It seems like no time at all since I joined Tech North to lead the organisation and build upon the great work already in progress. It’s been a steep learning curve over the last 11 weeks, as I embarked on a series of roadshows, roundtables and interviews, and drank gallons of coffee with founders and influencers in the Northern tech community.
I want to thank all the people who have made time for me and my relentless questioning, and look forward to a continued dialogue as I become even more immersed in the industry. The input from the community has been invaluable in helping me understand the state of the Northern tech community and where Tech North could make a real difference.
What has also become clear is the urgent need to prioritise. There are copious opportunities to help super-charge the digital and tech industries in the North of England, some of which are covered in our Digital Powerhouse report. But if we tried to tackle all of them, we’d spread ourselves too thinly. The logical approach is to focus on a handful of key themes: set some targets, then endeavour to smash them!
In terms of prioritisation, I’ve been a longtime fan of the Objectives & Key Results (OKRs) methodology. It is used by the likes of Google, Uber and LinkedIn, among many others, and I’ve used it successfully as a director and as an adviser to companies I’ve worked with previously. Often these frameworks are kept private and confidential but I thought it was important that Tech North made its OKRs visible to the community.
Having taken in a wide range of views and data points I’m putting forward five areas of focus for Tech North in 2016/17:
- Raise the profile of the Northern Tech sector and the companies within it by uniting the regions to tell one great story
- Create the central point of data on Northern Tech to support our initiatives around funding and skills
- Support the creation of a leading ecosystem for founders and entrepreneurs through access to funding, networking, training and support for accelerators and co-working spaces.
- Reduce the skills and talent gap in digital and tech by collaborating with tech employers both large and small
- Assure the sustainability of Tech North and its initiatives by making sure we secure funding for beyond 2018
These five goals will guide the Tech North strategy, at least until our next review in 2017, although I anticipate many of them will still be applicable in the next financial year too. These are the top-level areas of focus (the ‘O’s in OKRs) and we’ll be sharing more detail in due course.
As ever, we’d love to hear your thoughts.
For now, the team and I are working on how we implement the strategy in terms of prioritising activities, projects, resources, budgets and targets.
As we refocus Tech North, we’ve sadly had to make two roles here redundant.
Jennifer Hartley, Deputy Head of Tech North and Trade and Investment Director, started working for Tech North in October 2015, although she was also part of the advisory group set up to develop the original Tech North business plan from November 2014. She arrived as the expert on foreign direct investment, from her previous role as Senior Investment Manager for NewcastleGateshead Initiative and has delivered high quality results for Tech North since. Jen is a seasoned manager and helped lead the team during a period of flux to great effect.
Victoria Howlett was one of the first members of the Tech North team who played an integral part in delivering the strategy that was announced in September 2015. Originally hired as an Executive Assistant, Victoria quickly turned to events planning, producing successful events which helped connect the Northern tech community and raise the profile of Northern tech businesses. Before long, Victoria was promoted to Head of Events and in that role organised a Tech North programme that made an impact throughout the North.
We’d like to thank them both for their hard work and dedication in making Tech North what it is today and wish them well as they move on to new challenges.
I look forward to updating you on our progress on this blog, and in person at our events.
This post has been amended to clarify our commitment to improving the funding landscape, and to make clear that these are just the top-level areas of focus rather than detailed OKRs. We’ll be sharing those in due course. Thanks to Manoj Ranaweera for his direct feedback.
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