07 June 2022

How strategic partnerships can help solve the tech skills shortage?

By Steve Martin, Head of Channels @ NEXTDC

There’s been a lot of discussion about the current IT skills shortage across much of the economy, with start-ups and traditional big businesses going head-to-head for the short supply of specialist talent that can energise digital transformation agendas.

It’s a genuine concern that has been building for years but it is getting more serious in the face of digital acceleration, the global disruption of recent years and a dearth of suitable education pathways leading to unique skills associated with cloud architecture and other in-demand skills.

What is driving the skills shortage?

Organisations continue to seek out the productivity, cost, innovation and growth opportunities afforded by digital but there are a number of factors impacting the availability of people to achieve it.

A pre-existing demand/supply imbalance of skills has been exacerbated by the impacts COVID has had on both sides of that fundamental economics equation. Covid introduced massive new demand for digital services in commerce, lifestyle and community while border restrictions shut down immigration, traditionally the largest supplement to a local employment market that could not meet demand

This has all put considerable stress on existing IT staff, in particular high-performing team members who are more likely to be trusted with big projects.

Many IT workers are reporting burnout, and given the shortage, they have opportunities to move elsewhere - perhaps you’ve heard about the Great Resignation? Indeed, Gartner workforce research from Q4 2021 found that less than a third of IT workers have ‘high intent’ to stay with their current employer!

Many large enterprises have ambitious cloud migration and Hybrid IT agendas. Even one or two large projects can stress our local skills market so with everyone pressing ‘go’ on their future digital readiness simultaneously, we have come to a crunch point.

Throw in an aging workforce, a broader labour shortage across the economy, the relatively long time-to-competence for cloud migration, diversity challenges and ‘the great resignation’ and the seriousness of the issue is clear.

Read more: On-premise data centres: the good, the bad, the ugly

Where to from here?

Thankfully, there are answers to the skills shortage challenge. Some of these are longer-term solutions, and others can be implemented immediately.

In the longer-term, the industry must focus on creating more localised models for technology innovation. We’ve observed a lack of training and pathways for those in the local technology sector, as well as low instance of technology innovation and research and development (R&D). This means we need more incentives around R&D, as well as more formal education opportunities to build and attract new streams of technology capability.

But right now, it means broadening our perspective as we think about our immediate needs around resourcing and attracting/retaining IT talent. Do you really need tech staff in a particular office, or can they perform the role from their home in a different state (or even country)?

Can you create operational efficiencies by introducing better tools and processes? Or similarly can you take steps to enhance work/life integration for your employees, such as more flexible or autonomous working models? Often there are relatively simple fixes that can take pressure off members of your existing workforce and help prevent burnout, so you increase your chances of retaining rather than losing key talent.

It’s also worth considering whether you’ve done everything you can to encourage more diverse perspectives into your workforce. UNICEF estimate that as little as 26% of people working in data and AI are women so we have to make the sector more attractive for half the population.

And last, but by no means least, there is the importance of partnering strategically with like-minded organisations. This means aligning your core competencies with that of your partners, and creating value for your customers by offering complementary capabilities and skillsets – rather than trying to be everything to everyone.

The power of partner ecosystems

Within NEXTDC facilities, we’re seeing a lot more connectivity within our partner ecosystem, rather than companies trying to hire in a particular skillset. In the current jobs market, it’s far more efficient, productive and cost-effective to outsource particular components rather than going through a time-consuming recruitment exercise - which may or may not be successful.

We’re even seeing some partners within our ecosystem who focus on delivering specialised services to other partners only. This enables the creation of highly customised service packages that address a particular customer need. Teaming up and presenting a unified front to the customer is critical in this situation - and offers them great value too!

If you are considering strategic partnerships? First consider this:

  • What are your organisation’s core competencies? What do you want to be known for in the market?
  • Does your current external messaging to customers and partners align with this?
  • What are your target customers looking for as a holistic solution to solve critical tech pain points?
  • What are you lacking in terms of delivering that holistic solution? Where are there opportunities to bring in strategic partners that complement your own strengths?

Reach out to NEXTDCto find out how strategic partnerships can help solve the challenges associated with the technology skills shortage and create value for both you and your customers.