Geoff Smith, Managing Director, Experis Europe
Digital capability has fast become one of the most important differentiators in modern business. This is especially true in the finance world, where innovative technology can improve systems and processes to enhance efficiency, help reduce costs, and offer a competitive edge. This means that the expectations placed on technology teams have grown considerably in recent years.IT teams now need to play a central role in helping firms deliver a better standard of service than competitors by embracing the latest digital technologies. Our recent Tomorrow’s Tech Teams research examined the structure and purpose of IT departments today, finding that both IT leaders and workers face huge challenges in delivering these technologies; leading to struggles in turning valuable data into actionable insights and integrating new financial cloud systems.
More worryingly, the report alsoreveals that the IT leaders of UK businesses think their teams are not currently fit for purpose. In fact, on average, they think they’rea staggering four years behind their most innovative competitors. Almost one in three IT leaders statethat their teams need to be completely overhauled in order to drive digital transformation in their business.
Understanding the skills challenge
Our research found that two-thirds of IT leaders thinktheir teamslack the expertise to push the company forward, but they could increase overall productivity by 31% if their teams had the right balance of IT skills, knowledge and experience.Supporting this, a recent report from The Science and Technology Committee suggests that 12.6 million adults lack basic digital skills and the IT skills gap, as a result, is predicted to cost the UK economy around £63bn a year in lost income.
However,according to IT workers, the majority (71%)feel that their skills and knowledge are not being fully utilised by their organisations. They believe this is mainly due to a lack of investment (46%) and up-to-date training (34%).
What is clear from the research is thatIT departments are not currentlyin a fit state to change from being a largely reactive service to being at the heart of business strategy and innovation.
So how can organisations overcome this challenge and achieve digital transformation?
Step one: Review
The first step, for any business, is toconsider how their IT team currently operates and interacts with the rest of the business. For example,if your IT team still works in isolation,your first action is to review existing procedures and ensure they are fully integrated with other departments, such as finance, to deliver strategic analysis for the wider business.
A thorough review not only looks at how existing capabilities meet current business requirements but also the ideal future skill set. This can be done through performance reviews and more informal weekly catch-ups discussing employees’ existing skills, challenges and focus areas. These conversations must align withthe wider company vision and strategy so that employees are not only aware of the organisation’s direction, but are in support of it. This will provide businesses with the required insights to assess where they need to improve in order to achieve their goals.
Step two: Get creative
Business and IT leaders should encourage employees to think creatively about the projects they’re working on, questioning existing processes and thinking about how they can be enhanced. Embracing new technologies will be a big part of this, and who better to adviseon new technologies than the IT team. Whether it’s designing and implementing the latest mobile app or delivering cloud accounting services, it is imperative that a strong business case is developed to demonstrate how investment in a new service can boost turnover or help reduce costs.
Step three: Up-skill your team
Developing a creative team can be supported by tailored training and development. For example, providing regular interactive sessions and online forums for discussing challenges and ideas, short training videos or mentoring schemes can all help to build a culture of creativity and knowledge sharing.
Training programmes need to be developed with the overall business goals in mind, while at the same time assisting the career aspirations and needs of the individual. They need to be bespoke not just in their content but also in how they are delivered to employees. People will respond to different training stimuli and environments in different ways, so ensure you are meeting their needs by providing a wide range of training methods. In addition, offering an employee the opportunity to work on a project within a different area of the business, such as automating manual finance processes, will allow them to gain exposure to wider operations and enhance their skills at the same time.
By ensuring that the right structures and development programmes are in place, tech teams will become more productive, strategic and driven to achieve digital transformation that will deliver on business goals now and in the future.