Norfolk Network stories

NorDevCon 2017: the conference where tech meets business

Jane Chittenden
Format Words

Norfolk Network went along to NorDevCon 2017, the annual conference bringing together business and technology experts to explore what’s happening in tech for the East of England’s economy. The conference is organised by Naked Element and hosted at the King’s Centre, in the heart of one of Norwich’s oldest industrial quarters. Now in its fourth year, NorDevCon has been a sell-out success with more than 400 people attending. The three-day programme showcased presentations on tech, mobile, agile and business themes, plus workshops and a dedicated schools day for STEM students.

It was impossible for Norfolk Network’s Lucy and Jane to fit everything in, with more than 25 events to choose from on just one of the conference days – so we focused on the new business stream, a mix of industry trends and advice for entrepreneurs.

Here are some of the highlights.

NN_Neil-Miles
Neil Miles, Inasight Ltd

Predicting the future

The Next Big Thing, Neil says, is deeper exploration of data assets. What’s possible? What if we could improve customer acquisition by predicting how long they’ll stay with us? Or being able to predict the likelihood of fraud, or a situation where things could go wrong? That’s the power of predictive analysis.

But when it’s combined with the sophistication of artificial intelligence (AI), it opens up far bigger possibilities. Businesses will be able to look back, analysing what’s happened, make accurate predictions and then take action. It’s already happening.

NN_Mark-Fletcher
Mark Fletcher, Cooper Lomaz
“For all the wonder of digital, there’s a need for real human interaction”
Mark Fletcher

Key trends in tech recruitment

Tech skills are in huge demand, rising 24% year on year. The driver is digital transformation, so companies in all sectors are recruiting, especially in software development and management roles. And they’re well paid: the average IT salary is £36K, compared to the national average of £26.5K – and here in the East of England it’s even higher, around £46K.

The big challenge is that the UK is not producing enough graduates in subjects like maths and computer science. You don’t have to have a degree, because demand for software developers is so high, but it’s a great career accelerator – graduates earn more and go further.

It’s also important to know that tech skills alone won’t cut it. There’s a perception that soft skills aren’t needed in tech roles, but it’s not true. It’s essential to have good interpersonal and collaborative skills to be able to work well in a team. “For all the wonder of digital, there’s a need for real human interaction,” says Mark.

NN_Mark-Curtis
Mark Curtis, Larking Gowen
NN_Chris-Greeves
Chris Greeves, Larking Gowen

Mission impossible? Maximise your profit and create more time

Mark and Chris gave us excellent advice on bumping up the profits while seeing off the time bandits. Much of what they told us sounds deceptively simple, but how many of us put it into practice?

How to increase profits: just increase your prices. Most companies worry that if they put up their prices they’ll lose customers, but buying decisions aren’t based on price – they’re based on value. All you have to do is to demonstrate value – and that’s why your brand is so important. Vary the prices you offer, too. If you have only one price, it’s too high or too low.

Different people will pay different prices depending on what’s important to them at the time, so give them the opportunity to do so. How to create more time: get a team. They don’t have to be employees – they can be a virtual team. Get on top of time management: keep track of your time, prioritise your tasks and – maybe the best tip of all – draw up a Stop Doing list! Make sure you have efficient business systems, to save you reinventing the wheel. Even better: use technology to automate your systems.

NN_David-Bozward
Dr David Bozward, University of Worcester
“It’s so easy, just three things, a good product,
a willing market and a good team to make it happen”
David Bozward

What does an investor want from a start-up?

First, you need a good product or service. It must be unique, and it must be a concept that people instantly understand – investors are not techies, so make sure they’ll be able to relate to it.

Next, there’s got to be a known willing market – it’s important to be realistic about this, and to be able to show that you really understand your market.

Last, and probably the make-or-break decision, is the investor’s view of the team. The entrepreneurs are pitching as a team, not as an individual. If it’s not obvious to the investors who does what, they won’t invest. Does the team have a good balance of skills and experience, or can they bring it in? And crucially, do they all have the same point of view? They’ve got to show that they work well together.

NN_Neil-Garner
Neil Garner, Thyngs

Digital vs physical future of social

Thyngs, Neil’s latest venture, is all about turning inanimate objects into interactive things using your mobile phone. Neil’s exploring how digital and physical networks interact via mobile devices. Technologies in mobile devices allow us to better connect digital experiences into physical world contexts, he says. We can enhance the power of our existing digital social networks, or maybe help to rebuild our connections to real world experiences, brands and relationships.

The mobile phone is now the most dominant device on the planet, but we’re getting swamped with too much digital data, information and content. So how does a brand engage with its whole audience –the physical world? Neil’s argument is that we’re moving full circle back to physical experience.

And that’s why his company is aiming to make it much easier for marketing companies to take advantage of this digital/physical convergence. Thyngs provides a complete ecosystem of products and services – ensuring a consistent recognisable consumer-facing call to action.

 

“We’re giving people control over how they connect, rather than the other way round – having no control because things are connected by default, and thus potentially insecure.”
Neil Garner
NN_nordev-tee