Overcoming technology’s people problem

As a leader in the engine room of Australia’s economy – the mid-market – you understand that merely keeping pace with change requires a substantial effort. Even just to maintain your current market position. Customer demands, coupled with technology developments shift so fast, it’s a wonder any mid-market organisation in Australia has time to focus on growth.

By and large, a lack of focus on growth is a fair reflection of where Australian mid-market organisations are at currently.

A report from MYOB, entitled, ‘Transforming the Mid-Market’, highlights just 12 percent want to grow their business. Additionally, 17 percent said they’d like to expand their operations to cover the whole country. However, a majority (28 percent) said their long-term business goal was to simply maintain their current market status.

And, there’s a major factor in why this is the case.

The people problem

The fact is, even if your organisation is going to maintain market position, you still need to adapt and move with the pace of technological change – such is its influence in enabling business strategy. If you’re going to innovate, you need the skills to be able to do so. And for mid-market organisations, there’s two challenges to deal with.

The first is a lack of skilled people. MYOB’s study highlights almost a third (29 percent) said a lack of skilled staff was their main barrier to growth and innovation. Further extending this, 51 percent of mid-sized enterprises, (earning between $5 million and $10 million in revenue), faced issues attracting staff, affecting their prospects for growth and development.

Second, despite IT being touted as a source of innovation and competitive differentiation, many organisations find tech staff stuck on a hamster wheel of performing mundane tasks. While a lack of skilled staff is blamed for the inability to innovate and grow, those who could potentially adapt and evolve their roles are instead using valuable time and resources to perform mundane tasks. This restricts their ability to develop and act as a true agent of change.

So, how can you overcome the people problem to drive innovation and keep pace with change?

Four practical steps to solve the people problem

1. Identify skill gaps both now, and into the future

While you likely have a good sense for where your skill gaps lie now, do you have a sense for what you need in the future? Far too often, we live in a reactive world, responding to requests and problems as they arise. Lack of time to plan and sufficient foresight will always be an issue. But if things are going to change, then mindset has to as well.

Combat this by working with your senior leadership team to identify and plan how IT can help enable business strategy. It’s often said that IT strategy is business strategy – such is the influence of technology in helping organisations meet their goals. A strong IT leader can align with the business strategy and reposition IT as an enabler of change.

Next, work with your line of business leaders to understand where their strategy will lie for the coming years and plan your team and hiring requirements around these. Getting on the front foot to consider what you may need in the years ahead and planning for it now, will save you considerable headaches in the future.

2. Look towards non-traditional recruitment avenues

Once your skill gaps are identified, the next question is, “Where do I get the talent?’ Graduates have always been a traditional source of fresh blood. And for good reason, they’re newly qualified and eager to learn. But it’s a competitive market out there and you won’t always be able to rely upon that.

Tech talent (like most), can be a fairly apathetic lot. A majority of candidates won’t be looking for you, which requires you to search.  Recruiters are great, but they cost money. So, it means looking in the right places. Consider other non-traditional sources such as tech websites, community forums and industry events. There’s also coding bootcamps and hacker events too. Finding the right places might take a bit of creative thinking, but it’s worth the effort.

3. Automate, automate, automate!

In tandem with your recruitment strategy, automation is most likely your next best friend. Right now, it’s estimated around 70 percent of the role of IT staff is spent on programming, testing, deployment and operational tasks. While automation is likely on your agenda, you may wish to consider how you might accelerate certain elements of day-to-day operations now.

Automation is also more vital to those organisations where talent is extremely scarce. It allows current staff to be more productive and frees up time for more strategic and innovative work. So, rather than building skills that will likely become obsolete within a year, focus on building transferable skills to ensure you’re responsive and resilient to the automation opportunity.

4. Work with a passionate managed IT provider

As mid-market organisations continue to digitise and factor more automation into their IT strategy, it is perhaps unsurprising the managed IT services market continues to grow at a steady rate too.

Mid-market organisations are realising that in conjunction with finding the right permanent talent, they can hire it too on a short-term basis. And, quite often the skills they acquire can be invaluable. Managed IT partners are good at attracting some of the best talent around, given the variety of innovative and interesting projects they can offer their own employees.

A truly passionate partner will take the time to understand your business and help you deliver and manage not only the automation components you require, but they can also provide on-site support teams. This will also assist you in the day-to-day delivery of your IT operations and system management.

Working in tandem

Finding talent is tough. Finding the right talent is even harder and it’s a problem faced Australia-wide and not limited to the IT sector. There’s a huge dearth of talent across the board, which is why you can’t simply have one strategy to build your teams.

There has to be a combination of tactics in place, even if your organisation’s strategy is to maintain its market position. So, while you’re scouting for the right person to join your team, take time to understand how automation and the services of a managed IT partner could provide a serious level of impetus and help you navigate the pace of technological change.