IT leaders' challenges: A shortage of talent and a need to reinvent cultures

Monday 06 May 2019
Mansoor Sarwar

By Mansoor Sarwar, Director - Technical Services and Pre-Sales at Sage Middle East.

CIOs today must master the difficult balance between managing the risks of deploying immature technologies and those of being left behind by emerging, disruptive trends if they are to help their businesses drive profitable growth in the years to come.

Disruptive technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will transform the way we do business over the decade, yet they are not quite ready for prime-time deployment. In the Middle East, countries like the UAE have launched a national strategy for AI to make it an integral part of business and government services. Organisations in the UAE have started to experiment with the tech in non-critical applications so that they are ready when the technologies go mainstream. For instance, Bee’ah, the leading environmental management company in the UAE, recently announced that its new headquarters will be the first fully AI integrated building in the region.

IoT plus blockchain will enable a wide variety of new business opportunities in the future. Though they are evolving, they have a decade or more before they are truly mature. A lack of standardisation, the business process changes it will demand, and the impact of large ledger sizes on network and computing resources are among the challenges for blockchain.

It's time to experiment (and learn)

Constant experimentation and innovation are essential if companies are to keep up with the rate of change.

We recommend doing 6-8-week experiments to start the digital transformation journey. Fail fast, fix, and move on. But organisations that start this journey will find themselves challenged by a shortage of digital talent, difficulties in scaling up small-scale experiments and a need to reinvent organisational cultures for constant innovation.

Where is the talent?

Organisations need strong in-house technical knowledge and skills in IoT and blockchain to manage vendor risk in these emerging areas. Companies need people able to evaluate the specialist offerings from niche vendors so that they can make good choices in a complex and constantly changing landscape.

One thing's for sure: top quality IT talent has never been in more demand, so make sure your business is set up to attract and retain it.

Innovation as part of the culture

Many large organisations are treating innovation and disruption as separate disciplines because of the challenges of driving change in an established business and securing the right skills. Companies are pursuing a slew of strategies to drive innovation in their businesses, ranging from setting up venture capital funds and incubators and investing in tech and digital companies to running innovation challenges and forming strategic alliances with tech companies.

Blockchain and IoT will one day affect everyone from risk and compliance to production to sales to finance. Every team needs to start to understand what these technologies mean for the company's future, and adopt innovation as part of its mandate.

It can't be stressed enough that innovation cannot happen in isolation - it must be part of the organisation's culture. The IT team needs to develop new skills and change its culture to support the organisation as it integrates new technologies into the business. They will need vision and storytelling skills to help the organisation prepare for this change.

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