Flexible resourcing looks to plug the IT skills gap
December 2020 by Mark Skelton, Chief Technology Officer at CANCOM UK
The relationship between this year’s COVID-19 pandemic, and technology, is no secret. The events of this year have wed a sudden rise in remote working with opportunist cybercriminals preying on vulnerabilities within networks. Meanwhile, that same working from home trend has also driven an acceleration towards cloud adoption. And of course, new forms of working have ushered in the era of the video conferencing tools. The relationship between COVID-19 and technology is resulting in a rapid rate of change, further compounding and worsening an already developing skills gap. Indeed, nine in 10 (88%) organisations admit they have a shortage of digital skills, which is already having a significant negative impact on productivity, efficiency and competitiveness.
As a result, the rate of IT change has never been greater - coupled with the consumerisation of IT, where many employees expect to have the same personalised, seamless IT experience between different devices in the office as they do at home.
This rate of change is one of the critical challenges in the industry for IT skills. As a direct impact and perhaps the most significant upshot of all these pandemic-digitisation relationships, however, is the exposure of the IT skills gap within businesses. IT teams have struggled to keep up with the new relevant technologies, and the UK’s education system isn’t generating enough staff with the right skill sets quick enough. And as found by the Open University, UK businesses (56%) state this growing skills gap has already affected their business negatively.
Given the speed organisations have had to make their digital transitions, their IT departments have been playing catchup ever since. As an example, Microsoft Teams may seem like a business’s best friend at the moment, but with new upgrades to the platform seemingly coming out weekly, IT teams can’t cope with that speed of transformation on top of doing their day jobs. Those day jobs, after all, are likely to have ramped up in volume and pace, too. Dealing with raised tickets and issues as entire companies get forced into unfamiliar digital territory, are almost a full-time job on their own. As organisations try to adapt and settle towards the end of this bizarre year, the evidence is clear – IT needs help. We must explore, now, what the overriding pressure points are,how to plug the resultant gaps, and what the future of IT is likely to look like.
Overstretched and underprepared
The skills gap isn’t complex to comprehend; organisations are understaffed to deal with the demands they are faced with. Moreover, they often don’t have the time to allocate to train staff and keep up to date with all the new tech, on top of looking for new employees to remedy the situation with permanent manpower. The pandemic has exposed a lack of expertise in the market and the need to adapt, and quickly. Compounding the rapid evolution of various digital platforms, and their increased adoption, there is also the need to consider changes to markets, sectors, consumer habits, client demands, budget limitations and customer relationships.
It’s understandable why an existing cohort of IT professionals within an organisation would struggle to keep up with everything, on top of their traditional day-to-day duties. To expect a new full-time employee to hit the ground running across all of those considerations, as well, is a stretch too far.
Flexible resourcing is the answer
As a result of the inherent risks, and organisations’ revised financing models after a tough year, many are realising they can cover the costs of external services, such as flexible resourcing, much more efficiently than hiring a new full-time employee.
Flexible resourcing mitigates many of the challenges put forward regarding both this year’s pressure points and the broader skills gap they have revealed. In December last year, even before COVID, Forbes shone a light on the advantages of temporary hires. Little did anyone know how quickly that trend would evolve in the months that have followed.
The process of flexible resourcing includes hiring the number of people and the skills you need at isolated intervals, for specific projects or, individual strategies. Consequently, pinpointing the requisite level of skill and expertise for that siloed purpose increases the likelihood of a successful outcome, in a more cost-effective way that doesn’t weigh down payroll long-term. What’s more, we don’t know what is around the corner considering the current state of affairs with the pandemic, and having flexible resourcing allows businesses to scale up and down resourcing as business performance and needs change.
In addition to the above advantages, what clients most enjoy from this prospect is the lack of maintenance required as part of the arrangement. Talent that’s incorporated into the organisation is managed externally as part of the process, which frees up existing internal resources to focus on the longer-term strands of the company.
To this end, a flexible resourcing service must be built on ‘right first-time’ deployment, bespoke to each specific need, and inclusive of all vetting, onboarding and aforementioned management. Done properly, results include effective problem solving and solution support via highly skilled engineers, tailored engagement support, access to qualified FTE and partner resources, and an adaptable working relationship throughout.
Releasing pressure now, and in the future
Flexible resourcing is a signal towards future IT. Its flexibility from an operational and budgetary standpoint is, of course, more pronounced at this volatile time, but the rationale remains the same in any scenario. Why take an expenditure gamble on one set of skills for a range of unforeseen projects and situations; when you can expend less on a range of skills tailored to each situation as it arises?
Not only does flexible resourcing account for IT fluctuations, but HR evolutions, too. If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, the long saga of IR35 would have come to a head this year, and is still scheduled to do so next year. Even in advance of that regulation, businesses have been releasing key contractors in fear of failing compliance, which has undoubtedly contributed to the tech skills gap of this year.
Using a flexible resourcing approach and engaging with correct terms can lessen the risk posed by IR35 and other legislation. It doesn’t always bypass the risk entirely but by framing and engaging correctly, you can use an external flexible resource service hired for a specific engagement with fixed deliverables or milestones. Businesses can ensure this is a ring-fenced service, as opposed to hiring additional people, which can help a business to stay compliant within IR35 whilst also delivering against project and timeline pressures.
To have a dedicated external team of specialists to fill that skills gap in accordance with time-specific dynamic business changes and challenges is not just the holy grail for 2020. It’s quite possibly the future of IT as an organisational function.