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‘Why Not… What?’ – Innovation Group Emerges from Intercity iD LAB Leadership Forum

A new business forum has been established, in Manchester, to promote technology innovation in disadvantaged areas.

The ‘Why Not… What?‘ group has been created by business leaders to act as an economic and social catalyst in the North of England by encouraging technology innovation in marginalised and disadvantaged areas.

The initiative follows a one-day Technology Leadership Forum, hosted by Intercity Technology and the iD LAB (Intelligent Datalytics). Guest speaker, Lucy Smith, from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP), briefed attendees on the NPP’s Independent Economic Review where they estimate that up to 800,000 new tech industry jobs could be generated in the North by 2050.

Introducing the NPP 2050 Route Map for Productivity, Lucy argued, that the North needed more investment in education, skills training, infrastructure and leadership. Core NPP recommendations also include:

  • £30m for tech start-ups
  • Fibre connectivity across the North
  • £30m for 5G testbed
  • Establishing a Northern Centre of Excellence for Civic Computation.

Intercity Technology’s Chief Commercial Officer, Ian Jackson, also addressed the Forum. Ian outlined his journey from a northern start-up to a national service provider delivering 24/7, 365 services to the most demanding of customers across health and the wider public and private sectors.

He told the group about his experience in both the public and private sectors, challenging traditional boundaries and known business models. Ian’s message to the audience was clear – Northern businesses should “stay focused, agile and alert to innovation and change.”

Highlighting Intercity’s apprenticeship and graduate training programmes, Ian added that government could do more to engage small and medium-sized local businesses in the public procurement process.

The CEO of Aucoda, Stuart Melhuish, also pointed out the challenges a small northern business faces when competing for contracts in the South. In addition to the indirect costs associated with a complex procurement process, Northern SMBs face logistics problems because of poor transportation.

All of the participants called for more investment in communications and transport. iD LAB’s Senior Vice President, Philip Adams, called for more ‘generational thinking’ and said the entire nation was in dire need of a more sophisticated technology and transportation platform if it was to compete on the world stage.

The Voluntary Sector was also represented at the Leadership Forum. UK Director of Islamic Relief Worldwide, Imran Madden, described the technological changes his organisation faced. Imran said their known and established business models were also threatened by technology but they were being proactive exploring new, more innovative ways of working.

Everyone agreed that more should be done to make innovation a part of everyday thinking, as it once had in the North’s great industrial past. Delegates also pointed out that many of today’s technologies ‘rested on the shoulders’ of previous innovations and that the North should not only build on that legacy but use innovation to improve the lives of others – especially the marginalised and disadvantaged.

So, they agreed to create the ‘Why Not… What?‘ group – a not-for-profit organisation that will support marginalised areas by turning innovative ideas into real world working technology solutions through knowledge, skills, networking and collaboration.

Additional Information:

The ‘Why Not… What?’ group will meet again early 2018. For more information, please contact philip.adams@intelligentdatalytics.com.

For more information about the Northern Powerhouse Partnership: www.northernpowerhousepartnership.co.uk/

The ‘Why Not… What?’ group founder organisations include:

Intercity Technology
A leading mobility, unified communications and IT solutions specialist. Based in Bolton, Birmingham and Manchester.

iD LAB
GDPR and ISO Data Compliance services plus Data Analytics and AI business based in the West Midlands, Manchester and Belfast.

Custerian
Advanced business transformation, new agile ways of working. Warrington based.

Manufacturing Technology Centre
The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) develops and proves innovative manufacturing processes and technologies.

Disruptieve Modular
Off-site design; different thinking about towns and cities; attracting and retaining young talent; always connected; digital disruption; changing retail concepts; planning for the future. Manchester based.

Aucoda
Developers, Business Analysts. Testers and Project Managers ready to work on your business problems. Manchester based.

Go Earth Ltd
We can help you fulfil your dreams and find the right leisure boat for you at the lowest cost.

ThreeSixtyServices LLP
Threesixty delivers advice and personalised solutions to over 800 directly regulated IFA practices. Manchester based.

Creative Support
Creative Support is a charitable organisation that promotes the independence, inclusion and wellbeing of people with care and support needs. Manchester based.

Islamic Relief
Islamic Relief Worldwide is an international humanitarian organisation that provides development programs and humanitarian relief around the globe, regardless of race, political affiliation, gender or belief. London, Birmingham and Manchester.

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Why do connected workplaces need connected data?

The digital, connected workplace is the future of business. It’s not just about cutting-edge technologies that promise a future-proof environment, though, it’s about the benefits to your people. A more flexible workplace with unified communication tools means your staff can work together better, feel motivated when they manage projects effectively and rewarded with the flexibility that remote working provides. When your people are happy, your business thrives. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

It’s not always as straightforward as that, however. A connected workplace needs to be unified from the inside, out. You can empower your people to work together seamlessly across continents with high-end business mobility, you can instil a positive culture that promotes teamwork not silos, but the infrastructure that sits behind your workplace practices and your business data needs be just as well connected.

So, how do businesses connect their data as well as their workforce and their communications? The answer is in managed cloud services.

What is a connected workplace?

From consolidated communication technology that connects people across multiple devices, intelligent IT to manage and improve workflows and productivity, through to a secure and robust Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy, the connected workplace is a product of the cloud, and the Internet of Things ecosystem.

Some companies use smart technology to collect workplace data. This can help them establish which work spaces are underused or understand how staff are managing their time. While it can cause controversy, this valuable data provides a deeper understanding of operations, processes, systems and helps optimise workplace budgets and real estate.

Everyone is the IT department

Transforming the office into a connected workplace has a profound effect on the IT department, moving it up the food chain from operational to strategic. The most forward-thinking, digitally successful enterprises have a CTO or CIO that sits on the board, influencing high-level decisions on how technology will enable a more productive business and a healthier bottom line.

“The IT department has to get out of the basement and into the boardroom.”

We discussed the concept of the digital workplace with Martyn Croft — former CIO of the Salvation Army. “The whole organisation has to be much more technologically aware,” He explained. “But what it the role of the IT department, then? You don’t need one anymore. My favourite phrase is we have to be device agnostic. The IT department has to get out of the basement and into the boardroom.”

Technology investment, innovation and strategic planning needs to happen throughout the business, so ensure you involve key decision makers across the organisation.

From on-premises to the cloud

How do digitally connected businesses manage their data, then? Traditionally this involves physical servers that demand office space, costly racks, power supplies, cooling systems and manpower to manage them. For some businesses with unique data compliance challenges, this solution works best. On-premises data centres are tangible, you can reach out and touch them. You are wholly responsible for your critical information. Your data doesn’t leave the four walls of your business.

But what happens when your business scales outside of those four walls? In an increasingly global landscape, more enterprises are expanding their workforce across multiple locations, giving their staff more remote capabilities and freeing them to work from their choice of location. As the world becomes smaller – technically and economically – more people work together globally than ever before.

The cloud offers a streamlined means of centralising your data and information. It gives all your workforce access to the same data and systems, so information sharing and collaboration isn’t just a mindset, it’s a process.

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The right information at the right time

So, why does a connected workplace need connected data? Unified communication tools ensure your people are talking to each other, collaborating more effectively on projects, and providing an enhanced worker experience. Isn’t that enough?

If your back-end infrastructure is static or manually-heavy, your business can never be as agile as it needs to be. If your data storage is disjointed, what happens if there is an outage or failure? Disaster recovery planning is futile if your information is insufficiently audited and managed. Your people need access to the right information at the right time.

Deploying a managed cloud service or infrastructure ensures your information transmission is always seamless. From sharing basic files to mission-critical backup, your data is connected no matter where your people are located. To present yourself as digitally transformed, innovative enterprise that attracts the best people for the job, you’ve got to be connected on the inside, as well as out.