techUK CEO advises skill, diversity & data are key for new future


Airmic’s Technology Academy Day will explore the impact of technology and what Airmic members and their organisations need to do to prosper in the digital age. Keynote speaker Julian David, CEO of techUK told Mark Baylis that skill, diversity and data are key.​

How do I participate in the new future? What skills will my organisation need, and what will I need personally? How do we protect and take full advantage of the data at our disposal? How can we turn disruptive technology to our advantage?

These kind of questions are top of mind for many Airmic members - and Julian David is paid to consider them as head of the association for the UK's tech companies. The association represents around 700,000 people and nearly 1,000 businesses across the UK.

He acknowledges that technology for technology's sake is not enough. It must be useful, it must add value. And it must be regulated, he says, so that people can trust it. His members, he insists, have no desire to operate in a tech version of the Wild West.

The first thing you need to think about are skills. "My industry is changing what you do and what you have to do on a daily basis. Every business is a tech business. What are you going to do?"

The answer will vary from firm to firm, but retraining is a necessity, he says.

He describes data as a game-changer, and says it is essential that organisations have a clear understanding of the value and risks associated with their data. If this seems like a "statement of the bleeding obvious", he expresses amazement at the number of firms that do not even know what data they possess. That being the case, how can they make full use of it or protect it?


Management also needs to ask why, and on whose behalf, they are holding data - is it the customer, the employee or the wider stakeholders?

Diversity and inclusion are among his other watch words. The business advantages of a representative and widely based workforce are increasingly well known but, as he points out, algorithms amplify and speed them up. The reputational implications of failing to understand this are serious.

The digital age requires boards to be alert to change and threats and to possess the vision to spot them before it is too late - a theme that also comes out strongly in Airmic's recent research, 'Roads to Revolution'. Disruption can happen very quickly. The newly published 2018 FRC Code of Corporate Governance weighs in by adding emphasis to the importance of understanding 'emerging risks'.

Are you flexible enough as an organisation to anticipate and learn? The answer comes down to a large extent to structure, approach and skill base. And, of course, to leadership. The companies that have the right ingredients stand to prosper in the new age. And the others had better take notice - quickly.