cowboy recruiters has been severely hampered. Although the worst of the worst will probably carry on unperturbed, the hefty fines will put many off. It offers quality recruiters even greater chance to flourish among a backdrop of more positive PR.
Although data protection was important before GDPR, it's now an even-greater requirement for business' in-house legal team to have data experts. As mentioned already, the penalties could be huge – 4% of turnover or £20 million, whichever is greater. Numbers worth remembering.
Finding the right candidates is tricky, because they need the relatively unusual mix of legal knowledge and experience as well as a sound technical understanding of data processing and storage. They must also be aware of how marketing teams operate, particularly in regard to user data, in order to advise them on best practice without overtly stifling their creativity.
Although the talk about GDPR has quietened from the deafening roar of questions and opt-in emails we experienced in May, its impact has really only just begun. Companies with solid internal teams can breathe easily. Those without should be looking to recruit the necessary skills or face the unknown – but potentially very expensive – consequences.
Our England Regions Salary Guide 2019 provides the latest salary data collated by our specialist Recruitment Teams covering:
Our Technology Market Insights Report & Salary Guide 2019 provides the latest insights on the market collated by our Technology Recruitment Teams, and from data collected from surveying our clients and candidates.
Our Compliance, Finance / Audit, Financial Crime, Legal & Risk Market Insights Report & Salary Guide 2019 provides the latest insights on the market collated by our RFCL Recruitment Team, and from data collected from surveying our clients and candidates.