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IT Pro Podcast

Podcast Transcript: Looking forward to 2022

Read the full transcript for this episode of the IT Pro Podcast

Podcast Transcript: Looking forward to 2022

This automatically-generated transcript is taken from the IT Pro Podcast episode ‘Looking forward to 2022’. To listen to the full episode, click here. We apologise for any errors. 

Adam Shepherd  

Hello, and welcome to the IT Pro Podcast. I'm Adam Shepherd. And I'm joined once again by my colleagues Connor Jones, Sabina Weston and Bobby Hellard. 

Connor Jones  

Hello. 

Sabina Weston  

Hi. 

Bobby Hellard  

Hello. 

Adam  

On last week's show, we discussed the top trends of 2021 and the tumultuous events of the past 12 months. This week, however, we're casting our gaze forward to share our top predictions for what we think 2022 may have in store. It's set to be another action packed 12 months ahead, so without further ado, let's dive in. And I'm gonna kick things off by saying that as bleak as it sounds, COVID is still going to dominate the vast majority of 2022, I think. The work from home orders in the UK have just come back into force, the guidance is to work from home where possible. And honestly, I think that is likely to continue for much of the spring, certainly, of 2022. I would hope that it starts to clear up and we can start kind of moving back towards a return to normality over the rest of 2022. But based on 2021, I don't think that's supremely likely. And I think the ongoing effects of the pandemic, let's say, are going to continue to be a main focus for businesses; I think the the push for increased digitization is going to continue, I think organisations are going to, to have to take the opportunity to focus on getting their remote working and hybrid working strategy really nailed. I think there's a lot of organisations over the past year, who have looked at remote working as something that they had to kind of suffer through for six to nine months, and then they could get back to normal. And I think this, this latest return to work has really demonstrated that it's not something that is going away. And it's not something that you can afford to take lightly.

Sabina  

Yeah, I agree.

Bobby  

The situation kind of seems slightly behind in the US where they're still struggling with Delta, presumably. So the companies that even provide our remote working software like Google and Microsoft still haven't actually returned to work. And they've pushed it back into January. 

Sabina  

Well, actually, you just mentioned January, because I just was covering a new story with with Google, and they have literally, we're recording this on the 15th. So I mean, I know this is gonna be a bit delayed, but they've yesterday apparently have just introduced policies, like with actual soft of consequences for the employees who are not, who are not vaccinated. And because their return to the office is at the beginning of January. But I think you wrote that story, Bobby, right? From what I understand. And apparently those who don't submit their vaccination status by I think like mid January, or any sort of like religious or medical exemptions, which won't be approved by then, then they'll be placed on paid leave for a month. And then if that's, if they're still unvaccinated, then they'll be placed for another, I think six months unpaid leave, after which they'll be, they'll have the employment contract terminated. From what I understand. And this is, I think, the first time that Google has actually sort of like, come up with, like, an actual policy of like, you know, consequences for those who, for those sort of like returning to the office who need to be, because they're very sort of like serious about having everyone vaccinated in the offices in the US. And, and it's going to be, I think it's quite interesting and might set a precedent for other companies as well. I think it's unlikely for us to see it in the UK. But yeah, anyway, it's just me. It's just from today. So yeah,

Adam  

it's become a real hot button issue. The question of whether or not employers can can mandate you to get vaccinated as a kind of condition of employment. You've got a decent amount of people arguing that forcing people to get vaccinated in order to remain employed is, you know, an infringement on rights and freedom of choice and all the all the rest of it. And on the other hand, you've got, you know, a significant amount of people arguing that, well, if you're not vaccinated, and you're coming into the office and meeting colleagues, you are putting colleagues at risk. And it's the duty of employers to make sure that their employees are kept safe and prevented from falling ill, for example, and that that particular clash is, I think only going to, to get more pronounced, particularly if you know, as it as it looks like is the case, COVID is something that you're going to need regular vaccines to keep on top of, certainly for the next kind of year or so while new variants are kind of continuing to develop.

Bobby  

I don't know about the forcing workers to get the vaccine. But it's interesting because the vote they had last night, the one that didn't quite go through as smoothly as they wanted, was vaccine passports for nightclubs. We did report a few times on it last year, it was mainly for international travel. But it does seem like this is the year that vaccine passports might be a bigger talking point, a bigger debate, I guess.

Adam  

Yeah. And particularly if they kind of take an app based approache, a software based approached with that, that's going to be quite interesting to see, I think, because government IT projects in general, but around this in particular have been plagued with with issues; the England and Wales track and trace service, and the track and trace app when they were kind of first developing that at the start of last year, was really, really troubled, the development of that.

Sabina  

Switching between APIs and everything, and between centralised and decentralised; it was such a mess for so many months.

Adam  

Yeah, exactly. It was not not good. And if the vaccine passport relies on similar kind of infrastructure development and similar kind of application construction, that might be a problem.

Connor  

Is the vaccine passport going to be different to the COVID domestic pass that we get on like phones through the NHS app? Or is it the same? Because that's that's been working really well, I've been going through events of the past few few weeks with that, and it's, it's worked, it's worked a treat, unlike, like you say, the track and trace system.

Adam  

I assume it's going to be different only because as you say, that's already kind of in place and, and has been working quite consistently. If it is just increasing the, the, not the rollout of that but increasing how many places have to use it, then it removes a lot of the kind of the application development hurdles, because you know, it's already built. But it is it is interesting to look at that as a precursor to digital identity cards, which is something that the government has had an eye on implementing for a number of years. And there are there are concerns from the opponents of digital identity cards that this is a way of the government getting kind of a foot in the door for that particular idea.

Bobby  

So has anyone got any invites to international events yet? 

Connor  

Yeah, I got one yesterday.

Bobby  

Because I'm kind of interested how these digital passports will work for that. I got an MWC one this morning, which is never going to happen, but, yeah.

Adam  

They were one of the last holdouts, I remember when, in 2020 when COVID first came to the fore they were the last event to finally admit defeat and cancel.

Sabina  

I remember that very well, yeah, I remember because it was the first few weeks when I joined I remember my sole job like basically consisted of reporting on different companies pulling out of MWC, so I guess like everyday it was like a new company pulling out of the event, and yeah, that was that was it between like February and early March or something like that. That was fun. Good times.

Adam  

So, Sabina, speaking of speaking of good times, what is your prediction for 2022's biggest story?

Sabina  

I think we might see something with Facebook, now known as Meta since late October. I think we might see some more action taken against against Facebook, Meta's monopoly over the social media world and as well as its past, I would say personally, mistakes that are still haunting it. I mean, we see it now. I think just a week or two ago, there have been lawsuits filed against Meta for its role in the 2017 Rohingya crisis. So there's been lawsuits filed in the US. And, and there's also I think the Meta's offices in London have apparently been also served some legal notice, reportedly. And this might mean it's, you know, it could see, it could see Meta pay out even $150 billion over over the hate speech that they allowed to thrive on the platform, in especially among users based in Myanmar. And I think I think this comes at a time when we've already seen we've already seen a few whistleblowers, I think, I think most famously, Francis Haugen speak out against their former employers. And we've we've seen her going to into the UK Parliament as well as the US Senate and in order to advise policymakers about how to, like what really to do with with Meta's dominance of the social media market, and how this really impacts society, because we can't really dispute that, you know, it has a massive impact on how we live our lives in the real world. So I predict that 2022 will be quite challenging for for Meta, and yeah, we might see some actual changes being implemented, whether it comes to legislation in different countries, we have the Online Safety Bill coming up. And as well as some other you know, actual legal repercussions because of what happened in including the genocide in Myanmar, as well as more recently in Ethiopia. That was this year, Facebook has been seen as one of the biggest sort of like contributors to the civil unrest, and which which happened in Ethiopia. And what I think is going to happen is, is yes, Meta might have quite a difficult year trying to, on one hand deal with with all the documents which have leaked, which were leaked by The Wall Street Journal, thanks to Haugen, but then and then on the other hand, like handling all these other issues, which might which are like actual legal cases, which are coming up because of that.

Connor  

I don't think it would be a year in tech without Facebook suffering its annual token PR crisis , would it? It's kind of like a given that something's gonna, Zuckerberg's gonna have to apologise for something.

Bobby  

That's the thing with this is none of the information was necessarily new. Like what Frances Haugen said, we've known for years, there's like documentaries on Netflix, that specifically explain how it works. It's just the people in government and the lawmakers are just very slow. And not all of them understand it. So yeah, I kind of hope that prediction does come true because otherwise it's gonna take something bigger than Capitol Hill or the civil unrest for them to actually be brought down. Or to force change.

Adam  

I do agree with you in that, if anything is going to stop Meta, it is going to be in 2022. But there's a large part of me that suspects that Facebook/Meta is actually too big to stop. I think the real turning point was when Zuckerberg was doing the whole Senate, Senate committee testimony, which, obviously is has become incredibly famous, not not just for, you know, what was said and discussed, but for Zuckerberg's not entirely human vibe that he was giving off during that. And I'm sure we've all seen the photos and videos of Zuck sitting there, looking very, very uncomfortable and very, very, not at ease.

Sabina  

Alien like.

Bobby  

My favourite stock image of Zuckerberg is outside of court and Nick Clegg's behind him and he kind of looks like Clegg's boy robot- like a Pinocchio scenario. I love using that one for Facebook stories.

Connor  

I love that as an insult - not, not entirely human vibe. I don't know why, that's just tickled me.

Adam  

But that hearing though, I think was really interesting because in a lot of ways, the the Senate committee had Facebook bang to rights and kind of nothing happened?

Sabina  

Yeah, I think that's a, that's a good point. Unfortunately, I think in many states at the moment, we have states being led by people who are from a generation who haven't had Facebook for a big part of their lives Facebook as a pretty much, you know, compared to their lifespan. Like, nicely speaking, Facebook is a pretty new occurrence. And it's not, you know, like, I think what you said about like, Facebook is too big to topple. I think people said, that about the British Empire, like, maybe 100 years ago. So I think I think any sort of like big empire, you know, like, comes to sort of like breaking points and and can be toppled. Maybe I'm a bit too optimistic. But I know that Facebook is a giant right now. But I think as more governments are being led by younger people who have a better understanding of social media platforms, because when you watch some of the questioning from the US Senate, or the UK Parliament, like some of the questions which are being asked, I don't think the legislators even know what they're asking, like, this is this is this is this was my impression, and I feel like you have only like, maybe a few, a few members of Congress, like, one of them being Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who had I had the impression about only she knew what she was asking, because she was actually, you know, like, actually sort of, like firing pretty good questions. And I think if we see more younger people, people who are actually a bit more better versed in the understanding of, of Meta, I think we could actually bring some change and, and it will be definitely more difficult for for any, like, Meta representative to sit there and gaslight for older people and, you know, just just patronise them with like, weird sort of like words, which, you know, for some people might be, you know, incomprehensible, but I guess for like younger people who have grown up with that, it will be more natural for them to question that kind of, you know, supposed like, tech superiority, that, that social media giant representatives have? Yeah, I feel like I feel like, you know, 2022 could be quite a start of that. And I think it obviously like, depends very much on like, you know, the government's powers to do so. I think it's, it's better late than never, that Meta actually faces the consequences of its own actions.

Adam  

And speaking of companies being toppled, Bobby, what is your pick for next year's top story?

Bobby  

Well, I give this prediction with a heavy heart because I really do like this company. Well, I like the smartphones that they make. But I do think Huawei is in for a tough time in 2022. Possibly even, while I don't think they'll die out in 2022, I think they'll either sell their smartphone brand, or they'll just simply lose it. And the reason, obviously, is these US restrictions have stopped them from getting American companies, American software, so they can't get Android. And because of that they can't get the app ecosystem. And essentially, no one wants their phones now because they can't watch Netflix or they can't, you know, use WhatsApp on the phones. But as our reviews show, the phones themselves are still very, very good. So it's quite sad.

Adam  

Yeah, it's a it's a really unique situation, I think.

Bobby  

Their rotating chairman said they would lose around 30 billion from their smartphone business which going by their revenues, is like half the year of profit.

Adam  

Yeah. Yeah. And that is big. Huawei, you do feel for them, because the, the phone business in particular, has been I would argue unfairly targeted by a lot of the restrictions, you know, whatever, whatever issues you may have with Huawei's involvement in kind of national 5G infrastructure either in the UK or in the US, the phones really don't come into that at all. It's, it's kind of not the same division. They don't have any kind of real involvement in that side of the business. So penalising the smartphone division kind of feels a little bit heavy handed. I, it'll be interesting to see how much of an issue the lack of the lack of kind of Google support and Google software continues to be for Huawei. It's been investing heavily in its own ecosystems in its Harmony OS, and its kind of own brand App Gallery platform; you can, I think, at this point get most of the, the kind of, quote-unquote mainstream apps on App Gallery now. But it's, it's going to be interesting, I think to, to see if they can actually build a genuine, you know, third rival to Apple and Google. Of course, just recently, we've had the UK's Competition and Markets Authority declaring that Apple and Google between them have a massive stranglehold of the the UK app market, and indeed the global market, it really is a two-horse race.

Bobby  

Did that really need an investigation?

Adam  

Yeah, it's it's kind of a bit of an open and shut case, really. But if Huawei can genuinely become a third challenger, to that, that, that will be really interesting. And I think you know, better for the overall health of the market and innovation as a whole. And all the all the rest of it, you know, the benefits of, of competition and a diversified marketplace are well established by this point. But I do, I do agree with you, I think Huawei is going to have a tough year ahead. And I, sadly, I can see a world in which they have to sell off the smartphone business to someone else. Of course it lost the Honor sub brand, either this year or last year?

Bobby  

Last year. But if they were to sell that off, that is quite a good brand to pick up. Particularly the P series, because they are still pretty good phones. They just need that Google Android input.

Adam  

Yeah, they are they are very, very good devices. And I don't, I wouldn't even say that they necessarily need the Google ecosystem to support them. Certainly the early phones, when they when they had just lost Google support, were a bit woeful, because they didn't have the the App Gallery up to kind of standard. They hadn't polished Harmony OS quite as much as they needed to really. But they've had this kind of the best part of a year to work on it now. And I would actually be quite surprised if there are kind of many, many apps and kind of critical services that aren't at the very least kind of functional on Harmony OS. I think it's it's at this point, it's more of an image problem than it is a practicality problem. And it will be interesting to see if they can overcome that.

Bobby  

Think we would probably know a little bit more if they'd released the P50 outside of China, but they haven't so far.

Adam  

No, it's It's one of the one of the more frustrating things about particularly companies that that have a large kind of APAC footprint. A lot of the really cool stuff you just can't get in the West. Yeah. Which is, which is quite frustrating.

Sabina  

Yeah. Even in the UK, specifically, because we've been reviewing the MateBook 16, right, and it's available, I think in countries such as Germany, but in the UK, we can't get the pricing for it right now. So it seems like it's not going to be sold here at all. So we might be completely. Yeah, it's just a bit of a like a fear of missing out at the moment here in the UK.

Bobby  

Another weird segment of Huawei is the laptop business hasn't had the same problem. So it's still been able to licence Windows. And it's still doing surprisingly well.

Adam  

Yeah, I suspect this is another symptom of you know, as, Sabina, as as you were saying in relation to, to the Meta hearings. I think this is another instance of lawmakers not being familiar enough with the tech industry and the tech landscape, and just not knowing that they need to include, include that in the embargoes, because I can't think of any other reason why it would be allowed to continue licencing Windows because it's still the full version of Windows, you know, they're still they're still coming with Intel chips, and with all of all of the associated kind of US produced gubbins that you would expect. And yeah, it does slightly baffle me that the smartphone business is taking a real hammering on that from US lawmakers and Republicans in particular and the laptop side of the business is just kind of fine. Yeah. So let's move on then to Connor, what is your top pick?

Connor  

Yeah. So usually when I sort of look at, look at the tech and IT industry, I'm a bit of a glass half empty kind of guy. But in this instance, I'm going to, I'm going to go glass half full in the prediction that 2022 is going to see a rise in four day working weeks, perhaps it's just me being optimistic from a personal perspective, because I would just love a three day weekend. But, you know, I think 2021 has seen numerous successful trials, I think, you know, the story, the success story of, of Iceland, in particular, they ran a four year trial between 2015 and 2019, that's sort of resurfaced and come to the fore again, and all the all the incredible benefits of that brought to its people. But then we've also seen things like Scotland trailing, trailing four-day weeks sort of on a nationwide scale, that's still sort of a planning stage at the moment, but that's definitely going to happen. You know, a number of UK firms have been been doing it for years, I think in it might have been at the end of 2020 or 2021, where Morrisons, the UK supermarket chain, they've moved to a four day working week. It was it was a bit of an odd, odd format, to be honest. I think they do a four day working week, but then have everyone has to work one Saturday a month or something just to make up the time. It's not a true four day working week. It's a bit of a weird one. But I mean, with all these, with all these trials, and the results of them coming out, the overarching theme is that workers are reporting better happiness, you know, fewer sick days, fewer sick days, is a really interesting finding as well. Because surely, that's a that's a massive big business interest. I bet surely, obviously, publicly, businesses want their workers to be happier. But you know, realistically, they just want them to be as productive. And, you know, finding things like fewer sick days being taken well, okay, then that's maybe more of a compelling argument to start taking this a little bit more seriously, you know, you know, those are some of the just like, the real evidence backed benefits, you know, they're being touted you know, Spain and New Zealand also are starting to run trials as well. This isn't just a Western thing. This is a this is very much a global phenomenon that's actually taking off, starting to, I think. I know, who doesn't want more consecutive time off, you know, weekends always feel a bit short anyway, you know, Friday's just sort of end of the workday, you go out on a Saturday, and then your Sundays you spend hungover. Speaking from personal experience, obviously, not not everyone drinks, but you know, it can feel like the Sunday, the day of rest is just turned into a day of suffering. And then it's a Monday again. I mean, I think for the IT industry, and the tech industry, in particular, it's, it's long been known as a champion for flexible and remote working, and, you know, what better sector to to get things going for the rest of us, you know, you could even say, you could even argue that could become part of the actual idea of hybrid work, as we know it, you know, like, it couldn't just be like, you know, three days in the office two days at home, it could be part of that, it could be part of that, that sort of the rule, like the actual makeup, the structure of hybrid work as a notion. You know, I think what, why not give it a go, I think I think we are going to see, perhaps even startups trying to get there make a name for themselves. I think maybe that's where it may start. And, you know, obviously looking for a quick headline in a national newspaper, trying to get some clout, trying to get some sort of attention towards it. I think that could be a realistic thing that could happen. You know, we've shown that we can do things differently over the past year or two, and it works. You know, why not try something else for a bit while we're, while we are still working flexibly? Just just on that, and I wish them I wish Zach was here on the recording, actually, because, as as we're recording it, just yesterday published his op ed about, about sort of trying to try and push the idea of working a three day working week, you know.

Adam  

Yeah, and that's, that's based on kind of Keynesian economic theory, which is really kind of interesting. There is, as you say, a lot of research and a lot of trials that have been done in this area. And the move towards a three day working week or four day working week, tallies quite closely with more of a focus on outcome based work days, if that makes sense. So, focusing much more on kind of, it doesn't matter how long you work, and how many hours you work, or even which hours you work. It's just here is all the things that need to get done. Get them done, and then if you get them done quickly, then away you go. And if not, then, you know, stay until they're done, which I think is becoming much more of a, much more of a trend. And as you say, it fits in really nicely with, you know, true flexible working. The, part of the idea of flexible working kind of pre pandemic, when it was still a bit of a kind of new idea. A lot of the idea behind it was giving, you know, parents or people with caring responsibilities, the opportunity to work the hours that suited them. So for example, Bobby, in fact, you do a bit of time in the morning, and then take the school run off, right? 

Bobby  

Yup. 

Adam  

And it's, it's the same amount of work just split up over a slightly different schedule. And there's no reason why that couldn't be extended to a kind of shorter, shorter working week, but broken up into a different pattern. So rather than, for example, having Saturday and Sunday off, it may well be that it suits companies schedules better to have people taking, say, Wednesday and Thursday off, or Wednesday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but then working the start of the week, and Saturday and Sunday. And it's it's the flexibility, I think that is attractive, not just for, you know, for workers and for individuals, but for organisations. I think that that level of flexibility, particularly as hybrid working becomes more entrenched, is going to be something that a lot more places start to experiment with.

Bobby  

It's interesting you asked me about the school run, but does the four day working week apply to schools? 

Adam  

That is a very good point. 

Bobby  

Because I mean, I would not take more time off to go to soft play areas and so forth. Two days is enough.

Adam  

Yeah, do the productivity benefits of a four day working week extend to learning as well?

Sabina  

No, let's just keep them in the schools all the time. 

Bobby  

Amen.

Sabina  

Yeah, I would love to see a four day week implemented. But I think it also needs to come with, you know, like a reasonable expectations of workload.

Adam  

I think that's really important to kind of highlight the fact that a four day working week is, and indeed, flexible working hours, are going to work for some organisations better than they work for others. For example, there's no point being in the office and just kind of kicking your heels with nothing to do, you know, if you don't have any work to do, there is no point being at work. By the same token, there's no point having a four day week, when you've got a tonne of stuff that needs to get done. Because all that means is that when you come back after your lovely three day weekend, you've got exponentially more stress and more workload. The the key for me is all of these kind of ideas and strategies and stuff should be geared around letting workers choose the best way to get done what they need to get done. You know, and yeah, part of that does involve defining workloads and defining kind of expectations around productivity, rather than just everyone trying to do as much as they possibly can. But with those kind of defined workloads, and defined kind of KPIs, I guess, let people approach those in the way that that works best for them. Because trying to fit people into specific patterns and specific moulds is not going to be as helpful for them, you're not going to get as much out of them as if you were just letting them approach things in their own way.

Sabina  

Yeah, I definitely agree. I think we've seen that as well with flexible working policies and how the return to the office, like doesn't suit many people, but also staying at home doesn't suit everyone. So I think it's just like in trend of a greater sort of, like, need for flexibility around around working and just like you know, just giving people the choice to do what's best for them. Because, yeah, we've seen sort of like, you know, maybe there's like a hybrid approach to work which is now like a combination of like working at home and working at the office and like more like with a more sort of like individual choice for people, then you know, it should apply to the four day or five day week as well, depending on like roles.

Connor  

Ultimately, like, like so many things like so many, like radical changes that it's a case of it depends, you know, it depends on a lot of things like Sabina says like what the employees want. It depends on the industry in which you work. So for example, like, if you work in client services, and you have a client that works, I don't know, they're their business week is six, seven days a week, then you obviously, either can't do a four day week, or you've got to have a mixed workforce doing different days. And it's just, it's going to be difficult, but I think, yeah, it just comes down to, annoyingly, it just comes down to it depends. And it's a case of compromising in different areas.

Bobby  

Wouldn't the skill shortage also kind of impact it as well? Because I mean, if you've got a business with only one, say, data scientist or whatever, you can't have three days, because then you know, two days without a data scientist. Ant the work just won't get done.

Adam  

Yeah, exactly. Fundamentally, it's about flexibility and finding the solution that is genuinely right for your business rather than trying to conform to preconceived notions of what you should be doing. Well, unfortunately, that's all the time we have for this week's episode, and indeed for 2021. We'll be taking a break next week. But from all of us here at IT Pro. Have a very happy new year, and we'll see you all in 2022.

Sabina  

Happy New Year!

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