Addressing the enterprise tech skills gap

Most people in enterprise IT would be only too aware that there is a major skills gap. Technology now informs everything most companies do. The world has never been so reliant on developers, with every website, app, platform and more needing a development team to bring it to life or work on the roadmap.

This move towards digital transformation has been in progress for a while, but the pandemic has served only to accelerate the shift even further, with companies pivoting rapidly to more digital offerings.

But the skills and expertise required to make this happen have never been scarcer. Enterprises face capability and capacity issues within technology, whether product managers, developers, scrum masters, project managers, or QA specialists.

What can be done to address this?

Improve STEM education

The issues behind this lack of capability and capacity are complex. Some are addressable here and now, whereas others have much longer-term requirements. One measure that falls into the latter category is the need for greater focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The number of people taking IT subjects at GCSE level has dropped 40% since 2015. As an ongoing trend, it’s clear that this must be addressed at a national level. There’s also a strong case for better post-school technical education – not traditional computer science degrees necessarily, but more practical commercial software development training.

Measures have already begun to be put in place. In 2021, the government launched a post-COVID-19 skills overhaul, offering adults a flexible loan for higher-level education and training.

The Autumn Budget of the same year gave details about a £3bn investment to drive the skills revolution. This included more funding for boot camps, apprenticeships and increasing free education for young people and those looking to upskill.

But these are initial steps and more must be done. Improving diversity in the sector is essential. The talent pool for women, ethnic minorities and the neurodiverse is far too small, which could and should be addressed much earlier in the process, ideally at school.

More flexibility in business

The state has an essential role in ensuring more people can access the necessary education, training and support in technology. But businesses must be proactive here, too, as addressing the tech skills gap requires a collective effort.

This requires action, not just talk. As with many things, addressing the tech skills gap often appears to be more of a discussion point rather than implementing tangible change. It’s crucial, therefore, for enterprises to get their own houses in order. This includes putting in place their own training programs to ensure that employees stay current and focused on the latest technologies.

But it also means providing the right kind of place to work. It’s all about creating an environment that attracts and retains the best tech talent available. Salary is important, of course, but increasingly being a purpose-driven organisation is even more so. People want to feel like their employer is doing something to make the world a better place, beyond turning over a healthy profit.

Furthermore, it means being mindful of changing working patterns. We are very much in the hybrid era of working now. This is a good thing. People have more flexibility and have more freedom, making them more effective.

In order to attract the most diverse talent, employers need to create a flexible system which works for each member of their team. For some, this may mean working from home to manage work alongside family commitments. For others, the separation between work and home life is more important, so having an office space is crucial.

Look beyond the enterprise

In terms of capability, it’s hard for enterprises to support an increasingly wide range of technologies and frameworks. Trying to do so in-house requires a large team, and that’s a model that doesn’t work anymore. So, enterprises have significant gaps in their capability. A failure to plug these gaps can mean projects get delayed or even cancelled, both of which can have long-term implications for commercial success and customer retention.

This means that for enterprise development projects to run as intended, they need to look beyond traditional (and dated) sourcing models. It’s little wonder, then, that so many enterprises have opted to collaborate with third parties to fulfil their development requirements. This was once seen as a lesser option but is now regarded as a highly effective way of ensuring projects stay on track.

Ensure you are ahead of tech trends

There are many platforms for web development in use across Europe. Today the cross-platform mobile technology Flutter and React Native is growing in popularity. We also see the continuous emergence of new platforms.

These trends highlight the need for enterprises to stay on top of the latest trends in terms of languages, platforms and technical skills. This is a challenge when most of your development is done in-house and requires a strong and ongoing investment in training.

However, there are other more innovative ways to address this challenge. One option is using an external partner to spin up a full developer squad or to augment the in-house developers. This means enterprises can benefit from the most up-to-date skills without the need to maintain all these capabilities in-house. External developers should also be enterprise-ready in how they work, comfortable with scrum methodology and project management requirements.

Plugging the enterprise tech skills gap involves a wide range of moving parts. These include more collaboration between government and business on the longer-term measures and adopting a more innovative approach to increasing the capacity and capability of internal teams. If these measures are taken, there is no reason why enterprises should be too affected.

Andy Peddar is CEO and co-founder of Deazy, the curated marketplace of development talent.

Andy Peddar

Andy Peddar is CEO and co-founder of Deazy, the curated marketplace of development talent.

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