Dublin Tech Summit highlights - “Future is (almost) here”
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The 2021 Dublin Tech Summit went live on June 17, attended by more than 5000 people. Like most of the events scheduled for 2021, DTS was also held exclusively online, with 4 different stages running parallel to each other the whole time.
While speakers came from diverse backgrounds with different industry expertise, there were a lot of shared themes between the talks, most prominently the upcoming changes in technology and the implications for digital businesses. Naturally, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the huge shift towards online presence still had a strong presence across presentations, similar to last year’s summit.
Most of the talks focused on the issues that we are to expect in the near future:
- IoT and omnichannel growing even more than before. In general, a push towards more diversification in the way users interact with products/services. The was often looked at in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and its outcomes.
- The technology necessary to support this move towards different channels, including a trend in API-driven technologies and cloud-based solutions.
- Following the first point, the work culture and how it evolve in the next few years was also discussed at length.
Here’s a short summary of the summit and its central themes, divided by the 4 different virtual stages:
Horizon Stage: The (near)future of technology
The Horizon stage opened by Annette Rippert (Accenture) delivering her keynote “Seeing and Seizing Future”. Rippert argued that learning from the past is not good enough anymore, and instead businesses should start “picking up the signals” of the future. The presentations continued with 2 sessions focused on quantum computing and AI technology.
Spotify’s Sten Garmark used his fireside session “The Future of Audio” to talk about the trends that are shaping the audio streaming services. Much like the other speakers, Garmark’s focus was on the imminent changes that he believes are going to shape how the industry develops in the next few years - namely moving past music exclusivity and expanding into the audio content domain, such as podcasts.
The next fireside session “Innovation on the Horizon: Discussing Machine Learning, Computer Vision & Augmented Reality” was hosted by Etsy’s CTO Mike Fisher, and moderated by TechCrunch’s Ron Miller. Pointing out another common theme, moving to the Cloud, Fisher mentioned how the company is already in the process of “becoming cloud native”. Touching upon the impacts of the pandemic, Fisher also mentioned the staggering rise in the number of both sellers and buyers in the past year - another point that kept coming back across different talks.
Another notable talk at the Horizon stage was the “Control+Alt+Reinvent” panel hosted by Annette Ripperet, Mark Curtis, and Marc Carrel-Billiard of Accenture and moderated by Susan Daly. The speakers talked about innovation and leadership in the context of the current pandemic and what to expect in the next few years.
Ignite Stage: Building up your business
The Ignite Stage was opened by Mark Schaefer (Chief Operating Officer - B Squared Media) delivering his keynote “Cumulative Advantages: How to Build Momentum for your Ideas, Business and Life Against All Odds”. Following the theme of this stage, Schaefer focused on offering practical strategies for growing a small business. Among many things, Schaefer advised his audience to adapt old terms to new circumstances (such as “mentorship”) to build “momentum” - a central concept in his preferred approach to growth.
The next 3 talks to follow Schaefer’s were real life examples of growth and scaling - mostly in the context of the ongoing pandemic:
- At “A 20 Year Evolution: From Tech Startup to Tech Unicorn” Jonathan Hyland, CTO at Workhuman, shared their scaling story through the years with moderator Gary Fox.
- At “From Start to Scale: Lessons on Building Your Business Today” Christian Kinnear - SVP of international Sales at Hubspot, Michael Waldron - VP of Marketing at Aylien, and Joe Lennon - CTO at Workvivo discussed their respective scaling journeys and mentioned the most important things to consider while going through a similar route.
- At “Democratising the Things that Mattermost: Open Source the Future” Ian Tien, CEO of Mattermost, sat down with Ron Miller of Techcrunch to discuss Mattermost’s case.
There were a series of other panels and presentations which tackled growth and scaling from different perspectives. Additionally, other talks such as “Soundtrack the World: Disrupting the Music Industry with Tech” by Oscar Höglund (Epidemic Sound - CEO) focused on specific industries and what to expect from them in the near future.
Nikolay Storonsky, Founder and CEO of Revolut, was also interviewed by Ryan Browne at the fireside session “Revolut Beyond Banking - The Founder’s View on the Future of Fintech”, where he gave his perspective on the way the banking industry is evolving. Storonsky also talked about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the finance sector in general, and on Revolut specifically.
While initially Revolut saw a 40% drop in payments during the pandemic, by focusing on optimization and targeted campaigns, Revolute saw increased growth margins, “almost tripling” the revenue. Commenting on the ever-changing banking world, Storonsky commented “There is no need to fight a changing environment. Instead, we must adapt to the new way people behave”
Later in the day, Ian Moore (Customer Experience and Innovation Lead, Twilio) tackled the current customer journey issues in his talk “CX in 2021: Understanding Changing Customer Journeys and Expectations”. Like most, Moore also believes that the focus should be on omnichannel delivery, pointing out “87% of consumers want a unified experience across all channels, and 73% use more than one channel”. Moore’s central point was to use the full potential of available customer data to deliver better experiences, or as he puts it “Don’t shout louder with the data, just whisper smarter”
Reimagine Stage: The future of “work”
The Reimagine Stage shared the forward looking perspective of the other stages, while being mostly focused on work, workplaces, and work culture specifically. Starting off by a keynote delivered by Geraldine MacCarthy, CRO at Personio, titled “Unlocking Your Productive Potential: How to Blaze the Trail as a Tech Leader”, the speakers at the Reimagine Stage shared their predictions on the way we all will be working in the near future, taking the effects of the pandemic into account.
The panel “Digital Sherpa - How to Reach New Heights in a Digitalised World?” by Mark Jordan (Chief Technologist - Skillnet Ireland), Dara Keogh (CEO - GeoDirectory DAC), Stephen Reidy (CIO - Three Ireland), Tansy Murray (VP of Customer Experience and Design - Mastercard), and Allen Higgins (Lecturer - University College Dublin) tired to answer the central question of “How do we start the journey to deliver great experiences for our users?”.
While it may seem like a simple question, the answer can be hard to define. The speakers mentioned “While 80% of companies believe they offer superior user experience - when asked, only 8% of users actually said the experience was great”
The speakers also tried to answer the question by looking at issues that are usually overlooked. For example, the difference that calling your audience “users” or “customers” can make in the overall experience, or the fact that “the journey must start from a customer and then move back to the product, not the other way around!”
In another fireside session called “Powering the Planet”, John Lambert, Chief Digital Officer at Mastercard, delved deeper into what innovating for the future should actually mean: “Innovation is not about the latest gadgets or gimmicks - it’s about solving real problems for real people!”. This sentiment was shared by other speakers, such as Jason Knight and Elaine Devereux’ talk “Designing a Future We All Want to Live In”, and Hamid Hashemi’s fireside session “WeWork: Digitisation & the Future of the Office”.
Evolution Stage: The future of data and security
This stage was opened by a fireside session hosted by Rik Ferguson (VP of Security Research - Trend Micro) and Danny Palmer (Senior Reporter - ZDNet) called “The Cyber Evolution: The New Technology and Cybersecurity Trends for 2021 and Beyond”. Ferguson talked about the current push away from a “data-center centric” usage pattern towards a “cloud-centric” one. In fact, the growing importance of cloud solutions, in combination with API driven approaches, were two of the most repeated themes at the Evolution Stage.
In addition to cyber security, some talks also brought IoT and AI under the spotlight. One panel titled “How IoT is Transforming the Micromobility Revolution” dove deep into the implications of IoT capabilities and our responsibility concerning sustainability - While another panel called “AI and its Role in Personalising your Business Interactions” looked at the upcoming trends in digital transformation.