MCA Year of Digital Events with the Connected Digital Economy Catapult

As part of its Year of Digital, the MCA was delighted to host two events this month with the Connected Digital Economy Catapult (CDEC). CDEC is a government-funded initiative to support SME Digital enterprises. It aims to accelerate the best ideas to market, creating new products, services, jobs and value for the UK economy. MCA member firms have strong relations with SMEs and new ventures. Larger members sponsor entrepreneurship awards. Some partner with Digital “insurgents” on assignments. Many are SMEs themselves. And as the Year of Digital is demonstrating, there is a wealth of Digital insight across the broad spectrum of MCA firms. MCA members are thus well placed to contribute to the exchanges of views and expertise CDEC aims to foster.

At the first event, Catch Me If You Can, a panel of experts from the consulting industry set out their thoughts on Cyber Security. They then challenged an audience, comprising a mix of Digital SMEs, start ups and MCA consultants, to come up with small business ideas that could help combat the Cyber threat.

Mark Brown, EY’s Executive Director of Cyber Security and Resilience, revealed he recently briefed upper echelons of both UK and US government about the threat facing businesses. He suggested that if one Russian hack alone obtained 1.2bn identities (equivalent to hacking India), it wasn’t a question of whether corporations, governments or individuals would be hacked, but when. Most had probably already been hacked and didn’t know. The challenge was anticipating threats, adapting and responding to attack.

Rob Price, Head of Digital at Atos, described the logistical complexity of Atos’s longstanding role in ensuring that the systems and technologies underpinning the Olympic and Paralympic Games are secure. He reflected on the skills challenges associated with Digital in general and Cyber specifically, which sparked a discussion about how traditional recruitment processes were ill-adapted to finding the candidates most able to help firms combat Cyber challenges.

Sam Keayes, Vice President Security and Consulting at Thales, argued that Cyber attacks often target vulnerable bits of the supply chain. Defence corporations, governments and big businesses have armies of personnel protecting them. But they interact with smaller suppliers, professional services and even individuals, who are more susceptible to intrusion. While large organisations impose standards on their suppliers, Sam felt supply chain resilience was an area where SMEs could help.

The workshop sessions looked at how SMEs could develop Cyber-related business propositions. Delegates generated some interesting concepts, especially around testing businesses’ Cyber resilience and assessing their systems, skills and other capabilities.

One thing is clear about the world of Cyber Security. Currently many of those with formal responsibility for it are often process driven. This creates a slow-moving compliance bureaucracy. Digital innovation by contrast moves fast. Hungry SMEs, with Cyber insights, might be able to bring the agile world of Digital innovation to conservative security and resilience industries, and help reinvent them.

The second event, Data Is the New Money, engaged with a similar audience on the business opportunities associated with Big Data.

Shahbaz Haque, Director at Hitachi Consulting, argued that getting value from data was nothing new. However, exponentially increasing volumes of data, constantly enlarged by new developments, such as the Internet of Things, created new challenges. Big Data business opportunities would now flow from insights secured by connecting data to the range of technological changes associated with Digital and creating holistic business solutions, built round customer needs.

John Levell, Associate Partner and Head of Digital, EY, explored that data growth in some detail, pointing to the unmanageable volume and variety of data being generated already and how this is likely to continue to grow.  However, he indicated that a focus on business value and potential impact, rather than just on the data itself might make this challenge more manageable, and also give clues to potential Big Data entrepreneurs as to where they should focus their efforts.

Carlo Gagliardi, Partner and Co-Lead of Digital, PwC, suggested that organisations that decoupled data from its source questions to make smarter business decisions would derive advantage. He also explored the increasing resistance to the control large corporations had secured over much data. If citizens secured data ownership, this would change their relations with business, but also create opportunities for those businesses that could side with them and help them realise their goals.

The workshop sessions explored what value SMEs’ own data might have, as well as how Big Data could be used to create new business opportunities. Delegates felt that the position of SMEs – often close to new consumer needs, or brokering B2B relationships – meant they were well placed to develop new Big Data propositions, especially those that integrated product and service experiences around the customer, promoted convenience or even took the form of customer advocacy.

It was also noticeable in these sessions, as well as in the first event, that Digital entrepreneurs sometimes felt inhibited in advancing their business propositions owing to their inability to get through the doors of the big corporations who might benefit from them. Partnering with other players who have that access was suggested as a way forward. But overall, there was a sense that big business in Britain needed to be more receptive to the insights SMEs can afford.

In collaborating with CDEC on these sessions, to share ideas and explore new propositions, MCA members, large and small, showed that consulting sets a clear example of that kind of openness to emerging sources of insight.

We look forward to an ongoing collaboration with CDEC.

The MCA would like to thank Alex Vail, Michella Oswald and Geraldine Moor at the Connected Digital Economy Catapult for their support in setting up and running these two events.

 Written for the MCA Year of Digtal