The Pace of Change; a note from Glastonbury Festival

15cm of rain, 12cm of mud, 200,000 people, or should I say 200,000 IP Addresses!

There are times in life when I think it’s good to step back and look at the progress that has been made over the last decade or so. Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in the now that we don’t appreciate the pace of change that is always happening incrementally around us. To stop and look back allows you to get a perspective of just how much has changed in a relatively short period of time.

When I consider change I think about it in three ways…

1) the pace of technical change
2) the acceleration of change due to Social and Mobile platforms
3) the acceleration in the pace of life, how quickly we expect stuff to work and respond

glastonbury2016This year I didn’t get tickets for my favourite music festival, Glastonbury. For any of you that are festival fans you’ll know that you go through several stages of disappointment; a short period of mourning, then acceptance that it’s not happening, then for me I started to reminisce about the years that I had been going and how much has changed, probably this is the denial faze where I’m convincing myself I never really wanted to go anyway.

My first Glastonbury was back in 2000, David Bowie was the headline, at that time there was very little technology at the festival, chances were that if you lost your friends on the first day then you might not see them again until you met at the car to make your way home 4 days later. It was great, it was fun, but damn it was basic.

Last year the telco operator EE turned up in force and 4G transmitters were established across the site. A field that for 340 or so days of the year is full of cows and not much else, for one week has one of the best mobile signals and web capability of anywhere in the UK. I’m sure the local farmers love it as they get little to no signal at any other time of the year.

The festival last year also took place at the same time as the ‘Brexit’ vote. In that one evening when the votes were coming in, over 25TB of data passed through the network as everyone was searching for live updates. A great example of the pace of technical change.

During the festival I was sat in one of the many bars on site with my wife waiting for the next act that we wanted to go and see. I looked across the field and on a bench on the other side were 4 girls, probably in their mid teens and all of them had their mobile phones out and were rapidly tapping away into whichever social app was their choice. At one point I was convinced that as this had been going on for so long, that they must be chatting to each other through the app as it was somehow easier than verbal communication. After about an hour of this, one of them stopped and looked at her phone in disgust, I assume whichever app she was using hadn’t responded quickly enough, or the Snapchat hadn’t loaded. I was so tempted to walk over and say…’Give it a second, it’s going to space!’. Many of us now simply expect to be able to access social tools or mobile applications wherever we are and we expect them to be fast, damn fast.

Yes this is just a music festival, so maybe you can dismiss this to some degree as not a reflection of how our companies must adapt to this new world, but I personally think this is a good way to consider how we MUST change for the new world. Your customers often don’t want to talk to you they want to connect to you through technology platforms, they want an immediate response and if they don’t get it then they’ll go somewhere else. Amazon recently calculated that a page load slow down of just 100ms could lose them 1% in sales! Yes we really are that impatient.

timeI would recommend that as you consider your next technology investment, it’s worth considering it in terms of Time. Does this investment make things faster for people, does it help to provide a faster response or better experience to our customers. But just as importantly, does this give me back time so that I can focus on the things that drive value. This maybe the new social or mobile platforms or the next generation analytical systems that drive the experience for your customers.

If you can invest in technology that gives you back time then you can invest that time into the opportunities that can create value, it’s a virtuous circle that will never stop.

If you have any examples where you’ve noticed this extreme change in the pace of technology, social media interaction or the pace of life in general? I’d love to hear about them.

As for Glastonbury, next year is a fallow year but I guess there’s always year after


  1. I can recommend the Lowlands festival in the Netherlands Matt; cheaper, with a great lineup and that chilled out Dutch vibe. You can normally get tickets without too much trouble too…

    1. I wasn’t aware of the Lowlands festival Chris, just had a look at the line up and you’re absolutely right, it’s great! just the kind of music I’m into.

      Maybe I now have a new festival to try out, I’ll let you know


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