A report by the think tank Policy Exchange, argues that there is a ‘north-south divide’ in the UK tech sector and that better road, rail and air connections are needed in northern cities to create ‘tech clusters,’ which the report claims are vital for northern tech companies to thrive.
Is this is really the case?
An ironic truism is that advances in technology itself now allows people working in the UK tech sector (and most others too) to work remotely across disparate locations using anywhere communications technology.
For example, by implementing anywhere communications applications such as Microsoft Lync and Cisco Jabber/WebEx at Forfusion, almost half of our employees are able work remotely in locations across the UK – saving us significant travel and accommodation costs and perhaps most importantly, time – something often overlooked. Less travel means shorter days and thus happier and more productive employees.
The flexibility that this technology affords businesses is particularly relevant, now that the law has been changed so that all workers (regardless of circumstance) have the right to ask to work from home – validating the findings of a report published by o2 and the Centre for Economic and Business Research which suggested that businesses could save the UK economy £4.1 billion a year in lost time if more employees worked remotely.
Applications such as Microsoft Lync and Cisco Jabber/WebEx offer a suite of unified communications and collaboration tools, combining audio and video communication with content sharing, which can be used on a variety of devices including tablet and mobile. These applications are ideal for organisations that are trying to implement a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy.
This means that the efficiency of day-to-day operations are unaffected by geography, which has undoubtedly enabled us to recently celebrate the end to a record year – doubling our revenues and work force and securing public, private and charity sector clients across the globe.
Nonetheless, Newcastle is becoming a tech cluster in its own right. The North East’s tech sector has bolstered the region’s economy, with 1,500 jobs expected to be created over the next year – contradicting the alleged ‘brain drain’ from northern cities to the south, claimed by the Policy Exchange’s report.
Moreover, the fact that cost of living is estimated to be over 30% cheaper than in London should make the North East an attractive location for tech companies of all sizes, particularly for firms that are prepared to embrace anywhere communication technology – not to mention the North East’s reputation for passionate, warm and friendly people!
If your organisation is willing to embrace anywhere communications technology, then being located in a ‘tech cluster’ is irrelevant. To build a sustainable future, think about upgrading your technology and streamlining internal processes, rather than clubbing together with other tech firms.