Last week’s 6th Nexus Conference, held in San Francisco, California, lived up to billing—it was all about the talent. This alone makes Nexus a breathe of fresh air.
Amid the pall of massive layoffs and “digital disruption” that hangs over many events, Nexus 2016 focused on talent centers for software development firms, a budding entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mexico, aligning workforce skills with BPO niches in the Caribbean, and the growth of captives/shared services centers in Latin America.
Rather than try — and fail — to do justice to the panoply of themes and idea makers at Nexus, I’m opting here to highlight three takeaways.
1. Incentives Are Nice But Mature Institutions Are Far Better
Former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla offered a detailed analysis of the ingredients behind Costa Rica’s successful emergence on the global stage. Unlike some others who tout the incentives they offer in an attempt to attract investment, she focused on the deeper attributes of the country.
She emphasized her nation’s historic commitment to education, environmental stewardship, and “nurturing institutions” as key elements to the country’s strong economy and privileged position in the global services market. Strong, independent institutions are central to economic development, from ensuring that infrastructure funding is used for its designated purpose to the independence of the central bank in managing the money supply. Chinchilla stressed these aspects as integral to the positive story of Costa Rica.
To get a full sense of all that Costa Rica has achieved requires a look at how other Latin American countries have ravaged their institutions. Leaving aside Venezuela as the most extreme example, a clutch of once-competitive markets, like Ecuador, have lost their place due to the centralization of government power around the presidency. Argentina, to the credit of President Mauricio Macri, is turning the corner, with the statistics institute (INDEC) now doing its job properly for the first time in years. Institutions must serve to check presidential power and maintain a sound provision of services. Simply put, institutions matter.
2. Mind the Gap
After years of talk, BPO enterprises began to widely incorporate aaS, automation, and leading-edge business technologies, across the nearshore last year. (According to Nearshore Americas’ “State of the Nearshore 2016,” the main source of leading technology in Latin America is global BPO firms.) But among the many challenges of incorporating new systems and technologies, one has gone largely overlooked: New graduates all want to work with the leading technology.
This makes perfect sense. And, conversely, new grads don’t want to work on legacy ERPs. Yet legacy ERPs will be around for at least the next few years. Two-thirds of companies will refresh their ERP within the next three years, according to Capgemini’s Christopher Stancombe. In the meantime, legacy systems will continue to demand the attention of talented graduates for several more years. Attracting new talent to work on old systems will be a real chore for middle management for the next year or two.
3. Put Down the Business Tech Magazine and Pick Up The Economist
Simply describing the transformation and warning of impacts does not cut muster! In order to forecast the impact of the technological change sweeping over the business world, executives demand both real data and context. Nearshore Americas research strives to help by conducting independent research that delivers BPO/ITO data for the nearshore. At Nexus, it was heartening to see how many executives were willing to invoke history to place the current business technology environment in context.
Among the historical turning points cited: The 1810s, when the Luddites attacked British mills because the machines displaced workers; The 1920s as an era of collective excitement about technology leading to a stock market bubble; The 1970s, when Unix was introduced and began to slowly re-shape operating systems over the course of a generation. This awareness is critical, both to condition our expectations of how rapidly we can expect technology to re-shape society and, more importantly, to keeping us sensitive to the negative effects, especially the loss of jobs, to the overall positive impact of technological advancement.
The Nearshore Community
This list is hardly comprehensive, and at first blush the three takeaways here don’t stand out as having a common theme. However, there is this — nearshore is a community. Sure, the executives at Nexus are savvy business leaders and software developers.
They are deeply thoughtful about business, but also about how their business impacts the societies where they operate and how business can improve the quality of life in these communities.