Nick Lowe, Vice President of Sales, EMEA
If there’s one thing everyone working in the IT industry is familiar with, it’s the skills gap. The issue has been prevalent over the last few years, with businesses struggling to find and retain talent with the required level of technological expertise.
For example, 94% of employers believe the tech industry is facing a skills gap, while 43% of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) vacancies are proving to be hard to fill – primarily due to a shortage of applicants with the required skills and experience – according to the UK Commission for Employment & Skills.
In terms of specific areas, cybersecurity is particularly affected. The 2017 (ISC)2 Global Information Security Workforce Survey predicts that the industry is on pace to reach a workforce gap of 1.8 million by 2022, with a shortage of 350,000 cybersecurity personnel across Europe.
Simply put, the number of people entering the workforce with the required technical proficiency has failed to keep up with the increasing demand of technological development.
Clearly, the skills gap is still a major issue for organisations of all sizes, but it’s not the only expertise-related challenge that businesses and IT departments are having to deal with. As IT operators and security architects have become overworked, the issue of talent and time wastage has also become more and more prevalent.
What is talent wastage?
With security-skilled personnel proving to be in short supply, it’s essential that businesses ensure employees are working as efficiently as possible. However, too many organizations are guilty of wasting the valuable technology skills at their disposal.
The reality for the majority of businesses today is that their overstretched IT teams are swamped with avoidable IT issues, unscheduled activities and time-intensive administrative tasks that end up consuming a significant proportion of their time.
For example, research suggests that IT professionals spend an average of 29% of every working day reacting to unplanned incidents or emergencies, which equates to more than 14 weeks a year.
The other issue is that as networks become more complex, routine tasks take up more time than they should. Activities such as analysing and planning network changes, as well as fixing problems that arise due to policy misconfiguration, are extremely inefficient, resulting in IT and security teams becoming further stretched.
This is especially true for large enterprises, where corporate networks are constantly evolving and consist of an intricate mix of platforms and services that all have to be managed and secured.
The combination of these factors means that the technical skills of network security teams are not being put to optimal use and are in fact affecting operational effectiveness. Staff members’ talents – and time – are being wasted on mundane manual tasks.
So, what can enterprises do to make the lives of their IT personnel easier and ensure that their skills are not going to waste? Well, it all comes down to finding ways of minimising the amount of time being spent fighting fires and handling manual, time-consuming issues.
Automate the arduous tasks
Automation plays a central role. In many cases, the most arduous activities, such as firewall rule clean-up and server decommissioning, could be automated. This will create time for strategic projects that add real value to the business, such as hunting for advanced persistent threats (APTs).
Policy-driven automation will help network security teams become more efficient, with policy changes being implemented in minutes instead of days and security controls being tightened. Automation can also relieve the pressure of preparing for audits and reporting on compliance and ultimately reduce time spent managing security and troubleshooting connectivity across the hybrid network.
Enterprises therefore need to incorporate tools and solutions that streamline the management of security policies and automatically flag policy violations as they arise. This will significantly simplify the task for network security teams, enabling them to complete changes to the network in a fraction of the time – ultimately improving efficiency. Not only does it improve efficiency, it frees them up to perform more sophisticated functions that improve the business’ overall security.
What’s more, automation also reduces the risk of human error – meaning network security teams won’t waste time having to go back and fix misconfigurations – and is likely to result in more satisfied and productive employees.
Not only can automation help network security teams deal with the complexity of corporate networks, it can also eradicate human error, improve compliance, and ensure security keeps up with business agility and speed.
But most importantly, it can free up valuable resources – the most valuable resource being time – to focus on more complex tasks that are essential for revenue growth and directly impact the bottom line. This will enable IT talents to be optimized rather than wasted with both the business and employees reaping the rewards.
WITHOUT C-SUITE COLLABORATION DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IS UNLIKELY TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITHIN FINANCIAL SERVICES
By Nick Gold, founder and Chief Executive of Speaker’s Corner
A path to digital transformation
Mapping a clear path is essential for companies undergoing digital transformation. Responsibility for driving digital transformation across the enterprise lies with the C-suite. The CEO, chief marketing officer (CMO), chief human resources officer (CHRO) and chief operations officer (COO), among others, must work together to make the transformation happen. However, this can be difficult to achieve as certain members of the C-Suite are more proficient with technology than others. This article will look at how to overcome resistance/challenges at a senior level to any digital transformation strategy.
Working and evolving alongside the digital revolution
The fourth industrial revolution, where technology meets disruption via the Internet of Things, robotics, virtual reality and artificial intelligence, are fundamentally changing the way we live and work. This journey is taking us further into a world which we are only starting to understand.
We can see this most clearly in the finance sector, where at every stage of this revolution an area of this industry has been targeted and disrupted. As leading thinkers and exponents from the finance sector have shared their stories through their speeches, explaining the current impact and forecasting what will happen next, it is clear that for both the most established companies alongside the new wave of digitally lead fintech companies, change is part of the regular business cycle.
But having the processes and procedure in place to encourage change and be at the forefront of the digital revolution will be critical to the continued survival, let alone success, of companies within this sector.
As such, companies have realised that their processes, their products and even the reason for their entire existence needs to change in order to survive this revolution. However, the C-suite are struggling to adapt because this isn’t a clearly defined problem and there isn’t a historical precedent to follow.
How the finance sector deals with change
In days of old, a business problem would have been identified and a decision would be made to implement a technological solution. With the recommendation approved, the C suite, usually the Chief Technology Officer, would be tasked to deliver the project. This suited all the C suite members as it meant that the expertise of each member of the executive was clear and there was a clear delineation between their roles and responsibilities.
What fascinates me, especially in the finance sector, is for those established companies who historically have dealt with change (especially in the digital or technology space) by acquiring companies to utilise their technological systems and processes, this ‘traditional’ process for dealing with a changing marketplace is no longer as straight forward as it used to be.
Why is this? As I’m sure the reader is aware, the new fintech companies which disrupted the market, with their digital led strategy and processes, need to retain their cultural DNA to keep innovating and growing revenue.
But this doesn’t sit comfortable with the traditional model of acquiring a company and then integrating them into the processes of the buying company. The strengths of the new fintech company are being put at risk by this absorption and integration such that the company is potentially putting at risk the positive benefits for the acquisition.
The question is then posed for the acquirer, how do you integrate the new processes with all their benefits into the existing processes in an environment where the incumbents will be treating both the new company, new processes and new technological with a level of disdain and certainly a high level of suspicion, they are after all companies that have been leading the finance sector for many years
Building a strategic direction lies with the C-Suite
That mission sits squarely at the feet of the C Suite. Their role is to provide strategic direction for the company, understand the opportunities for the business and shape the vision and direction in order for the wonderful people who work for that company to deliver in their specific areas and for these people to see the challenge of change as an opportunity to develop and grow.
This moves the discussion at a C Suite level away from a technological based discussion, away from a place where there might be reticence due to an individual’s relationship with technology to either be part of the discussion or even worse, not commit to their viewpoints as they defer to other who they view as experts. It moves the transformation away from digital to strategic.
But digital transformation is nothing to do with the build and delivery of the systems, it is nothing to do with the evolution of the business processes to work with the new transformed business, but it is everything to do with the strategic path that the company needs to take in this new era.
The fourth industrial revolution, where change is happening at an ever increasing pace, requires the C Suite to have a clear understanding of critical milestones from a business perspective, with diversity of business views based on expertise and experience, to ensure large scale digital transformation programs stay on track to deliver the requirements for the survival, growth and success of their business.
DRIVING DIGITAL: HOW BUILDING SOCIETIES CAN THRIVE IN A NEW DECADE
Simon Healy, Industry Director Financial Services EMEA, Unisys
Building societies have been a feature of the UK’s financial landscape since the late 18th century, and these well-trusted institutions have played a key role in their local communities ever since – particularly when it comes to savings and mortgages. But recent years have presented serious challenges, and not just because of increased competition.
During the 2008 financial crisis, the sector ran into difficulties – often as the result of what proved to be ill-advised business diversification, like venturing into the sub-prime mortgage market, or corporate lending. In 2019, only 43 building societies remained active – and those who have survived have rightfully focused on consolidation, ensuring continuity of service for their valued customers.
Yet, as we enter a new decade, change is in the air. Most building societies are now in a much stronger position, contributing to a general sense that the time is right to start investing in the future. And – as you might imagine, given customer expectations and the focus of modern challenger banks – that future demands a highly digital, personalised approach.
Unfortunately, many building societies still have a reliance on manual processes, and have inherent constraints that limit their ability to innovate. This means that developing and distributing new digital capabilities can be challenging, with many feeling unsure of where to start.
So, what sort of digital offering should building societies spend their time developing – and how should they approach the process?
Belief in building societies: understanding the desire for digital
You only have to look at the rapid uptake of app-based banks like Monzo to understand that digital is desirable. But people aren’t seeking cutting-edge innovation in and of itself, which is good news for building societies. Instead, as Unisys’ recent research shows, customers are primarily motivated by fairly straightforward capabilities.
Our respondents claimed that convenience is one of the key drivers for choosing an account. So, in today’s digital world, it is perhaps no surprise that half say that online opening is important when they’re thinking about a new savings account, and 43% want online account management. A third would like access to a mobile app, and 34% are seeking omni-channel service, so that the service they receive in branch or on the phone is seamlessly integrated with their mobile, tablet or computer experience.
Nearly two in three customers feel that building societies should leverage the opportunities presented by the new Open Banking framework, with a third believing this would positively impact their personal finance management. And although not a traditional market for building societies, 86% of under 35s would be interested in a simple, intuitive digital current account from them.
Interestingly, and perhaps counter-intuitively, Unisys’ research shows that consumers are nearly seven times more likely to open a digital account with a building society than a digital bank, showing there is plenty of appetite – if only building societies are ready to take advantage.
Knowing this is one thing, of course, and building these capabilities in an environment that has traditionally relied on manual processes is quite another. Because while customer appetite for digital is high, delivering on it requires careful planning, not to mention a fundamental shift in mind-set.
Building societies should start by forensically understanding and assessing the actual wants and needs of their target customers. As we’ve already seen, the requirements of most are quite straightforward at a high level – so by taking the time to thoroughly understand digital drivers, building societies can segment customers more effectively, and gain a focused understanding of the features and services most valuable to them.
Once this has been established, they should be prepared to move in small, incremental steps. This might seem counterintuitive for a digital transformation project, especially since innovation teams are usually under pressure to show the ROI of their efforts. But moving too quickly can lead organisations to build capabilities that customers don’t actually want, squandering capital and resources.
A few years ago, after all, it was widely expected that tablets would be the primary method of accessing online banking. Now, it’s generally accepted that mobile-first is the strategy to focus on – and those who invested heavily in an experience optimised for tablet may feel they’ve wasted their resources somewhat. By moving incrementally, building societies will have the freedom to flex and pivot as market shifts like this occur.
A top-down change
This phased approach will also allow building societies to drive innovation across the entire organisation, rather than focusing on one particular area – like customer experience. Given the choice, most would prioritise a customer-facing app over investing in the employee experience. But while this works as a means of getting to market quickly, any digital innovation focused solely on the customer experience will soon fall down if it’s relying on paper-based, clunky or manual processes behind the scenes.
This is also tied to the need for a wider cultural mind-set shift, which necessitates buy-in from the top down. Senior stakeholders play an important role in influencing cultural change and moving transformation forward. And just as importantly, they can also overcome financial objections. The reality is, traditional revenue models aren’t particularly helpful for analysing the value of digital investment. An engaged stakeholder can ensure that the project isn’t derailed by objections on this front.
Innovation is by no means an easy process for building societies. But as we head into a new decade, the need for developing digital capabilities is clear. Consumers are keen to continue supporting their local building societies – but to build on this sentiment, organisations must take the time and the resource to build out their digital offering. If they can do so successfully, they’ll be well placed to thrive on the UK high street for many years to come.
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