Innovation and research and development (R&D) are economic growth accelerators, and there is increasing pressure on business leaders for quick execution on critical initiatives underpinning these strategic drivers.
However, current economic headwinds, staff shortages and critical skills gaps are some of the biggest impediments to a successful execution strategy.
Macroeconomic conditions such as the global pandemic, ongoing supply chain disruptions, and seasonality of commodity demands are helping Australian business leaders double down on their digitalisation efforts. In increasingly unpredictable times, organisations are grappling to catch their breath and survey the sometimes frantic digital initiatives of the past two years. Many are realising they lack the IT staff to make the most of current investments, let alone continue the innovation momentum they have built. As a result, we have a long road ahead to address Australia's widening chasm between the demand and supply of technical talent.
There are currently about 870,000 tech jobs in the nation – according to the Australian Computer Society's latest Digital Pulse report – but in the next five-to-seven years, the Government predicts we will need an additional 650,000 tech workers. To put this in perspective, it would be like training the entire populations of the Australian Capital Territory and Hobart in technology skills.
Compounding the challenge, with so much competition for tech skills, businesses are now faced with salary demands rising at an unprecedented degree. For instance, a report found IT professionals in the Asia Pacific region had the biggest increase in pay in 2021 compared to every other region in the world. While great news for those in technology fields, business leaders face added pressures of hiring, onboarding, enablement and retention in a highly competitive job market.
Retaining staff from this increasingly judicious IT workforce requires a renewed focus on the employee experience – not just cosmetic updates masquerading as meaningful change. IT leaders need to re-work the foundations of their operations, with the evolving needs of employees being the driving force behind each business decision.
The digital push
Business needs are ever-changing, and since COVID-19 overturned digital capability from a "nice to have" to a "must have," companies have acquired more and more software solutions to address individual pain points. Subsequently, in many cases, this has left little thought toward how the 'IT team' connects the digital spaghetti.
It's a big feat – the average enterprise currently houses more than 850 cloud applications, and IDC forecasts total worldwide spending on cloud services will surpass $1.3 trillion by 2025.
With the availability of technology skills few and far between, organisations must simplify how IT teams manage the influx of cloud services. If businesses relegate talented IT staff to managing integrations, manually applying patches, and performing repetitive administrative or other low-value manual tasks, it won't be long before they leave for greener pastures.
Fifth Quadrant's latest APAC State of Digital Transformation report found almost a third of IT teams continue to battle the challenge of managing technical debt. Meanwhile, research from Dynatrace found IT teams are spending almost half their time on manual routine work "just to keep the lights on."
Liberate your talent to innovate
Sparing IT teams from configuring, monitoring, and managing hardware and software can go a long way in making the most of current digital investments and pushing the businesses' innovation agenda forward.
With so many touch points in a technology ecosystem, removing the operational burdens – typically referred to as a 'NoOps' approach – of architecture helps retain current technical staff as they're liberated to work on innovative projects. It also boosts recruitment initiatives and provides opportunities for skills development, as prospective hires won't have their talents wasted on grunt work.
There are two key ways to ensure IT teams don't waste their talent on routine maintenance. First: leverage AI, automation, and other cloud-enabled tools in-house to free up time for employees. Second: make smart decisions about which aspects of IT will be managed internally and which will be entrusted to a partner.
The thinking mindset is key to maximising staff retention
Addressing the skills gap is key to being able to focus on economic growth accelerators. With a shortage of skills to draw from, retaining staff is critical for an organisation's success, and the key to retaining staff lies in developing a positive employee experience and a thinking mindset.
Henry Ford famously found that when he cut his employees' hours from 48 per week to 40, productivity increased. To further increase productivity and innovation today, businesses need to create environments that give employees the chance to think strategically and problem-solve.
Progressive organisations are looking to enrich the employee experience for their IT teams by making smart decisions on how to engage service partners. Moving to a fully managed NoOps strategy will not only increase operational efficiencies and redirect valuable IT resources to more innovative, business value-driven projects but also drive agility, reduce risks, and increase job satisfaction.
As well as contributing to an improved employee experience and therefore better staff retention, NoOps also provides the opportunity to add scale and rigour to the mix. For example, a university or a retail organisation would appreciate the flexibility of a managed service to help manage seasonality caused by enrolment cycles and holiday periods, respectively. Similarly, structure and process can assist government agencies and not-for-profit (NFP) organisations that are required to meet ongoing – and often fast-changing – regulatory and compliance requirements.
Asia Pacific and Australia have already seen evidence of the damage caused by the skills gap. By adapting how they think about and approach IT operations, business leaders can help their skilled technology professionals feel accomplished in the value they bring to the company and ultimately entice them to stay. Thinking mindsets are the key to retention, and it's much easier to develop that if you have the confidence, everything else is taken care of.

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