Getting With the Times: The Implications of 21st Century Technology

Spurred on by my recent 2am meeting with colleagues in South Korea, which I was able to attend via video conference call from our office in Northamptonshire, I have recently been considering the opportunity that modern technology affords business to improve efficiency and cut costs.

In the not-so-distant past, corporations underwent a paradigm shift; where they once posted a piece of correspondence and were left waiting upwards of a week to receive a response, they can now send an e-mail and have their answer within days, hours, or even minutes. The country’s digital infrastructure has broadened to provide wireless connectivity in most areas, enabling us to keep in touch via e-mail whilst making those long journeys to meetings, and train carriages have fallen quiet as people take to tapping their messages into laptops, tablets and mobiles rather than shouting into a mobile to the irritation of their fellow passengers.

Just as the availability of the internet has grown, so has technology’s sophistication. We now have at our fingertips programmes such as Skype and WebEx, which can be used for free on a one-to-one basis, and without the need for complicated physical installation of equipment. With the ubiquity of video equipment on smart phones and tablets, it’s possible to connect all over the world at the touch of a button without any hassle. So seamless are the results that I wonder whether it is time to re-evaluate the accepted norms for business; if we can communicate this easily and cheaply without leaving the office, should we not be focusing on utilising the opportunity rather than continuing to waste hours travelling?

There is an entrenched belief that face-to-face meetings are a prerequisite for successful business, but I would argue that this needs to be reframed within a 21st century context where the true cost of travel is taken into account, including not just time wasted and hours lost but also resources used. Energy is one of the biggest challenges the modern world faces, and we need to start paying serious attention to the amount of travel really required to facilitate effective results. If technology allows us to virtually participate in meetings that take place anywhere in the world, is it so important that we are there to shake hands in person? As the cost of power creeps ever higher, I would imagine that priorities will shift out of necessity towards conducting more business through digital channels.

Of course, there remains a place for face-to-face communication. The basic premise, however, that in many cases you cannot conduct business just as effectively without leaving your office is quickly becoming anachronistic.

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As Chairman of the Rolton Group, Peter provides high-level strategic advice to a range of governmental, public sector and commercial clients. He is an acknowledged specialist in the renewable energy sector, and there is good reason for this: when it comes to energy, Peter is clear about the issues we face and the need for a cohesive strategy to tackle them. He is a passionate advocate of informed debate, and has consistently brought clarity to this complex situation."If the UK is united on one thing about energy it is that, on an individual basis, the public knows what it’s not in favour of. When it comes to offering up solutions, it’s not that confident. Pointing at single solutions like wind farms and saying that they are too expensive is missing the point. Carbon-based forms of energy like oil and gas are running out. Energy is going to be more expensive and a portfolio of renewable energies will necessarily be part of our solution in the future." Peter holds particular expertise in the areas of site-wide energy planning, zero carbon power generation, low carbon design, carbon offsetting and the application of renewable technology. He has acted as a Government advisor on numerous consultations and white papers, presenting to the Secretary of State on a number of occasions on the subject of renewable planning and public sector engagement. He has worked as a strategic partner with some of the world’s largest and most successful blue-chip companies, and is a Director of Renewables East, the renewable energy agency for the east of England.Peter is both a chartered building services engineer and a chartered member of the Institute of Energy, and has gained accreditation under the Carbon Trust Consultant Accreditation Scheme for solution development, with particular expertise in the establishment of energy strategies. He founded his first business, Rolton Services Consultants Limited, in 1989, and founded Cool Planet Technologies, a specialist renewable energy delivery partner which was sold to British Gas in 2010. He has been the architect of the path through which Rolton Group has addressed the challenges of renewables, carbon and the built environment."We need to see the bigger picture and not become hung up on individual technologies and individual costs. We need a completely different technology mix and not a reliance on one form of energy supply. We need all forms of technology to be applied – and we need it to happen quickly."

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