As the channel transforms to a cloud based services business there are a few elephants appearing at the door to the room of opportunity – but they can’t get in on account of the rather oversized elephant already there. The beast has a double-barrelled name – Skills and Gender Gap.
Glenn Woolaghan, Partner Business & Development lead at Microsoft UK, led the launch of their recent ‘Cloud Skills Report’ which highlighted the growing skills and gender gap in the ICT sector. Here we lay out the background to the problems and what his company is doing about the issues.
Microsoft says we are moving, at pace, into the fourth industrial revolution, a period of time recognised by the blurring of lines between physical, digital and biological worlds, underpinned by a range of technological innovations.
‘The arrival of the Internet of Things, advanced analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning mean that organisations are having to fundamentally rethink how they engage customers, empower employees, optimise operations and transform products and services.’
A raft of disrupters have entered established markets and shaken established business models to their very core, powered by mass-scale computing, unprecedented processing power and seemingly unlimited storage.
‘Organisations that were once the giants of their industries have become the also-rans whilst start-ups have reached billion-pound valuations in as little as two years where it once took 20. Recent technological innovations have levelled the playing field for businesses in ways not seen since the start of mechanisation.’
Whilst this has created significant challenges for established organisations, this forcing function has made it imperative for organisations to think beyond their established business models. This in turn is creating huge opportunities.
Microsoft cites examples such as; where Rolls-Royce sold aircraft engines it now sells flight miles; where RAC was once a reactive roadside assistance organisation, it is now also a pre-emptive vehicle maintenance service; McDonalds is serving drive-through customers faster and more accurately thanks to the use of artificial intelligence.
The digital transformation journeys that many organisations are embarking on are unique, each presenting their own challenges. However, one commonality is the move to the cloud for some or all of the technological platforms underpinning these transformations. As a result, many organisations face a clear and present challenge that can stall their journeys – finding staff or suppliers with the appropriate cloud skills to successfully accomplish their transformations.
Microsoft notes that in an era of mass globalisation, lower barriers to entry and customers who are less loyal than ever before, the need to evolve business models and do so quickly has never been more critical.
‘Those organisations that are forced to stall their transformational journeys due to a lack of skills will find themselves facing significant challenges. Indeed, they may find that by the time they are able to meet the demands of both customers and employees, the market has moved on, rendering them irrelevant.
This need to find the right skills to drive digital transformations was the inspiration for this report – to understand how UK organisations perceive the value of cloud skills, the challenge in engaging people with the skills they need, either directly or indirectly, and their expectations on how the supply and demand for cloud skills will change in the coming years.’
More than 80% of respondents think that having the right cloud skills will be important or critical to their
Finding the right people is a challenge: 38% of respondents who had been involved in recruiting people with cloud skills in the past 12 months said it was difficult to find the right skills.
Companies are upskilling their own staff to meet demands: the most common approach to meeting cloud skills needs is to train existing staff (60%).
The Gender Imbalance: On average the gender mix amongst technical IT staff is 20% female, 80% male. More than half of respondents stated they had no policy or plans in place to address this issue.
So what Microsoft is doing about these problems?
In essence, and there is more detail available on-line, Microsoft has a three-pronged plan that involves; helping to build the future talent pipeline by increasing the tech skills of young people, improving the flow of people pursuing digital careers and to equip UK PLC with vital Cloud skills.
Apprenticeships form a big part of the skills gap solution and looking through this category of the Comms Business Awards entries we can see the channel responding admirably. Sadly, as far as the gender gap is concerned, wider action only seems to be evident as we start to run out of blokes!