It's Trends not Fads that matter

July 2015

Do you remember when everyone used to go on about ‘cyberspace’ and the ’information superhighway’? These terms sound daft today don’t they? Well, within a few years you will react in the same way to ‘Big Data’, the ‘Digital Economy’ and ‘Digital Marketing’. Why? Because they are just faddish names masking an underlying trend. The ‘Big’ and ‘Digital’ are superfluous; as standalone entities these things don’t, or won’t, exist. In business there is only data and marketing, and we all work within the same economy.

By conjuring up a parallel world the property industry is falling into a trap. Every week we hear about the rise of TMT occupiers, MediaTech and the particular office requirements of the tech industry. How these companies have special needs, how they can only be found in particular areas of the city, and how these locations are in various ways ’special’. We even have a new breed of agent to deal with them, where suits are banished and awesome and disrupt have to be inserted into every other sentence.

Unfortunately all this talk is missing the point. This not a new market at all; it IS the market. This small sector (real tech companies don’t employ many people) is but the shouty end of a fundamental trend that is seeing every company become end to end digital. We are told that this new sector requires interesting, well designed and engaging space. That they want space that is suited for collaborative activities, but with quiet zones, and touch down areas, and meeting rooms, and lounges, and perhaps stand up sit down desks. They need great connectivity, decent kitchens and somewhere to park bicycles. The bottom line: they want a decent place to work that isn’t grey. Well, show me someone who doesn’t.

These people deal with ‘Big data’ it is said. Normally by people who have no idea what is meant by this. The important trend is that companies are starting to pay a lot more attention to making decisions, throughout their operations, based on data rather than hunch or gut feel. But this is nothing special; all companies will follow the Google mantra ‘In God we trust, everyone else bring data’.

And the same applies with ‘Digital Marketing’; it is just a subset of marketing, not a standalone function. The trend is that marketing embraces more digital channels, and pays more attention to data analysis, but this is the case for everyone. Everyone knows that print, if not dead, is a dead end. The Economist has lost 46% of their print advertising income since 2012; their response has been to become ever more digital. And so it will be across all business.

The trap to avoid is following the fad and treating tech companies as somehow different. Or non tech companies as ‘old school’. Every company is a tech company. Or soon will be.

Antony

This appeared in Estates Gazette 11th July 2015