Businesses Have No Idea What They Want From Tech… And They’re OK if You Say That!

I hate to break it to you. Most businesses have no idea what they want from tech. In fact, most business owners start laughing at this point. Because when they employ an expert of some sort, they assume that the expert will be able to tell them what they need. It’s not an unreasonable assumption.

However, we’ve created an entire industry of consultants, businesses advisors and assorted gurus based on this very assumption. Take the City Region business recovery grant. I received this grant and helped several other businesses by advising them on kitlists to build podcast studios. I’m very grateful. However, the whole system is based around this bizarre ritual of gathering 3 tenders and wet signature.

Businesses find this sort of thing incredibly irritating and the end result is usually buying 3 laptops from Argos. With the rival tenders coming from Currys and Amazon. My suspicion is that they just sell them on Ebay for the cash. Their choice is driven by what is the easiest way to do three tenders. It’s very difficult to tender for something when you’re not sure what you want.

This is no criticism of local government. I’ve found them very receptive to new ideas and incredibly helpful. They’re trying their best to repurpose EU money. I was told that it is only since the pandemic that they’ve been able to use electronic signatures. I’ve spoken to a lot of local government people over the last year. One topic that is guaranteed to make them go from happy face to pissed off face is the subject of procurement and the effect that these rules have.

If you want to get an extended rant from me then talk about business support schemes during the pandemic. There’s no end of business support types offering mentoring programmes to leverage your resilience or re-imagine your next pivot. Try finding someone to help choose the best webcam or mic? Again, it’s not the fault of local government. There’s very little else to choose from. These are people, after all, who’ve made a career out of succeeding at the grant game.

Now, of course, some businesses do want an extended 6-week mentoring programme to leverage their next pivot into an exciting new paradigm. And if that’s you, then more power to you.

But if you want someone to tell you what’s the best microphone for your next Zoom call or how edit video on your smartphone. That’s harder to find.

Or is it?


If you are looking for cheap and fast tech training and advice delivered by experts then get in touch.

Those who can't.... hack.
Chris Kennedy


You might ask yourself why we’ve ended up with such an odd system? I think it fits into a bigger picture of how we’ve used “markets” to allocate public money. There is an implicit assumption in a market that the consumer knows what they want. Whether it is school league tables, degrees or business support the consumer often doesn’t. At least not in an informed way.

The word for this system is called technocracy. We’ve become ruled by unaccountable experts who spend vast sums of public money and justify it based by gamed targets, fake markets and more recently social impact. In the olden days we used votes, it was much cheaper.

It’s my belief that the fundamental question of our time is one of political economy. Do we go down a Dominic Cummings route and replace the rotten centre with real markets or a Tony Benn approach and replace it with something democratic and accountable to ordinary people. As Brexit has shown, what ordinary people want isn’t the same as those who govern them.

Which is why I think it is the question of our time. How do we re-shape markets and the state to reflect what the average person wants.

We’re nowhere near to answering that question.

And there lies the opportunity for something fresh, exciting and new.