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
Is Cloud Computing Environmentally Friendly?
Cloud adoption was well underway before the coronavirus pandemic hit but it has definitely accelerated more organisations to make a move.
Research from NetApp has found that a large majority of users (86%) felt the cloud has become essential to their business and many of them saw it as playing a greater role in their storage strategies. Some 87% viewed storing data in the cloud as easier than other methods.
Flexera, revealed that almost all organisations are using at least one cloud with 99% of respondents saying they are using at least one public or private cloud. 97% of respondents utilise at least one public cloud, while 80% have at least one private cloud. 78% of respondents are using hybrid cloud.
By pursuing a green approach, Accenture analysis suggests migrations to the public cloud can reduce global carbon (CO2) emissions by 59 million tons of CO2 per year. This represents a 5.9% reduction in total IT emissions and equates to taking 22 million cars off the road.
A greener cloud
Selecting a carbon-thoughtful provider is the first step towards a sustainable cloud-first journey. Cloud providers set different corporate commitments towards sustainability, which in turn determine how they plan, build, power, operate, and retire their data centres.
The Google Cloud platform has committed to operating its data centres carbon-free 24/7 by 2030, rather than rely on annual direct energy matches. In 2020, Google became the first company to achieve a zero lifetime net carbon footprint, meaning the company has eliminated its entire legacy operational carbon emissions. According to Google, their data centers are twice as energy-efficient as a typical data centre, and they now deliver seven times more computing power for the same amount of electrical power than they did six years ago.
Microsoft has committed to shifting its data centres to 100% supply of renewable energy by 2025 through power purchase agreements (PPAs). The company has launched its ambition to be carbon negative by 2030 and by 2050 to remove all carbon emitted by the company since 1975. Microsoft Azure’s customers can access a carbon calculator that tracks emissions associated with their own workload on the cloud.
A new forecast from International Data Corporation (IDC) shows that the continued adoption of cloud computing could prevent the emission of more than 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) from 2021 through 2024.
"The idea of 'green IT' has been around now for years, but the direct impact of hyperscale computing can have on CO2 emissions is getting increased notice from customers, regulators, and investors and it's starting to factor into buying decisions," said Cushing Anderson, programme vice president at IDC. "For some, going 'carbon neutral' will be achieved using carbon offsets, but designing datacentres from the ground up to be carbon neutral will be the real measure of contribution. And for advanced cloud providers, matching workloads with renewable energy availability will further accelerate their sustainability goals."
Accenture analysis shows that customising applications to be cloud-native can stretch carbon emission reduction to 98%. Customisation requires designing applications to take full advantage of on-demand computing, higher asset utilisation rates, and dynamic allocation of computing resources. Cloud computing is also a way of reducing the use of resources such as paper, electricity, packing materials, and much more.
For companies striving to cut carbon emissions and to become more sustainable, cloud computing is definitely an option. Taking the steps to choose the right providers and making the businesses more efficient is key to having the wanted end result.