By Martin Warner, Chairman and Founder of Autonomous Flight
A digital-first economy is coming. Some might argue that it is already here. The covid-19 pandemic has no doubt accelerated the inevitable shift to digital. As offices closed, remote working, video conferencing, and online education boomed. Digital-first is a trend that will continue and drastically change the face of work in the coming decade.
There is reason to be excited about the shift to digital. For many entrepreneurs, it means increased flexibility and autonomy. It also means the opportunity to do business in all four corners of the world. However, technology and progress in digital technologies happen fast. As a result of the pandemic and the continuing advancement in digital-first technologies, I expect to see significant shifts in how we do business in the future.
For entrepreneurs, digital skills will soon become crucial. While it will not be necessary for the average entrepreneur to be fully versed in every digital skill possible, it is important to acknowledge their importance and be ready to hire for these skills as business advances. Digital moves fast. For example, although common in organisations now, social media managers were few and far between a decade ago.
Yet, hiring candidates with digital skills looks set to be increasingly difficult. Research by Workskills UK published in March this year tells a story of demand and supply moving in opposing directions. While 60% of businesses agree that their reliance on advanced digital skills will increase over the next five years, there is an across-the-board decline in the number of young people taking IT and digital subjects in school.
Numbers show a 40% decline in the number of students taking IT at GCSE level in the UK since 2015, despite 88% of young people acknowledging that digital skills will be essential in future careers.
Employers are aware of a potential shortage in digital skills. Further research by Workskills UK revealed that just 46% of employers believe that young people leave education with adequate digital skills, and 76% of businesses expect profits to be hit directly by insufficient digital skills in their workforce.
For a post-Brexit, post-pandemic Britain, a solution to this for employers will be outsourcing digital work to other countries. Many entrepreneurs I speak to daily already use international outsourcing or contractors to complete digital (and administrative) tasks. It is a trend that looks set to grow given the digital shift observed during the pandemic.
In-demand digital skills right now and for the future include programming, AI and machine learning, cloud computing, cybersecurity, data science and analysis, and web design. However, the shift to a hyper-digital first economy not only changes the skills we need to work. It changes how we work, too.
The amount of work we do on mobile devices will increase in the coming years. On a personal level, much of my day-to-day work takes place using my mobile phone – from conference calls and emails to document editing. In 2021 over 54% of all global e-commerce transactions are expected to happen on a mobile device and, I anticipate even more tasks that traditionally have happened on a computer or laptop moving mobile.
Digital-first opens the doors for emerging technologies to carve their niche in business. Two of the most striking being super-fast mobile internet and hologram technology.
5G technology is already rolling out across the globe and, with it comes a radical increase in network speed and capability. 5G hasn’t passed without controversy and attention from the media, but the reality is that it is no longer the future. The future is in 6G and 7G. As mobile internet speed continues to improve, it will act as a catalyst for not only taking more work ‘mobile’ but a complete overhaul in the way we do business.
One of the emerging technologies that excites me most is hologram technology. 6G, which is expected by 2030, and 7G (by 2040) allows massive amounts of data transfer in real-time. We will see life-like holograms transferred over a network and projected into a room, opening up incredible opportunities for product demonstrations, meetings, and presentations. Imagine being able to demonstrate your product to investors on the other side of the world digitally or deliver an almost in-person presentation from London to New York.
The covid-19 pandemic accelerated another shift in both the digital economy and our lifestyles, and that’s the increasing breakup of real-life communities for digital ones. Beginning with forums, then Facebook, and now a wealth of digital apps and websites, online communities are a staple of everyday life for many entrepreneurs.
Can you think about the last time you spent a day without participating in any form of online community or network?
As we spend more time online, both in our business and personal lives, we will see an even rise and reliance on online communities in the future.
Digital-first opens up limitless opportunities for entrepreneurs. Embracing digital-first, especially digital skills might seem like a challenge right now, but there is no doubt that it is the future of our economies and the way we do business. In my experience, the way to take advantage of this is to get in there early, fast, and be open to new technology and change.
Being ahead of change and at the forefront of progress can be the difference between success and failure in entrepreneurship.
One of Britain’s leading entrepreneurs, renowned for having built and sold his 3D printing business botObjects for $50 million in a record-breaking 17 months, Martin Warner is a global thought leader on entrepreneurship and a business mentor, educator, inventor, film producer, and investor.
Having taught entrepreneurship for 20 years to thousands of people, Martin now shares his thought leadership, teachings, and coaching through his education program, Entrepreneur Seminar.