Businesses must invest in technology, digitalisation and people in 2022

Published by Andrew Griggs on 18 January 2022

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Research from Kreston Reeves, published in our Shaping your future report, suggests that for a fifth of UK businesses investing in new technology will be a priority for owner managed businesses in 2022. Our research also suggests, however, that businesses will make a greater investment in people over the next 12 months. So which should businesses focus more on? What is the right approach?

The reality for most businesses is they will need to invest in both. People, technology and digitalisation work hand in hand. Investment in technology without the corresponding investment in people is a recipe for failure.

Businesses are by their very definition innovative. New products and services, product improvements, new ways of working, new technologies and creativity has its genesis in the people a business employs. Technology in many instances frees up the time of its people, making it more efficient, yet it is its people that ultimately drives a business forward.

The experiences of the past two years have clearly demonstrated the role technology has played in changing the way millions of people work. Businesses were quick to adapt to home and now hybrid working arrangements. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of new technologies to enable a workforce to continue to work productively wherever they happen to be.

Whilst businesses have increased their spend on technology over the past two years, a heated labour market will, as our research suggests, likely drive an equal, if not greater investment in people. With technology releasing peoples’ time, businesses will need to consider the skills they need going forward.

With finite resources, and competing priorities, it will raise significant challenges for businesses.

Today’s workplace now spans many very different generations – from those that have grown up with technology as part of their everyday lives to individuals who have seen a fundamental change in the way they work. We should remember that, as an example, the smart phone did not exist 15 years ago, and Zoom or Teams only became part of daily life for many since the pandemic hit in 2020.

Take, another example, my own profession – accountancy. Technology has enabled accountants, and indeed most other areas of professional services, to move from crunching data to interpreting data. It is where we as professionals add value to our clients, by providing the insights and direction that data alone cannot provide. It is a more rewarding role and one made possible through technology.

How businesses, particularly knowledge-based businesses, respond in supporting their staff in this transition will shape their success or failure.

Many industries are facing acute labour shortages and here too technology may provide the relief needed. Robotics are being used in an ever-increasing number of sectors from manufacturing to farming. AI and machine learning will change the business world in unimaginable ways. We are on the cusp of a greater technology revolution.

So how should businesses balance the investment between people and technology?

People remain social animals. In all walks of life, people take energy, learning and development and inspiration from their colleagues. That occurs in many different ways, from driving creativity, competition, enhanced skills and companionship. There is a risk that technology removes this.

We have seen this, in part, over the last two years with many continuing to work from home. What impact that will have on the learning and development of those starting out in their careers, and what we all take from the workplace is not yet clear.

Organisations have finite resources to invest, and the decision to where that investment is made will be difficult.

Businesses that fail to make investment in the right technologies may find themselves at a competitive disadvantage or struggling to attract or retain the brightest and best talent. They may find themselves in the same position if they fail to invest in their people.

Yet it is not a decision business leaders need take alone. Kreston Reeves is helping businesses address these challenges on a daily basis, helping businesses shape their future into 2022 and beyond.

You can download your full copy of our Shaping your future report based on findings from 652 business leaders here.

For more information about the topic explored in this article, contact us here.

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