Article

Time for Tech to Grow Up

4 Oct 2019

Posted by Natalie Gross

Nat Gross and Tarek Nseir, BIMA Co-presidents

We hoped delegates at the first BIMA Conference to leave with greater insight into the next wave of technology. What we couldn’t have expected was the sheer power and passion that emerged from the day’s themes. BIMA Co-President Natalie Gross reflects on a Conference which left us with a greater sense of our impact on society, a sense of urgency to use tech for good, and a deep desire to act.

Following a day when the UN assembly and leaders around the globe were subjected to a scorching, emotional speech by climate activist Greta Thunberg, the topics of BIMA’s first conference, Lessons from the Future, take on even more urgency.

The conference saw 300 tech and digital specialists, students, and educators searching for answers to the big questions that our industry is facing and must urgently address. And it’s action that is required, not platitudes. This is not only because of the combined voices of Greta Thunberg and the estimated four million who joined her in the recent climate strike. It’s also because, unlike 20, or even 10 years ago, technology is more pervasive, omnipresent and more deeply integrated into our lives than anything we’ve ever experienced before. We cannot separate the conversations anymore. We need to bring this new sense of activism and positivity into the boardroom and find the examples that already exist out there to prove the value of finding new ways of working.

We stand on the precipice of change from the tech we’ve been using since the 1990s to the tech we are about to have all around us. In the past, our interactions with tech have been deliberate – you’ve had to make the choice to pick up a device and search, click or buy. Not anymore. Topics at the BIMA conference were wide ranging, but no one was talking about apps, websites or mobile. We explored the impact of voice, mixed reality and AI. We’ve moved from ‘dumb tech’ that waits for a command, to smart tech, that learns and presents us with new realities.

We must take responsibility as practitioners. We have been sitting in our Silicon Valleys, Roundabouts and Islands with our heads down, focused on making ourselves and our clients more profitable. This relentless forward momentum doesn’t leave much room for the bigger picture. We need to apply our brains to understand the impact of what we’re unleashing on the world. The transition of new tech from the R&D team to mainstream implementation is only going to happen more quickly, and I’m not convinced most companies are ready for it.

By this time next year, voice technology and mixed reality will have moved on and so will our attitudes. If this year, 60% of the content was focused on technologies and 40% was around the impact of those technologies and the companies we’re creating around them, I expect to see that ratio flip. For business owners, if you’re not thinking about how these immersive and intelligent technologies affect what you do, you’re already falling behind. It’s as much about what we’re producing, as how we’re working, because we must work differently to change our current trajectory.

We’re still running our businesses the way they’ve been run for decades, with shareholder value remaining the number one priority. Meanwhile, courses are bubbling up in university looking at the intersection of culture, philosophy and technology, creating a new generation of technologists who’ve got the time to learn from our mistakes and apply critical thinking to our behaviour as an industry.

We may have been part of creating an almighty, beautiful and complicated mess for the world but we can do our part to fix it by questioning entrepreneurial models, creating new kinds of ownership, and new tools that allow us to better collaborate across different communities. The time is now for us to grow up as an industry - before the time runs out.

Missed BIMA Conference? Look out for content from each of the sessions over the next few weeks but in the meantime check out our video highlights here. 

Register your interest for 2020.

Natalie Gross
Posted by Natalie Gross

Natalie is Co President of BIMA and is recognised as one of the top three influential digital professionals in the UK (eConsultancy Top 100, 2016). She is also Managing Partner at TH_NK. Over the last decade she led digital marketing and technology consultancy Amaze. Her tenure culminated in agency rankings of 2nd in the Drum Digital Census 2016 and 11th in the eConsultancy Top 100 Digital Agencies 2016. She led Amaze through 2 acquisitions to AIM and LSE marketing groups respectively, and was responsible for merging 3 business under the Amaze umbrella in 2008. In 2013 she led the acquisition of Amaze into St Ives plc, acquired as the first digital business within the Group, with the intention to build a significant digital offering for the plc. Since 2013, Natalie worked alongside the St Ives plc Board, defining its digital growth strategy and advising on four acquisitions in the UK and US. She has also been a co-founder of two JV start-ups during this period -Loop Integration (Chicago based specialist commerce Systems Integrator) and Amaze One (Specialist CRM agency). Alongside agency development, Natalie has worked as Executive Sponsor for key client accounts, providing strategic advice on the subjects of developing digital organisational capability as well as defining digital strategy propositions. Alongside her Executive commitments, Natalie is actively involved in the UK’s digital and marketing communities. She is a Fellow of the CIM alongside her role as President of BIMA. Natalie is also a Trustee of WWF-UK. Natalie is an industry spokesperson and mentor, with a specific focus on Digital Talent and Skills and Women in leadership.

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