Skills gaps are slowing Australian organisations’ ability to accelerate their business transformation activities, even when they are actively working to access the right people.
There is no single strategy in addressing the skills gaps. Most companies are using a mix of strategies, hiring talent, creating training and leveraging managed services to fill the gaps.
Senior technology executives gathered in Sydney recently to hear the latest data on where skills gaps are occurring in the Australian tech sector and the tactics they can use to fill them. The breakfast event was supported by Amazon Web Services.
Harvey Nash managing director, Bridget Gray, presented the latest findings from the recruitment firm’s recent global CIO survey, which provided insights from 3645 senior tech execs across 108 countries.
Gray highlighted a changing perspective on technology adoption among corporate organisations, in particular around the uptake of Cloud computing technologies.
“It’s probably a misnomer to call Cloud computing an emerging technology but only five years ago, many IT leaders had significant concerns about the use of Cloud because they were worried about its value, worried about security. Now, 77 per cent of IT leaders are investing in Cloud and 44 per cent are investing in a massive way,” she says.
Given the fast uptake around Cloud computing, artificial intelligence and other technologies, organisations need to change their view on how to engage with staff. IT leaders simply can’t get access to the people they need and Asia-Pacific is the worst region in the world for skills shortages within the tech sector, she says.
Of course, using AI and automation technologies will help organisations overcome the skills problem in certain areas.
More than one-in-three respondents to the Harvey Nash survey believed that 20 per cent or more of their workforce will be automated over the next five years.
“Organisations not investing in AI and automation would expect to have more budgetary problems and will have a relatively higher cost base than their competitors that are investing in AI and automation. This will pose a problem for them over time,” Gray says.
Even tech workers whose jobs won’t be affected by automation need to be aware and prepared for the fact that one-in-five of their colleagues will be software-driven robots in the not too distance future.
“I know there is great work being done, but not across the board in Australia,” Gray says. “All our people want is to work on interesting projects and learn new skills. [Think about] what you can outsource and what you can take away from staff that is not repetitive – do it if you want to keep them. If not, they will go,” she advises.
How NAB nailed Cloud training
In November 2017, National Australia Bank (NAB) indicated it was adopting a public Cloud-first strategy.
“In that announcement, we said we were going to hire about 2,000 new staff with new skills like developers, architects, data scientists and engineers – but they are obviously highly sought after, in demand roles,” NAB managing engineer, Paul Silver, says.
Silver is the founder of the NAB Cloud Guild, a technology training program which has trained about 4500 NAB staff in Cloud computing technologies.
As the bank started to scale the training program, he says it realised people didn’t know a lot about Cloud technology. Historically, NAB has run datacentres and outsourced its technology requirements to vendors.
“But we didn’t know how to drive technology ourselves so there’s a whole process change in there as well – we had to change people, process and culture as we drove this through.”
NAB’s approach mirrors that of US bank, Capital One, which discovered that organisations need to train at least 10 per cent of their staff to ‘change the conversation,’ according to Silver.
NAB has more than 30,000 staff and managed to train 10 per cent or 3000 people in Cloud technologies in around six months.
“That alone changed the conversation. People were no longer saying, ‘we can’t, you’re not allowed to, it’s not secure’. People understand what we can do which actually enabled us to drive outcomes a lot faster because everybody was on the same page,” he says.
Every permanent staff member inside NAB was given the chance to take time away from their daily tasks to learn more about Cloud computing. NAB also created its own content to help them understand what a datacentre is, why the bank is moving to the Cloud and what it means for staff, Silver says.
“So we probably have hundreds of business people who now understand what they can achieve going forward. We want people to come to NAB because we are a learning organisation … technology is changing so fast that we have to do this,” he says.
Since the launch of NAB Cloud Guild, the bank is now driving innovation faster than ever before.
“If somebody has got a business idea now, we should be able to get that idea to a minimum viable product very quickly. And if we have an MVP, we can actually go and put it into production very quickly so from a business perspective, it’s huge.
“If we had an idea years ago, it would take a lot of effort and a lot of money to just spin up the architecture to actually get an idea out there. Now we can iterate incredibly quickly,” Silver says.
AWS business development manager, Elly Juniper, says customers simply don’t feel that they have the right skills to meet their organisation’s objectives.
“And they are really struggling to hire the right people in their businesses so they have a real challenge around meeting the demand for skills that are just not available in the market,” she says.
AWS has also observed that the nature of IT is starting to change – maintaining infrastructure and ‘keeping the lights’ on is important but so is gaining additional skills and partnering with business teams to drive better outcomes, Juniper says.
“We are seeing that IT teams are moving from being a cost centre to a front of house profit centre. This is important to help organisations bridge the gap between businesses and technologies – to start a conversation between technology and business teams where people can get their ideas into production faster,” she says.
Finally, Juniper suggests that some companies on the cloud journey which have been speaking publicly about how they are investing in upskilling their staff have also noticed more people wanting to work for them.
“If you start talking about the investments that you are making and the type of technology that you are working with publicly, it helps to attract talent,” she says.
To find out more about Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) training & certification pathways and free digital training, click here.