The problem of the digital skills gap in digital transformation
Businesses are under constant pressure to improve operational efficiency. Overheads are continuously scrutinised, with departments tasked with reducing margins year-on-year, and it is the IT department that is under the most pressure to deliver these efficiencies. Digital transformation is hyped as the answer to deliver increased efficiencies, gain competitive advantage and change, for the better, how businesses interact and communicate with customers and employees. But taking a business on a digital transformation journey is a huge undertaking; an undertaking that requires a skilled IT department to be the chief architects, with lofty expectations placed on them by business leaders.
It has been widely reported in the media that Britain is facing a skill shortage in most science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) job roles. The UK Commission for Employment & Skills research showed that 43 per cent of STEM vacancies are hard to fill due to a shortage of applicants with the required skills and experience. But perhaps the issue is not only about the lack of a digitally-skilled workforce. A massive challenge for businesses is to not waste the skills of already-stretched IT teams on simple tasks.
The reality is that while IT talent is hard to come by, many IT departments are burdened with handling avoidable IT issues. At present, IT pros spend too much time handling unplanned activities which inhibits their ability to innovate. According to research from 1E, on average, IT workers spend 29 per cent of every day reacting to unplanned incidents. Based on a full-time work schedule of 1,700 hours per year, this equates to more than 14 weeks a year.
While IT staff may spend an unjustifiably long time reacting to unplanned activities, they are also stretched unnecessarily dealing with IT issues that can, in most cases, be foreseen. Issues such as provisioning and deprovisioning employees are becoming one of the most time-consuming tasks for IT professionals, despite the fact the process can be almost entirely automated.
Recent research from OneLogin, which surveyed more than 605 IT decision-makers with influence over their business’s IT security, revealed that this is certainly the case. OneLogin found half (50 per cent) admitted to not using automated provisioning technology to auto-enrol new employees to the plethora of corporate applications relevant to their position. Of course, businesses are using more apps than ever to enable employees to do their job efficiently and collaboratively. This means that enrolling each new member of staff manually can take valuable time away from an already overworked department.
Businesses are relying on the IT department to revoke access from employees who are leaving an organisation. Once again, this is often a manual practice that takes time and effort for IT teams to manually revoke employee access. Nearly all (92 per cent) of respondents to OneLogin’s study admitted to spending up to an hour on manually deprovisioning former employees from every corporate application. This deprovisioning difficulty may explain why more than a quarter (28 per cent) of ex-employee’s corporate accounts remain active for a month or more.
Allowing former employees’ access to the network opens organisations to the threat of these workers being able to access sensitive corporate data. Half (50 per cent) of respondents are not using automated deprovisioning technology to ensure an employee’s access to corporate applications stops the moment they leave. The reality is that the lack of automated tools utilised across businesses to automate simple admin tasks has impacted IT departments, and continues to have a significant impact on corporate security, and indeed the bottom line.
With the average wage of an IT professional in the UK being in excess of £50,000 a year, businesses must look into ways of avoiding skill wastage in the IT department. Investment into the use of automated tools can benefit corporate security, but can also free up IT teams to unlock organisational efficiencies that have the potential to make a company more profitable and more competitive. For instance, automated deprovisioning of employees from applications that have an application programming interface (API) for user management can improve IT efficiency. Most “birthright” applications that are widely used in companies, such as Office365 and G Suite, have these APIs and can make the deprovisioning process simple.
There is a skills gap in the UK which must be addressed by businesses and government alike. But while top IT talent is a rare commodity, retaining and allowing them to do the job they are trained for must be a priority. In order to do this, businesses must give opportunities to IT professionals to learn and innovate, rather than allocating their time to important, yet time-intensive tasks which could be automated. By utilising the full range of talents IT professionals possess, businesses will reap the rewards of improved efficiency, profitability and staff retention.
Alvaro Hoyos, Chief Information Security Officer, OneLogin