Last week, along with 40 other people, I filed into the brilliant top floor facilities of EIMS’ Global Headquarters to participate in the inaugural DL South West (Bournemouth) Salon event and explore the chosen topic: The Digital Challenge.
Attendees were drawn from a variety of Bournemouth and the South Coast’s leading professional service firms: solicitors from large, well established legal firms rubbed shoulders with smaller, more dynamic peers; the financial services sector was represented by insurance companies, high street banks and chartered accountants; and IT infrastructure, data management and co-location partners were there too alongside a wide variety of film from various public sector organisations. The mix was very much as Bournemouth Borough Council, the evenings sponsors, had hoped and ensured a great discussion was had once the three speakers had set the context for the evening.
First up were Bournemouth Borough Council. They offered the group a whistle stop tour through some of the initiatives they had either started or helped facilitate, activities that last year resulted in the Council being named Digital Council of the Year. The challenge they now face is how to not lose momentum, build upon the work they’ve started and become, or be seen as being, more inclusive.
Then a senior representative from Gartner took to the stage (it wasn’t a stage, they simply stood up at the front) and introduced the audience to ways in which the digital challenge was being both defined and addressed by locations and cities around the world.
Then I spoke for a few minutes, highlighting some of the regions digital heritage and a few of the many recent success digital success stories. The intention was to demonstrate that the area has a pedigree and an opportunity, to be seen as a leader in the digital world, if it can define what the unique digital challenge it wants or needs to address is.
And then the floor was opened to the audience, or moreover because of the size of the audience at this inaugural gathering, the room was split into three groups to discuss and debate the digital challenge. Interestingly the digital challenge that emerged through the discussions was not one any had seen coming, but once identified made immediate sense.
At a time when unemployment is at a ten year low and business confidence is riding high – and this might just be a Bournemouth-based phenomena – the businesses in the room struggled to identify specific challenges. However there was consensus that this might breed a sense of apathy and an unwillingness to change “what ain’t broke”, when actually now was entirely the right time to be investing in something.
Equally the rate of change that technology is inciting means that whilst sitting still isn’t an option, the decision-makers locally are perhaps not as informed as they could be. The fear of the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns eats into the confidence of those who should be making the decisions and this, more than anything else, is the regions current digital challenge – how does a town like Bournemouth and the business community therein, educate its constituents about the potential in order to make informed decisions, the sort of “cathedral thinking” that creates a legacy?