Guest Blog: Michael Prager – Lockdown is nearly over, it’s legacy will be creative destruction

You need to take a deep breath here, go and lie down, preferably in a dark room.  I am about to speak a heresy.

Pathway to COP26 report

Lockdown was not all bad.

There, I said it.  It’s a bit like ‘What did the Romans ever do for us?’ in reverse. Yes it has tanked the economy.  Yes it has led to eyewatering amounts of national debt that our children will still be paying off when we’re all dead and gone. And there is the case of the travel & hospitality and retail sectors that will never recover to the way they were pre covid.

And that’s where it’s not all bad. Hospitality & travel will recover, pent up leisure demand is huge, business demand will recover but differently because innopvations like work from home (WFH) and Zoom meetings, whilst not sustainable 100% in place of access to an office or face to face meetings is an efficient way of doing things and will remain to some extent, after we’re out of covid restrictions.

Retail will morph into consumer sales.  We haven’t stopped shopping, we’re just doing it more online than in High St stores – which we were anyway, covid just accelerated that.  But retail will come back, not the weak ones, not those paying more in rent than their model could sustain and no one without multiple channels to market; retail and online as a minimum.

Telephone GP appointments won’t go away once covid does, nor will virtual property tours from real estate agents and you can probably think of a few more examples.  In general the efficiencies that businesses have built over the past year in order just to survive won’t disappear once we return to growth, they will stay and become embedded in the new normal.

And that will accelerate not constrain growth. It’s part of the process at the very heart of capitalism, creative destruction. Don’t wait until it’s broke to fix it. If you can, break it now, make it come back better.  It’s what business does and where it doesn’t you get Soviet Russia or Trabants.

Imagine in the financial crash of 2007-8 if we had protected Woolworth & Blockbuster. Yes lots of Woolworth & blockbuster people would have kept their low paid jobs in those firms but would we have had Amazon & Netflix? If the answer is no then would that have been better for us, if it’s yes then how long would Woolworth & Blockbuster have lasted anyway? And which has created more wealth/jobs/consumer satisfaction?

So what has that to do with the energy and in particular the energy services sector?  Well one lesson from lockdown is don’t try to do everything yourselves.  Focus on what the firm is unbeatable at and sub contract, outsource, JV what it’s just OK at.  We see that all the time in things like FM firms developing their own in house software.  It’s usually OK but that’s it.

The fact is that most FM firms are about as good at writing energy management software as energy management software firms are at providing facilities maintenance. i.e. not very.

The good news is that:

  1. You don’t have to throw away what you’ve already built to take advantage of where cutting edge, energy management software is going. Any new platform will be AI based or it’s end of lifecycle, you don’t need it.
  2. AI platforms will typically API into any other data driven system and exchange data pretty seamlessly so there’s very little hardware engineering that needs to be done in order to harness the power of AI computing
  3. AI has worked the oracle of making legacy systems much better than they ever were, because the system itself is constantly learning just by being used and it has also made access cheaper than legacy systems. And that doesn’t happen very often.

Today’s AI enabled energy management platforms (‘fess up, we have one, arguably the best on the market) give your energy managers a reach of 10-20 times their ability to oversee carbon and energy utilisation at a fraction of the cost of employing additional people to do the same job.

So let lockdown be a lesson.  New normal is bringing quite a lot of change as the efficiencies that you built during lockdown, when it was about survival embed themselves as we move back into growth.  If you can lease it cheaper and better than you can build it why wouldn’t you when the upside is agility, leanness and bottom line. If you can ask the question, ‘what did lockdown do for us’?  and answer ‘It made us better’, you’re a winner.  If not, maybe we should talk.

This is a promoted article.

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