Posted by: DrAlanRae | July 13, 2007

What will it take to be competitive in 2020

The DTI and the Regional Development Agencies are (rightly) concerned about the perceived inability of UK businesses to extract the same productivity out of IT as our transatlantic cousins and keep citing the paper which demonstrates that productivity comes from treating the troops robustly according to the McKinsey principles.

Me, I think part of the problem is the lack a tradition of analytic thought in the English Culture. Only here is the phrase too clever by half taken as an insult.

However common-sense would suggest that being competitive in 2020 would mean being fluent in how to use IT to structure, restructure and present information and knowledge to achieve some kind of competitive advantage no matter what route to building your business you take.

You would imagine that getting this right would be fundamental to the UK’s continuing success and that the government should be developing a strategy to deal with it.

Well they are – sort of.  The Treasury and the Ministry for the Prevention of Learning have recently commissioned a report chaired by a Mr Leitch (who’s incidentally head of Zurich Insurance).

The key recommendation is that since the education system is churning out 20% of people who can’t read and write then we should make industry sort it out by encouraging them to do level 2 NVQs (i.e. O levels) which we will fund.

We’ll 50% fund “apprenticeships” which in practice means doing some vocational courses which lead to an NVQ level 3 (A level standard)

Anything else – which would include how to use IT to effectively grow your business won’t be publicly funded apart from a bit of entry level leadership which might be extended down to companies employing 10.

Since the growth of the economy is in knowledge based service industries one would have thought that focusing on making them more effective would be what world class would be about.  The impact of channelling most of the adult education budget to remedial reading and writing instead of things like marketing diplomas ( I declare an interest here – I sit on the CIM’s Professional Body Board)  and courses on practical skills like qualifications for plumbers and electricians doesn’t seem to me to be the way to go.

I’d like to ask you what skills you think your businesses need to stay competitive and where do you think you might get them from.

I’m currently doing some work with a couple of Business Schools so if we get some constructive replies here we might well try and recycle them into something useful.

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