Digital Skills Global
Digital skills gap is a risk to companies

Digital skills gap is a risk to companies

This article first appeared in an expert led report on “Digital Transformation” in the print edition of the Irish Independent - January 30th 2018. It was also featured on Business News Ireland.

Companies which do not invest in digital skills, and rely on third parties to deliver their business transformation, risk losing relevance and their competitive edge in the digital landscape.

While in the last number of years there has been much discussion about the digital skills challenge, there is still a massive issue about shortages in the pipeline of this talent being fed in to the workforce.

“There’s a clear skills gap in ICT, especially in areas such as data science and app development,” he says.

“But there is also a digital skills shortage across all business functions in organisations, and particularly in digital business management. Bridging this skills gap is about enabling people already in the workforce to become digitally-empowered and more hybrid, so that business professionals develop greater understanding of tech, and our technology experts become more business-savvy.

“It also means organisations need to foster cross-functional teamwork. We need to break down siloes so that digital transformation becomes a mindset throughout organisations and a common language internally.”

A shortage in digital skills adds financial risks

Digital Transformation is inevitable and if businesses do not upskill their own talent pools with fundamental digital skills but choose to outsource, or rely on recruting from outside the organisation, there are several important ramifications to consider, Dunne warns.

“Companies that don’t invest in equipping their own staff with the necessary skills risk siloes remaining across their organisation,” he says.

“Perhaps the biggest risk is that businesses end up relying solely on a 'buy' strategy, going out to the market to try recruit the skills they need. This can prove to be a costly and counter-productive solution resulting in new hires in critical roles who will have a ramp time - if they stay long enough - to build up their company knowledge, and internalise the company culture and values. Instead of being overly dependent on a 'buy' strategy, organisations should give greater focus to a 'build' strategy, providing staff with the training that will enable them to develop a sustainable digital skill set and address digital innovation in the business.”

“Investing in employees’ skills, career and educational development is also highly valued and leads to improved employee retention and higher productivity rates,” highlights Dunne.

Financial services, tech and telecoms are most affected

According to Dunne, the skills required for digital business transformation strategies to succeed are missing to varying degrees across all industries. But several sectors stand out.

“The most highly affected sectors that we notice are financial services, technology, telecommunications and technology consultancies,” he explains.

“They need to embed digital skills within their roles. This entails developing a skill set in areas such as user experience (UX) design, agile project management and agile thinking, digital innovation, and digital collaboration. Among tech roles , there’s a real need for more data scientists who can turn analytics in to insights, and data engineers who can build applications to exploit this”.

The pace of digital transformation exposes a growing skills gap that needs to be bridged faster than is currently being achieved. Rather than just relying on 'buying-in', companies must upskill their current workforce to empower them to tackle the challenges of digital transformation. Preparing an already-existing team for digitalisation means utilising a current skill set that already understands the organisation, thus boosting efficiency while retaining and developing talent.