As IT systems become better able to solve relatively simple tasks quickly and easily, attention is turning to solving problems that are more complex. Now that we can access data from anywhere at any time, and use that data to learn more, we need people who can see data patterns and create new algorithms that help to give insight so we can solve these difficult problems.
Coupled with complexity is scale. As we interconnect more systems, the number of data sources, the different paths it can take and the ways we use it creates many challenges.
To navigate this fast-changing and complicated world, the ability to learn new skills quickly and understand how things are connected and work together are increasingly important skills that need to be developed.
“Technology areas such as cybersecurity, analytics, artificial intelligence, IoT and blockchain have been niche skills for a few years but they are now considered mainstream, resulting in a shortage of skilled people,” says Nick Mescher, senior managing partner for digital transformation at DXC Technology.
However, addressing the challenges isn’t simply a matter of placing a job ad and going through traditional recruitment channels. The people you need are not available.
According to Gartner, 75 per cent of organisations will experience visible business disruptions due to infrastructure and operations skills gaps by 2020. This is an increase from fewer than 20 per cent in 2016. Gartner adds the lack of digital dexterity for hire means leaders must begin by developing these skills with the talent they already have. This is compounded by the fact that most companies don’t have an accurate inventory of the available skills of their current IT workforces.
The problem isn’t impossible to resolve, Mescher says.
“DXC is partnering with several universities and this includes actively working with curriculum development to ensure students are learning the right skills and getting experiential learning as part of their degrees,” he says.
It is also important to look beyond traditional job paths. One major security firm set up an office in Utah to attract people from that region. It might seem like a strange choice but it actually makes sense: Utah is the home of ancestry.com, and genealogy students there have the appropriate analytical skills required by the company.
Reskilling personnel is also important. Staff with skills that are no longer in high demand still hold a very valuable asset. They know how your business works and hold vast amounts of tacit knowledge.
There is no doubt the technology industry is facing an acute skills shortage. Analyst reports looking across the entire industry and into specific vertical sectors all point to a labour shortfall numbering in the millions of people worldwide. And while technology can help, through automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence, those tools need skilled people to create, maintain and improve them.
The good news is pathways are being created to develop people entering the workforce and those already working so that such skills become more readily available.