Graeme Gordon, IFB CEO

Written by Alan Robertson on 3 November 2015 in Feature

For 100 days, Connect is running through our Tech 100 for 2015, profiling the key figures driving the digital agenda in Scotland

Graeme Gordon (@thegraemegordon)

Job Title/Organisation: CEO at IFB, Deputy Chair ScotlandIS

What does your role involve?

I think the word here is 'involve'. Having a great team at IFB allows me to work in and outside the business. The key for us has always been strong relationships internally and externally. My role is really about leading and developing the team at IFB as we seek to continue our ambitious growth plans; identifying, facilitating and orchestrating internal and external relationships - the ones that work for IFB are those that we have and need to have to grow and exceed our strategic objectives.

Getting this part right more of the time means we remain attractive, innovative and relevant to all our current and future stakeholders, clients, team and suppliers. I get to meet some amazing folks along the way in some fantastic places too.

What do you consider to be the most imminent challenge in your line of work?

In the information age it is without a doubt remaining relevant. It is easy to sight the last macro report on future technology trend, but if you miss the core need of your clients (business, private, paying or not), which is to gain a tangible benefit from using your service or product, then you have missed what you are here for.

Of course that word ‘benefit’ means many different things but miss it and it is easy to become just another statistic. You have to remain relevant to the values and needs of your clients as the market around moves at a pace which is only accelerating.

What has been the most rewarding piece of work you've undertaken?

Outside of the success IFB is attaining right now, for me it has to be the work I have been involved in with Robert Gordon's College in Aberdeen on the development of their digital strategy. The manner in which the team at the college set about creating a strategy for the use of technology integrated into and benefiting the teaching of the curriculum and beyond has been fantastic.

It would have been easy for them just to deploy laptops and tablets but they properly invested time and undertook real pain to understand and develop the long-term goals and implications of using technology innovatively for the benefit of their students and future learning. Not just because they had to but as a true enabler in education, removing traditional barriers to the use of IT to empower staff, teachers and pupils.

On top of that the college has just completed the largest science and technology building of any school in the UK and, while I never laid a brick, I would like to think I helped build a smarter future for STEM education in the school.

How can Scotland bridge the digital skills gap?

It’s a tough question and the easiest answer to give is say get more kids involved in digital at an early age. In general terms - and I know this is getting better - I think that we are not blending the use of technology enough across the curriculum so it is as mainstream as a textbook. This then makes the teaching of computing and coding less of a jump - it’s then just another subject, like any other second language.

Beyond school there is some great work going on in Scotland right now to feed the need for developers. Look at CodeClan, what the team are doing there enables us to compete globally. It is something every employer that requires developers needs to know about and support.

The issue is wider than this, though. There is a generation of untrained computer and digital device users who are simply that, users, great users but users still the same. This means we have almost a generation of people turned off to technology engineering, coding and building things digitally. So how do we make this an opportunity and capture some of this ability?

Which new technology excites you the most?

Amazon Echo is simply amazing. It’s not perfect but it is so close to being able to retro fit voice control in to your current home and not a shiny new build in the Valley. This means that you will be able to switch on your lights, TV, set the oven, and turn on the heating by talking out loud in your own home.

The really exciting thing is that as this develops and knows what you like and when, Echo will start asking you if you want these things done. It will also integrate to your mobile so it will know where you are and perhaps call you as you head home and ask if you want the driveway lights switched on or the heating fired up. But it is seeing this level of low cost voice control work so well that really expands the mind and opens up so many new opportunities for the less able or infirm also, a real game changer.

What's your favourite app and why?

WhatsApp still impresses me in how a free piece of software can effectively enable you to communicate globally. I am seeing it used more in business, especially for instant and group communications where it is providing quick resolution to issues or queries across timezones or regions. It is only going to get smarter.

What, for you, will 2016 be the year of from a technology/digital standpoint?

Security. I think that while there has been a lot of news about it and some high profile instances of carelessness or compromise I fear in 2016 we will see a massive and severe security breach that affects more than people’s data in a way we have not seen so far. The net result will be tighter compliance, a greater use of encryption and the rise of the personal firewall.

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