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Thinking Digital Conference 2016

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By Sharon Williams, Online Marketing Manager at Tilly Bailey & Irvine Law Firm

I was invited to attend the Thinking Digital Conference earlier this month at The Sage in Gateshead. I’m into digital in a big way after all I’m immersed in it  all day every day at work and in my downtime. I love it. Strangely, I’d never heard about Thinking Digital even though this was its ninth year. I didn’t really know what to expect and whether the content would be too far removed from my daily digital experience. How wrong could I be?

I’d like to share who the stand out speakers were for me.

First up was Bill Jinks from IBM. Bill is responsible for getting Wimbledon to stand out on the online sports map. His remit is to give a personalised digital experience without removing the unique character for everything that is Wimbledon. He and his team want to make the online experience for the visitor as good as being courtside. Interestingly, he shared that 80% of Wimbledon’s online visitors come from desktop. The audience all gave a knowing laugh at this point …. everyone must log on while sitting at their desk at work.  The scores are all real time and can be accessed quickly on your smart phone. He said the trick is to blend the experience across all devices. Up to two hundred and fifty people are involved each year in the pursuit of excellence and making Wimbledon as great online as it is offline.

Next was Irini Papadimitriou, a digital programmer from the V&A Museum. She is responsible for creating art and digital collaborations at the museum. It was interesting to find out how museums are moving forward and not staying in the past as some people might think. She shared an interesting project she had worked on with the MET Office all about climate change. It showed how they linked the fashion world with environmental issues and how they got visitors to engage with this. It was interesting to note that more donations were given to the museum if people could interact. They were so clever in how they encouraged their visitors to do this. Apparently, if you use images of money combined with the colour red then people donate even more. Who knew? Very clever use of subliminal messaging.

The next speaker was so riveting. If I wasn’t the digital marketing manager at Tilly Bailey & Irvine then I’d love to do this. Mikko Hypponen describes himself as a ‘Cyber War Veteran’. In his own words, “I chase cyber criminals for a living.” He is the world’s most respected expert on cyber attacks. This resonated with me from a business perspective both for our law firm’s own protection and the advice that our Commercial Team offer’s to SMEs on the subject. Matthew Smith from the team wrote an insightful blog just a couple of months ago entitled ‘Cyber Crime – Is Your Business Secure?’ which you can read here. Mikko said that although technology is leaping ahead at a pace we can’t control that our protection of our technologies isn’t keeping up. He said that as he was speaking, Fortune 500 companies would be getting breached. He said that the same ransom Trojans released more than ten years ago were still circulating the web and still making millions of dollars every year for the cyber criminals. This is big business and these criminals consider themselves businesses but the cyber crime unicorn is that they never pay any tax! Lack of security updates and clicking on attachments still work for these criminals to be able to infiltrate.. everything new is old! Oh, and for those of us who thought MacBooks couldn’t be hacked …think again. There is a Mac Trojan!

There were also speakers from Google and Bing briefing us about their latest up and coming technology releases. There was even someone who is described as a ‘rhythmic creator’. Drummer, Ed Hipkins doesn’t need a band. He’s figured a way to play dance music on his drums. Very entertaining and I would highly recommend you look him up on Twitter to see if you can catch him play somewhere.

Another speaker, John Thorp, travels around the world in his position of IT Wrangler speaking to CEOs about how they can realise the value of digital in this new age of technology. He said that businesses still think digital equals technology but it’s not, digital equals business. He went on to say that many business owners only have a basic grasp of the value that digital can bring to their business and that we must stop regurgitating  the same old dogged message that this is how we’ve always done it so we’ll keep doing it this way. I hope that I can continue to bring some digital influence in my position here and for the firm to continue to embrace the new. It’s a bit of a mission of mine that I want Tilly Bailey & Irvine to achieve that position of excellence and point of difference.

There really were so many interesting and innovative people at the conference that as I started to compile this blog I thought … how much should I write? It was such an inspirational event to be sat in a lecture theatre spending time and interacting with so many like minded people.

The day culminated with a fascinating insight into the early professional life of MT Rainey OBE. MT is a non executive director on the board of Channel 4 but her career started in the 1980’s with an advertising agency in California. She worked on an accounts team that handled some Silicon Valley start ups. One of which was Apple with Steve Jobs. She explained how Steve was nothing like the cold character that Michael Fassbender plays in the auto biographical movie of his life but that he was very passionate and single minded. She said he saw the future with everyone having their own personal hand held computer but that his vision was sneered at by the large American corporates who dominated what market there was at the time. IBM predicted there would only EVER be FIVE big super computers in the world and that everything would be managed by them. Five computers!!  Seems unbelievable for where we are now doesn’t it? How wrong they were and how visionary Steve Jobs was. MT seemed to be one of those people that could regale you all day long with her story telling . I hope I get the opportunity to hear her speak again.

2017 will be the ten year anniversary of Thinking Digital and its founder Herb Kim said that it promises to be bigger and better yet. I can’t wait to find out and hopefully be part of it again. I would encourage anyone in business to attend whether you have a purely digital role in your organisation or not. After all in the words of John Thorp -   “digital = business”