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The 2023 talent arms race continues: Three essentials to address the IT consultancy skills gap

As the skills-first labour market continues, recruitment, retainment, and the need to accelerate digital transformation projects are high on the radar for IT leaders in 2023. Many IT consultancy firms are keen to diversify the workforce and find new means of connecting teams – but when almost 95% of employers looking for tech talent are encountering a skills shortage, the talent arms race is hotting up. There are three focus areas that will help IT consultancy firms tackle the skills shortage.

Business technology projects are becoming increasingly complex, accelerated by the speed at which new software arrives on the market. But in an environment where IT consultants are having to juggle the need to be knowledgeable about the industry and have access to the best technology, with the ability to know how to solve any issues on the spot, it’s estimated that more than half of all employees will require significant reskilling this year. This can negatively impact project efficiency as additional training is time consuming and costly – so IT consultants will need to rethink traditional approaches. Technology must play a crucial role in this strategy.

1. Don’t be a digital laggard – welcome in the next era of intelligent automation

Digital transformation has remained a top business priority as firms are under increasing pressure to deliver projects faster, more efficiently, and within tighter budgets to meet customer expectations. Yet, the reality is that 70% of transformations fail to deliver – with the inability to source the right human abilities to complement processes becoming a primary cause. In fact, 54% of organisations believe the digital talent gap is hampering ongoing digital transformation programmes. So what can businesses do to alleviate this pressure?

Automation remains a crucial business gamechanger. PSA (Professional Services Automation) software can remove the need for employees to carry out time-consuming tasks such as network configurations by automating these processes, reducing the chance of human error, and increasing the productivity without the need for extensive reskilling. So, for instance, firms can benefit from simplified project planning which ensures the right resources are assigned to the right project at the right time, making it easier to manage all resources. Time and expense management tools within a PSA software also allow IT consultancy firms to see how long projects are expected to run. This ensures that companies can balance out taking on new projects as well as maintaining the efficiency of existing ones.

Automate some of the HR processes as well

Talent retention is a key focus for IT consultancy firms in 2023, however many firms find that current employee support processes are a drain on existing capacity, drawing employees away from completing billable project work. This doesn’t have to be the case with support from advanced business management platforms. For instance, dedicated HR modules integrated into the existing technology stack can automate a large proportion of manual recruitment processes and shorten the onboarding timeframe. When combined with other capabilities within the business management platform, this helps IT consultancy firms rapidly identify skillsets, resources, and spare capacity that can be assigned to the most appropriate project or team. Managers in turn avoid the risk of overburdening employees or under-resourcing certain projects, which can keep productivity and satisfaction levels high.

2. Support the evolving hybrid paradigm by reallocating resources

The rise of new working models has created more disparate teams with a need for greater connectivity. With 85% of working adults wanting to use a hybrid approach, consultancy firms unable to offer the correct technology to support alternative ways of working will quickly encounter issues of low employee retention and struggle to persuade new candidates to get onboard. To overcome this challenge, firms can focus on bringing in real-time communication tools that provide teams with the ability to message with ease and improve collaboration, regardless of location.

The ability to manage several ongoing projects at once can be an ongoing struggle for firms without the right digital support to ascertain whether there is enough consultants available with the right expertise to start another project. Integrated solutions such as D365 Project Operations can be the solution to provide a greater level of transparency, allowing resource managers to easily book consultants based on their availability, location, and skill set within the company for specific projects. This overcomes the issue of having to hire from a particular region and ensures that the best talent is secured for specific projects to meet customer expectations.

IT consultancy firms can introduce a reactive shift in processes with the right integrated system to manage the entire project lifecycle – resolving both resource management issues and ensuring efficient people management. This allows businesses to streamline employee scheduling and task management to increase productivity for both the operational and administrative parts of the business.

3. Strengthen the first line of cybersecurity defence

Security posture is only as good as the weakest link, which for many businesses is its employees. The hybrid landscape has brought new concerns related to data leakage and a rise in phishing attacks caused by workers’ home routers and other external technology touchpoints. Proper defence requires an increase in cybersecurity talent, but this is in short supply. According to the (ISC)2 2021 Cyber Workforce Report, the global cybersecurity workforce needs to grow 65% to effectively defend organisations’ critical assets. All IT consultancy firms know that the more data a company holds, the more at risk it will be to breaches and/or losses – but what is the solution?

Evergreen cloud automation tools can bring a unified approach to monitoring multiple clouds and remove the pressure on internal IT teams, particularly when it comes to defining custom security policies and compliance rules specific to unique business needs. For instance, IT consultancy firms can introduce additional measures, such as file permissions and authorisation, which streamline data and can be easily adjusted based on user requirements. This will enable firms to provide authorisation on selected files and devices, offering access only for those who they want to share information with and allow editing capabilities.

The benefits of cloud cybersecurity are extensive, but businesses often miss out on being able to take advantage of all of them and build a security-first culture due to a lack of resources – and this is where Managed Services Providers (MSPs) come in to protect organisations against multiple, complex security threats around the clock. As experts in current and next-generation threats and vulnerabilities, MSPs allow internal IT consultancy teams to get on with managing the core business without having to worry about cybersecurity reskilling.

These security experts will cover firewall and antivirus management, endpoint protection, and identity governance to manage vulnerabilities and threats through their lifecycle by continuous monitoring, analysis, and reporting. This allows businesses to anticipate and target breaches before they occur and significantly reduce the risk of cyberattacks, downtime, and data loss.

Mind the gap – address the future of work challenges today

The skills shortage is not going to disappear overnight – but this shouldn’t limit future business growth. A robust digital infrastructure will be paramount to support existing workforces – and expertise from Managed Services Providers can go the extra mile to alleviate ongoing pressure on internal teams.

Digital technologies can bridge the skills divide and support consultancy firms as they take the necessary next steps to become digitally mature. Continuous employee education and training is something that all businesses need to invest in to boost talent retention and satisfaction. After all, skilled employees are not only happier but bring more value to the business regardless of the industry they're in.

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Toby Mankertz

Toby Mankertz

Principal Advisor – Business Transformation

Columbus UK

Member since

17 Mar 2023

Location

Nottingham

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