Paul Evans – Operations Director – Box UK. 

“When I was a pupil enjoying (most of) my lessons in Bishop of Llandaff High School, ‘The Future’ seemed somewhere distant over the horizon, very far away. Today, it feels like a new future arrives every working day. The COVID19 ‘experience’ has necessitated something of a quantum leap to a new way of working for many different types of organisation – and it’s the sheer pace of ongoing change that will be the key challenge to meet in this new normal.

“No one saw a global pandemic coming, but my whole digital transformation community understood that seismic change was on the way. For many of us, Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality were already redefining the possible and reimagining workflows before March 2020. Now, it seems as if all the lessons learnt over many global IT transformation projects – at Accenture, Sapiens, KPMG and Box UK – have been preparing me for what’s happening right now.

“We were already redefining the possible and reimagining workflows” 

“So what does this ‘Future of Work’ actually look like? It’s a world of “Distributed Working” (a very different experience from just remote working), allowing people to access information where and when they need it. A world where ‘the office’ will be a place to go to collaborate and innovate in a shared environment, not to sit alone and perform the type of tasks you can just as easily perform at home. A ‘social space’ built around break-out areas rather than personal silos. It’s a world where despite (and perhaps because of) the current disruption, people can become more engaged, enabled and empowered through digital connectivity and more efficient ways of working. A world where that fabled ‘work/life balance’ may finally be achieved.

“This ‘new’ is being played out, right now – with the latest Korn Ferry research showing increased productivity through home working in many sectors over the past four months; and a spike in workforce engagement as leaders understand that technology can help them become better managers of teams and individuals. But what do we need to do here in Wales to sustain and drive this fundamental change?

“The ‘new’ is being played out, right now.”

“Firstly, we need to upskill and reskill. Build the partnerships between schools and industry. Put STEM at the very core of the curriculum. Fully embrace the new apprenticeships. And make sure we promote the opportunities so that the digital lightbulb goes on for everyone in the classroom and the workplace. Digital today is far more than ‘just coding’. It’s User Experience, User Research, Quality Assurance, Design, AI, The Internet of Things, R&D – and we need to open up minds about the tremendous careers available.

“Secondly, we need the infrastructure – and that means the bandwidth. Some parts of Cardiff are powered by 900MG a second. In other parts of Wales, it’s akin to dial-up. We need this remedied as a priority so that we can optimise the opportunity for everyone and drive inclusive growth across the country.

“Thirdly, we need to share and migrate best practices across sectors and not just within digital. We’re already seeing what’s possible in Fintech, Insurtech and Medtech in South Wales. Let’s take the thinking and the success into our more traditional industries – including agriculture – and challenge ourselves to see what’s possible.

“I doubt I could have imagined ‘today’, way back when in Bishop of Llandaff. Given the pace of change, it’s difficult to predict the future, of course. But “Digital Transformation” gives us the means to create that future – and create it we will ….”