Blackburn and Darwen Hive Ambassadors Network


Hive gets digital with Dr. James Whittaker

One of Microsoft’s leading tech guru’s has warned that Lancashire businesses need to accelerate their digital know how, or get left behind.

Dr James Whittaker, tech guru for Microsoft and previously for Google spoke at a Hive Ambassadors Network event in Blackburn, where, to a packed audience he talked about digital technology and using data to accelerate business growth and boost productivity in the county.

The event, held at The Grand Venue in Blackburn, was also supported by a panellist discussion of leading local business leaders; all sharing their experiences and wisdom on how to shape your own business with the evolution of the digital sector.

During his presentation Dr James Whittaker said: “It is key for businesses to understand they simply can’t shy away from digital but you actually need to leapfrog technology already out there and not just play catch up if you are to stay ahead. Right now, it is an intelligent opportunity and not just a digital one, but you have to determine your own business’ future.”

When looking at this in more detail and relating this back to businesses in the room, he advised that: “Data is the future.The data is there, in all forms but it is what you do with it that matters.Drill down into your business, your customer journey and find what that data is, where that data is held, how that data is being communicated to you and adapt and invent your future.If you have people that can code, embrace them as they are the inventory and military of your future workforce.”

Data he advised is in all forms, from what the website collects as intelligence to simple data input to much more current forms of data collection with the likes of Conversational User Interface – intelligence collected via a voice assistant that allows you to talk and chatbots that allow you to type.

James was preceded on stage buy a panel of seven local business leaders and Khalid Saifullah of Star Tissue and a Lancashire LEP Board Member advised business owners and influencers to: “Make decisions based on real intelligence as that leads to a better customer experience.To scale up any business you need to harness and embrace data and digital tactics in order to stay one step ahead of the competition and to offer a greater, more seamless customer experience.”

The panel also reminded delegates of the support available to Lancashire businesses through the Digital Skills Partnership and the North West pilot scheme currently in place to digitise the manufacturing industry, Made Smarter.

Kerry Harrison from the Lancashire Skills Partnership added: “Research has shown there is a long tail of lower productivity in Lancashire with a lack of confidence to leader manage through the digital landscape.With funds available via Made Smarter where you can bid for help to get technology installed and with advisors and diagnostic tools on hand, businesses are encouraged to look into this further and as the panel and I are keen to re-iterate, this isn’t about machinery and technology taking away peoples jobs; it is about upskilling the workforce you currently have.”

The successful event was the latest held by the Blackburn with Darwen Hive Ambassadors Network, a group that hopes to unite businesses, organisations and individuals across the area in a powerful network to help develop and promote Blackburn and Darwen, challenge perceptions and raise the profile of the area.Membership is £150 per year which guarantees free membership to events.Non-members can attend the events for £25.For further information visit: www.