Centre stage

What would appear on a list of the world’s least alluring book titles? How about ‘In Cod We Trust – Tales from the Tesco Fish Counter’? Or maybe ‘I Feel Your Pane – the Story of Double Glazing.’ Or even ‘Corporate Priorities in the Late 20th and Early 21st Centuries.’

All the above are fictional (hopefully) but the final one, even if it sounds dull enough to act as an insomnia cure, might actually contain some surprisingly interesting pointers to the relationship between business, technology and society.


Attend a corporate presentation, shareholders meeting or internal summit at a large company in 1998 or ’99, and the phrase on everyone’s lips would have been ‘Y2K’.


The ‘Millennium Bug’ dominated corporate planning in the run up to the new century, and understandably so, since no board of directors wanted to be the one forced to survey the smoking ruins of its business on January 1, 2000.


The only hope of salvation lay with the IT department, which was duly given carte blanche and an open cheque book to stave off catastrophe.


Meltdown avoided, a new priority emerged in the form of the internet, and more specifically e-commerce. Between 2000 and 2003, no corporation dared face its shareholders without a plan for world domination via the internet, preferably one that involved a new website with a snazzy name. Once again, hopes were pinned on the IT specialists.


Fast-forward 18 months and things changed again. This time the word on everyone’s lips was China. How quickly are we moving into China? How much are we turning over there? When can I visit the Shanghai office? This time those with the major say were the production and finance directors.


All the above were and, except for the Millennium Bug, are extremely important. The challenges and opportunities of China, and Asia generally, is very much a live issue.


It is clear, however, that there is a new kid on the block when it comes to dominating the corporate presentation. Its name (or names) is energy and environmental technology.


Virtually every major corporate statement of intent these days places energy efficiency and environmental compliance at its heart.


Why? Because the finance directors have looked at their balance sheets and noticed the cost of the energy they use.


The production director knows just how many environmental regulations are on the way. And the chief executive has no wish to be seen as the planet’s number one enemy.


They can’t do it themselves, and this time even the IT department can’t save the day. The solutions will come from the innovation of engineers and technologists, who are suddenly very much back in fashion in the Power Point slide and the Annual Report.



Andrew Lee


Editor


The Engineer & The Engineer Online