The IT skills shortage is far from new – but it is getting worse for a number of reasons. The first is probably the most obvious. Businesses today cannot operate without technology. Systems and networks – and ensuring that employees have access to all the tools and platforms they need in order to do their jobs – lie at the centre of all operations. These systems need to be maintained and so the IT department has always had a critical role to play in supporting the business. Moreover, the role of IT has evolved into that of a ‘Business Technology Partner’ playing an increasingly significant role in business outcomes. The problem is that while the importance of IT has skyrocketed, the number of professionals in the space has not kept pace.
Then there are technology businesses themselves – companies whose products and services are technology-based. More and more brands are offering technology solutions and these businesses all need skilled IT experts. And when your solution is based on how skilled the people are in your teams, the war is on for talent.
Relying on IT to run your operations and move the needle forward also puts strain on the employees you do have. Many IT teams only have capacity to focus on the bare minimum, which means less time spent on innovation while also being completely overworked. The result? A high churn rate in a critical department that can’t afford to lose skilled individuals.
Current strategies are falling short
Hoping that more and more students will enter IT-related undergraduate degrees in computer science is not an adequate long-term strategy. IT degrees take four years to complete and the cost of university education is a large barrier to entry. On top of that, while critical skills are learnt, the landscape, software and workplace are constantly evolving, which means even degreed individuals need to keep their skills relevant.
Most importantly, even if every graduating student jumped into a full-time IT position after graduation, there still wouldn’t be enough qualified candidates to close the skills gap.
So, how do South African businesses widen the field? There are a few key strategies that businesses can invest in now to increase their IT skills capacity and to ensure that they remain ahead of the competitive curve. The goal is simple: Increase IT resources within the business, ensure employees are digitally savvy, even if they aren’t necessarily in the IT department, and keep on top of all new technology and software changes.
Here are a few key tactics to consider:
Work with an IT solutions partner
Outsourcing and the rise of the gig economy is proving that competitive businesses can enjoy all the benefits of highly skilled IT professionals and teams without necessarily recruiting and hiring teams themselves. Outsourced teams bring a range of skills, expertise and experience learnt through operating in different environments. There is an additional benefit as well – businesses that work with outsourced partners can access required skills on an as-needed basis, which means capacity is scaled up and down at need.
Partner with project specialists
Many IT needs are project specific. Investing in skills (particularly when the skills are scarce) can be costly and difficult to achieve. Project teams on the other hand bring all the skills required at a predictable cost that can be budgeted for. Highly skilled and experienced teams are inherently better equipped to implement projects on time, to budget – instead of allowing costs to balloon without the required technology and project objectives being met or adequate change management taking place.
Train, train, train
Technology platforms are continually changing and require consistent training. Similarly, on the back of these technology changes, new ways of working are required, and so SCRUM training and teaching teams how to be agile and adaptable is critical to getting the most out of your people and technology. Part of solving the technical skills scarcity crisis is helping employees and teams in general to become more confident working with technology. This will decrease the dependency on internal teams and allow businesses to work with outsourced partners in a more streamlined and successful way as well.
Invest in internships
South Africa’s NQF levels support technology training. Organisations are required to invest in internships. When you invest in technology skills training, you aren’t only thinking about your future workforce – you are giving previously disadvantaged South Africans access to the skills they need to navigate a digitally-reliant future.
Recruit through partners that understand the technology landscape: For all internal skills and technology needs, work with a recruitment partner that understands the local technology landscape and works with partners actively increasing the tech skills of South Africans. Access to the local pool of talent is critical if you want to attract the best.
Paracon is a respected industry brand who are skilled IT resourcing and Business Transformation Solutions specialists. We have the ability to procure and deploy skilled IT resources and provide customised business transformation solutions for different industries.