How does a Scottish private business owner create a strategy for a business when the past is no longer a reasonable guide to the future?
Over the next ten years, we think traditional industry classifications will need to be rewritten. Where industry boundaries begin, where they end and who the main players are will all be up for grabs in a number of traditional Scottish business sectors.
Whether your business is in oil and gas, food and drink, manufacturing, tourism or technology itself, change is inevitable. After all, by 2025 we could be seeing internet connected clothes in high street stores, AI pharmacists, or 3D printed cars and, as PwC’s recent study forecasts, as many as 76,000 working drones in our skies by 2030.
Technology constantly disrupts how we think and work, but as we head into the business end of the fourth industrial revolution, the scale of change and the pace at which it is coming, is unlike anything before it.
This means there is much to consider in terms of what role workers will have the future, how their skills will adapt and how business works with technology to improve and enrich industry.
Technological innovations are already creating new jobs ranging from online website designers and Artificial Intelligence (AI) specialists to those involved in designing, supervising and maintaining robots. But according to PwC’s latest CEO survey, 38% of UK businesses are finding it difficult to attract the right kind of digital talent. In response, 63% are either using or planning to use apprenticeships and internships to grow their workforce while developing the skills they need.
PwC is already adapting to meet this bright new future, creating a range of graduate apprentice degree courses in technology, including a Data Science degree course with Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities which will kick start in September 2018.
Putting AI to work for good
Colliding megatrends, from rapid urbanisation, to climate change and resource scarcity impact us all, reshaping societies, economies and behavioural norms across the world. And the pace of change makes this tech-led future harder than ever to predict.
Technology is the core driver of many of these impacts – from artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and drones, to blockchain, 3D printing, autonomous cars and stem cell rejuvenation – and as a multiple number of technology accelerations occur simultaneously, disrupting virtually all industries, advanced adoption will be at the heart of future competitiveness.
However, the future is there to be made.
Scotland's privately owned businesses - regardless of sector - must be ready to stretch their horizons, to adapt, innovate and transform. Yet the complexity of doing all this makes it tempting to focus on the short term. With so much hype, so many unknowns, and such a degree of volatility, defining a strategic response to technological disruption is an unprecedented challenge.
But there are actions you can take today to look ahead, make decisions, and get in shape for the future – whatever it may look like.
We have seen the once inconceivable change that the internet has made to many industries. Now, through the likes of automation and AI all industries will be further transformed, lowering cost bases and improving operational efficiency as well as demanding greater integration with customers and suppliers.
In many sectors, this is all likely to transform competitive metrics and open up industries to new start-up entrants or incumbents from other sectors. And as customer relationships change, we may see a shift of focus from product to service.
In Scotland, PwC is working to ensure it is at the forefront of these disruptions. That is why are growing our cyber security and technology teams. It is why we have forged an alliance with Codebase, the largest tech start-up incubator in Europe. By working with the innovators based there, we can adapt our own business model to help enable clients through technology.
We are looking closely at the cutting edge products of Codebase to help us stay ahead of disruption in our own business - we are helping our clients look at the same technologies for theirs too.
This article was first published in The Herald on June 14 2018