Elena Doncheva, Head of Marketing at Chess, joined the organisation after finishing her International Business and Management postgraduate degree at Alliance Manchester Business School. With B2C and B2B experience, she sees marketing as a key driver for business growth. Together with her team, Elena is responsible for demand generation, brand building and PR.
At end of 2021, we asked Chess' board what they predict to be the key trends in 2022. It was one of our most popular blog posts, so we decided it's time for a half-year check - here's how they reflect on the last six months and what they expect from the rest of the year:
- Jump to David Pollock, Executive Chairman >
- Jump to Stephen Dracup, Chief Operating Officer >
- Jump to Gavin Wood, Chief Technology Officer >
- Jump to Mark Lightfoot, Chief Finance Officer >
- Jump to Warren Pryer, Group Sales Director >
- Jump to Oliver Lofthouse, Sales Director >
David Pollock, Executive Chairman
In December 2021, I predicted that homeworking is going to continue. What we learned this year is that people want flexibility and work-life balance. Culture and fun are important, so make sure you get together, too. The hybrid approach is the future – enable your team to work securely anywhere, anytime.
However, make sure you do so correctly. While we didn't expect the invasion in Ukraine and the threat of cyber warfare coming with it, we knew hackers are getting better, smarter, and stealthier. A ransomware attack can destroy your organisation, stop operations, and cost you thousands if not millions in lost revenue, data and reputation.
The noise around the PSTN Switch off at the end of 2025 is increasing as predicted, but organisations are not acting fast enough. Don't get stuck. There will be a bottleneck when providers need to migrate millions of lines, so you need to plan your transition.
We can already feel the recession. The economy could get ugly, but history tells us the bear market lasts up to 18 months. So prepare yourself, and make smart investments - the recession can also give you a chance to stand out from the competition.
As for Manchester United, there's the 22/23 season to hope for.
Stephen Dracup, Chief Operating Officer
Looking back at my predictions for 2022, we have certainly seen continued pressure on wages: Firstly, due to skill shortages, but also inflationary pressure. This has meant people have higher expectations of pay increases in their annual pay.
Furthermore, we have seen continued "digital transformation" in our customers, with most now embracing Hybrid working. There is no apparent mass return to the office full time, so working securely anywhere, anytime remains a high priority for our customers.
The stats suggest that car rental is becoming more popular, but the increase in fuel prices and second-hand vehicles and reduction of supply of new vehicles may be distorting the growth in short-term car rental/sharing apps. So this one looks more of a slow burn. Nevertheless, the trend appears to back up my prediction.
For the rest of the year, the security arms race will continue to gather pace as the entry cost of tools available to hackers and other bad actors reduces and their sophistication increases. As a result, bring your own devices (especially mobiles and tablets) will be increasingly at risk.
Environment, Social and Governance policies will become more important. Although legislation is currently aimed at only very large businesses – its impact will start to ripple down into their supply chain so that smaller supplier businesses will need to up their games.
"May you live in interesting times" is a Chinese curse, not a blessing, and with war, strikes, inflation, rising interest rates, and political uncertainty, times have not been this "interesting" for a while. So despite the "bounce back", I expect more conservatism in decision-making in the next 6 months.
Gavin Wood, Chief Technology Officer
Ransomware continues to dominate the cyber security industry. Reviewing the Sophos State of Ransomware Report 2022, we can see that 66% of organisations have been hit by ransomware, up by 37% YoY. According to the report, this is driven by threat actors becoming more capable and the Ransomware-as-a-service model, which reduces the skill level required to launch a successful attack.
Over the next 6 months, this will continue to be the number one cyber security threat to businesses. As a result, we will see that cyber insurance will become increasingly important to ensure organisations have the ability to respond to an attack. However, the minimum requirements for comprehensive cover will increase, so having the correct tools and services to protect against ransomware will become even more important.
Despite continued discussion around the merits of home v office, the way we now work has fundamentally changed, and the importance of securing remote workers continues. With the improvements in Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), the benefits of replacing a traditional type VPN setup for remote access is clear. Also, ZTNA technologies are being integrated into existing technologies such as endpoint, making them easier to adopt a trend that will continue.
Wifi and data services are becoming more ubiquitous, 5G is becoming increasingly common. As I travelled around the country and recently abroad, I was surprised at how much coverage there is now. High-speed, low latency services will be critical, as well as enabling new and exciting services. With the upcoming 2025 switch off, traditional telephony services will need to move, and these services combined and combined with non-copper-based broadband services eg FTTP, will ensure organisations can continue to provide services to their customers.
Mark Lightfoot, Chief Finance Officer
Is hybrid working beginning to lose support? For the hybrid model to work, businesses have to be sure their people are working effectively. Interesting statistics show that power consumption peaks occur later in the morning (people having showers later) and earlier in the evening (people cooking dinner earlier), suggesting that people are doing less work than they were 12 months previous. The emphasis must therefore be on businesses and individuals to assess if we are working more effectively, highlighting the continuing necessity for communication and accurate data.
I also think we may be moving from 3 pools of people to 2. When hybrid working began, pot 1 were those who wanted to be in an office environment, pot 2 were those who wanted to be at home and pot 3 were those who wished to split between some days in an office and some days at home. I believe that people have gravitated toward being either office only or home only, and the number of true hybrid advocates is diminishing. Over time, once enough data has been collected, I believe that hybrid will be proven to be the most effective for the large majority of businesses and people. Companies will need to find a way to encourage people to work within that model.
Warren Pryer, Group Sales Director
Cyber security was the central theme in the 2022 predictions I made in December last year. This included a growing skill gap, an increased ransomware threat, and home and hybrid working security challenges.
Today, 6 months later, this is as relevant as ever. According to ONS, the number of people working from home has increased - you need to ensure your gateways are secure. Invest in next-generation firewalls and SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) solutions.
Hackers don't sleep, and most attacks happen out of working hours. Do you have a 24/7 security cover or do you keep losing sleep over the potential consequences of a successful breach? We've supported multiple customers to find the best option for an extension of their team - whether it is software or services. I would advise you to review the costs of an in-house around-the-clock IT team against a managed service provider. Consider the rising salaries in the IT and Cyber sector and the growing cost of ransomware recovery.
Oliver Lofthouse, Sales Director
Reflecting on my predictions from earlier in the year, I still feel many hold true. Companies are now openly communicating policies about remote 'v' office working. Those forcing the workforce back to the office are met with heavy resistance, and in many cases, people are voting with their feet and looking for new employment. Hybrid working is going to be the winner here. I think we can still manage 70% of our workload effectively and securely in a remote environment if we can collaborate effectively using the technology available to us from suppliers such as Microsoft, Sophos and the various network carriers.
Employee retention is and will continue to be necessary. The market is very 'hot', and good people are regularly approached to look at the 'greener grass.' As a result, companies have no option but to focus on making their business a great place to work.
One area where there is denial or blind ignorance is around the upcoming PSTN network switch-off. Customers and suppliers are both delaying the action required to ensure there will be no business disruption, and traction in this area is much slower than I had expected. I urge every company to review their transition plan, which we at Chess can help with. Due to this inertia, satellite broadband has still not made the impact I had predicted, but this will come when customers start to review their options.
My prediction for a new PM and conservative party leader is accurate.
From my experience, the last 6mths have felt that business normality has returned. Plans and strategies moved from being defensive and reactive to being more expansive and proactive. Unfortunately, thanks to a certain Russian President, we have been handed another challenge to overcome. With inflation looking to reach double figures and our economic performance pointing to a likely recession, we are now in limbo. I predict a slow down of activity in the next 6mths, perhaps not too dissimilar to what we saw entering the pandemic. I think this makes it even more important for UK businesses to ensure they are using technology to keep costs down but maintain effectiveness. Efficiency will be the key watchword. Fortunately, at Chess, we have a selection of best-in-class products and services that we can offer to help our Customers reduce costs, connect your people and grow their businesses.
To summarise, as a business leader, you should focus on retaining your people, improving your security, and enabling hybrid working in the new year. We can help you on your journey, whatever your strategy is for 2022 and advise on you the best technology for your organisation. Contact our expert team and book your FREE technology consultation today.
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