The IT skills gap: flexible resourcing is the solution

The pandemic’s effect on our relationship with technology is a profound one. Lockdown ushered in a sudden and wide-spread adoption of remote working, and the uncertainty brought with it a slew of opportunist cybercriminals. The result of this rapid rate of change highlighted that the UK’s already glaring tech skills gap has been stretched to the extreme. Currently, nine in 10 (88%) organisations admit they have a significant shortage of digital skills which is negatively impacting their productivity, efficiency and competitiveness.

Not only are current IT teams struggling to keep up with an increasing arsenal of innovative technology, but the UK’s education system also isn’t generating enough candidates with the necessary skill sets quick enough. 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 commence or enhance their digital transformation strategies, IT departments are playing catchup. Every new piece of software that is vital for remote working, such as Microsoft Teams, potentially brings a host of extra tasks which IT teams will have to juggle on top of their usual duties. Those duties, after all, are likely to have ramped up in volume and pace. Dealing with raised tickets, and issues is a full-time job in itself as entire companies get forced into unfamiliar digital territory.

The evidence is clear – we must address the overriding pressure points, agree on how to plug the resultant gaps, and gain insight into what the future of IT is likely to look like.

Maximising tech requires time and preparation

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 resources.

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

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.

The future of IT is flexibility

Although the current circumstances have highlighted the urgency behind flexible resourcing, its wider use cases are apparent. Flexible resourcing is as relevant for IT fluctuations as it is for HR evolutions. If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, IR35 would have come to a head this year. Indeed, it is still scheduled to do so next year. In advance of that regulation, businesses have been releasing key contractors in fear of failing compliance. This has undoubtedly contributed to the tech skills gap broadening in 2020.

Although it doesn’t bypass IR35 entirely, flexible resourcing significantly lessens the risk posed by IR35 and other legislation. By framing and engaging correctly, you can rely on flexible external resource hires for specific engagements with fixed milestones. This then remains an external service, as opposed to hiring permanent staff, ensuring businesses are compliant within IR35 without sacrificing specific projects and timeline pressures.

It is not just a temporary solution for a pandemic. Flexible resourcing is likely to be a big part of the future of IT as an organisational function. The solution for both 2020 and beyond is to have a dedicated external team of specialists to plug gaps for time-specific dynamic business challenges.

Contributed by Mark Skelton, Chief Technology Officer at CANCOM UK

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