Chris Sargisson of Norfolk Chamber: Are you planning for today, or for tomorrow?

Chris Sargisson, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce new chief executive.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Chris Sargisson, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce new chief executive.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Chris Sargisson, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, explains why looking ahead is essential to Norfolk's future.

We've been involved in lots of discussions recently, with all sorts of groups and businesses, and there has been much talk about the 'now'.

Which can be dangerous. Take the A47 campaign for example. It's been running for years and the road will get built, but if it's built for the 'now' then it will be out of date on the day it's opened.

Businesses often have the same problem. Probably driven by seeing a competitor do something different a business sees a need for today. They build or develop the product or service for 'today' and move on.

That's fine. But running in parallel should be a 'build it for tomorrow' plan based on what's coming.

And it's probably no great surprise, because it's technology. More and more of it. More conversations with computers. 'Alexa, book me a hair cut' (Alexa checks your diary, and contacts your fave coiffeur). Think not? Brace yourself.

And then there's virtual reality. Don't think VR is going no further than gaming. Very soon now business will be monetising it. When it gets to retail, shopping will really change.

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'Alexa, build me a better A47…' OK, that's not going to happen, but driverless vehicles are. So, built for today, will a new A47 be ready for tomorrow as a connected highway with 5G connection? Will it be an electrified road like they're building in Sweden and China?

But most of all, technology-driven automation will dramatically increase productivity. Fewer errors and more speed will make the world of difference to the world of work.

The simple fact is that technology changes everything. So everything will change. Key to all our futures is acknowledging that change represents opportunity. It's a positive. If you think ahead.

Which is precisely why a 'build for tomorrow' plan is as strategically important as some 'do it for today' projects are tactically necessary. Being fleet of foot enough to react to market needs will always play a part in commerce. Planning far enough ahead to meet tomorrow's conditions is what's needed to ensure that your business will play a part in the future. Or indeed have a future.

At the Chamber we're trying to do just that. We're reaching out to every Norfolk tech business and 'guru' we can find.

Yes, to support them, but also to connect them with every Norfolk business.

We're working on the development of a culture that sees technology as an enabling force; creating an ethos where entrepreneurial spirit and forward thinking are inextricably linked.

It's about making Norfolk the go-to region for future innovation. Today, and tomorrow.