Combatting the Skills Gap for a Successful Digital Transformation

With 80% of businesses in the process of digital transformation, it’s evident that digital is now profoundly important to businesses.

However, organisations are currently experiencing a skills shortage in this area with many skilled developers either starting their own companies or being drawn to the excitement, pace and equity of working with innovative startups. This is shaking up established industries as a lack of digital expertise is a major barrier to innovation for organisations looking to start their digital transformation journey.

Technical skills are in high demand and without an appropriate workforce to support digital change, businesses won’t get the most from the technology they implement. Therefore, it is now more critical than ever for large companies to begin to combat the skills gap and compete with innovative startups for the technical resources they need. In order to tackle the skills gap and succeed on their digital transformation journey, businesses need to take a number of steps.

Create a centralised team

Once a digital transformation initiative has been identified by the decision makers of a business, it is critical to create a centralised team who will head up this transition. According to IDC, “by 2020, 60% of all enterprises will be in the process of implementing an organisation-wide digital platform strategy”. In order to make this happen, organisational skills – cross-functional leadership skills without the direct authority – are required, as well as the technical skills as digital transformation is as much a technical challenge as it is an organisational one. In fact, breaking down the organisational silos can be even more challenging than breaking down data and application silos. So, finding and tasking the right people that have the skills and experience to address both the organisational and technical challenges is critical for success.

Digital transformation is not an incremental bottoms-up effort. Instead, the team leading the effort must be able to work collaboratively with departmental staff and their digital initiatives to create and execute a top-down, organisation-wide digital transformation strategy. Enterprises should look for people with experience leading and motivating large, diverse cross-functional teams.

Develop a creative culture

With mid to large enterprises competing with startups for talent, these businesses must look at how they can attract the right people with the right skills who can help them on their digital transformation journey. People in technical roles, such as developers, are often drawn to the creative and innovative nature of startups, where they can try new things and take risks without being bound to set processes and policies. While established businesses have more to lose by taking big risks, they should consider how they can replicate other aspects of the startup culture that appeal to skilled workers.

Organisations should look to create a culture that champions the innovation, creativity, agility and individuality that technical employees seek out and operate with transparency and clarity. They shouldn’t be afraid of letting employees try new things, as long as there is a fail fast approach. A more open, creative culture that operates under a fail fast mentality will help organisations attract a wider pool of talented workers. This will help businesses to close the skills gap while also providing an environment that stimulates the innovation needed for successful digital transformation.

Nurture skills

Not only should businesses look to attract talent to fulfil both technical and organisational roles, but they must also provide the right training to nurture the skills of their existing workforce. In the last few years, we have seen technology democratise education and this is something businesses should take advantage of in order to upskill their workers.

Technology is playing a huge role in filling the skills gap and means individuals and organisations are no longer reliant on conventional sources of training. It’s no longer necessary to enrol in classroom courses, paying people to teach those courses, and needing that cost to be signed off by line managers. Instead, individuals can now sign up to online courses on cloud or machine learning, for example, and access a range of free resources on these subjects. By being self-taught, they can learn new skills and knowledge they want to acquire during more convenient times for them and without having to waste time travelling to external sessions. Businesses should encourage this practice, helping employees to find the right resources, aiding them in enrolling in online courses and even trying out the courses for themselves. By creating a culture of self-learning and offering incentives to individuals for acquiring these skills, it will provide enough drive to help close the skills gap and make employees feel more motivated and satisfied in a cost-effective way.

How will this aid digital transformation?

With the right people, whether they are new to the company or upskilled existing employees, and the right skills in place, businesses will be able to look at the other factors key to digital transformation: organisational alignment, shared goals and identifying high impact initiatives that can “move the needle”. By forming a centralised team to oversee the whole process, enterprises will be able to ensure that they can implement technology with maximum impact for a successful digital transformation.

About the Author

Jon Payne, Manager – Sales Engineering, InterSystems. Having spent 40 years designing, building and implementing Enterprise systems, I am currently enjoying working with a wide variety of clients in a number of different industries. Providing technical leadership for platforms and solutions within the UK, with a particular focus on innovative ways to consume, manage, manipulate and exploit data in all its forms.