Cisco announced new software-delivered solutions designed to simplify IT operations across on-premise data centers and multicloud environments.
In the scramble to keep operating as country after country went into lockdown, one thing was apparent — those organizations that had invested in their technology, that were further along on their digital transformation journey, were the ones that coped best with the disruption of the pandemic.
To facilitate remote working; to pivot to online models; to scale e-commerce offerings — some of the core tactics that maintain continuity and keep revenues coming in, and they all required a technology backbone and digital skills to work properly.
Six months on from that initial wave of lockdowns, and it's clear that the only certainty is uncertainty. Even as restrictions are lifted, warnings abound that localized lockdowns may become a regular fact of life. In that event, organizations are going to need to react quickly, switching back to remote or virtual set ups in an instance in order to avoid unnecessary disruption.
The Demand for Software … and Skills
Achieving that requires not only the right infrastructure, but deploying the right applications and software too. Users, whether employees or customers, are used to intuitive experiences when it comes to interacting with digital devices and services. Any service that doesn't deliver that is going to struggle.
At the same time, these interfaces need to be secure and aligned with the latest technologies, like machine learning, artificial intelligence and data science. It's all knitted together by software.
But that means organizations need to be able to not only deploy the right software but develop it as well. It means having the right teams in place that can develop and integrate software. This was actually the case long before the pandemic, with a study from Michael Page noting software engineers and developers were the world's most in-demand role.
That, however, causes a problem. Employers need to access software development talent to run their businesses effectively. Yet if that talent is in high demand, then acquiring it is going to be expensive (as is retaining it). Recruiting any sort of experience is hard — according to a PwC survey from April 2020, 74% of CEOs were concerned about the availability of key skills.
Building and Leading Developer Teams
How, then, do organizations build effective development teams without breaking the bank, particularly at a time when revenues are likely to be down, cash flow restricted, and budgets reduced?
One option is to upskill their existing teams. This has several key benefits:
■ Cost-effective — investing in employee training is a cost, there's no doubt about it. However, giving workers new skills is still cheaper than acquiring additional headcount, particularly when it's for a high-demand role.
■ Tailored — every product or service needs to combine knowledge of various programming languages and frameworks with the relevant development practices. By upskilling, employers can give their employees knowledge and ability in the areas that matter to the overall business, thereby accelerating improvements in core objectives.
■ Employee engagement — by investing in upskilling, organizations demonstrate both their commitment to individual progression and provide concrete proof of their overall ambitions. Indeed, the PWC study found that companies making the most progress on upskilling also see most progress on building employee engagement.
Assessing Your Software Skill Needs
However, while the business case for upskilling might be clear, the process is not always straightforward. It needs to be strategic, kicked off with an audit that identifies the skills the organization requires, both now and for the future. This needs to be an objective assessment, with responses from the individuals that will be undertaking the training, in order to identify gaps and be clear on where upskilling and lateral job moves can fill the spaces.
Only once this is complete can learning plans be developed. However, this then raises another challenge; namely, how to deliver quality, impactful training at a time when workers are likely to be offsite, or perhaps working a hybrid model of days in the office mixed with days working from home.
For technical skills like software development, Zoom-based meetings or webinars will only work to a certain degree — developers improve by continually practicing, having their efforts peer-reviewed and assessed, and having the opportunity to access ongoing feedback. This is achieved through using platforms that can be accessed from anywhere, that capture insights into your team's performances and highlights where further training is needed, or where capabilities are particularly strong.
This helps inform future training, as well as giving organizations a stronger understanding of when their developers are ready to be deployed on mission-critical projects.
Upskilling Equals Business Growth
It is quite simple — if organizations want to keep operating, if they want to protect and grow revenue streams and keep customers, they need to be able to offer intuitive digital experiences. To do that, they need the right software emerging and existing technologies together. That means having the best talent in place — if that's hard to come by, then they need to invest in their existing teams and skill sets. Those that neglect to, will struggle; those that choose to upskill, will prosper.