"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."
John F Kennedy, Undelivered remarks for the Dallas Trade Mart, 22 November 1963
The UK Government is trying to tackle a problem that has no solution. No not Brexit, productivity. Hiding behind royal engagements and outrageous tweets over the past few weeks have been a couple of huge announcements. The Chancellor’s budget speech and our new Industrial Strategy. Both focused on the question of productivity.
UK productivity has been sluggish to terrible for as long as I can remember. The latest official data tells us UK productivity per hour is 15% less than the G7 average. And growing at a slower rate.
Government does not have the answers
The Chancellor calls these sort of numbers “economicky.” In my mind they are the essence of life. They are also the main reason I am so passionate about the tech sector.
Successive governments have shown that policy biases and ill judged, small scale subsidies are not the solution. Its not about shiny new ideas - Grand Challenges in the words of the industrial strategy. Government needs to focus on infrastructure, regulation and education. Leave productivity to entrepreneurs and consumers.
Technology is an integral part of the productivity solution. At the leading edge this means research in advanced areas like AI. Medium term these are essential but in the short term they will have little impact. By definition cutting edge ideas apply only to a small segment of businesses. That results in a limited impact on productivity.
The right agenda for B2B SaaS
The big prize will come from established businesses making better use of technologies that are already proven. Luckily, this is also what B2B SaaS needs to happen to drive the next wave of growth.
At a high level its simple. Either:
In both cases your customer’s productivity improves. If everyone does this then the productivity of the whole economy improves.
You may oversee that ittle in the UK budget or the industrial strategy will help achieve this goal. Correct. Don’t waste too much time looking for examples elsewhere either.
This will only happen if entrepreneurs and leaders make it happen.
Everyone I know in a SaaS company is working to make this happen. And every business is different facing its own challenges and opportunities. You need to find the right way for your company.
5 principles to help your SaaS and your customer
You will not go far wrong by following these 5 principles:
The Chairman's view
If this is too much, remember the first item on the list. Help your customers deliver business change. Without this, you will not have a sustainable or scaleable business. And your SaaS product will make no difference in the world.
Its like a meta variation of the old saying: execution, execution, execution. Government will not solve the productivity puzzle. We will. So let’s get on with it. Wherever you live, your country needs you!
Kenny Fraser is the Director of Sunstone Communication and a personal investor in startups.