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Digital transformation needs 'human skills', not just ‘tech skills’ to succeed, finds study

Digital transformation needs 'human skills', not just ‘tech skills’ to succeed, finds study
Photo Credit: Pixabay
20 May, 2022
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While technical skills are necessary for IT or digital transformation, technology without human skills will not advance business innovation. A recent global study shows that while organisations are making technology investments, they might not have the matching skills — and that’s hindering their overall digital transformation initiatives. 

The study titled: 'Upskilling IT 2022' conducted by DevOps Institute, a US-based professional member association and certification authority, showed that over 40% of survey respondents said that the resource and skill shortage are among the top three challenges impending IT transformation. The report, therefore, stressed that “companies should address this ‘technical debt’ by pairing it up with addressing ‘talent debt’.” 

The study noted that companies are investing in technology areas, ranging from security/risk management, data analysis, application or legacy modernisation, customer experience technologies to cloud migrations and more. “However, technology alone, without the humans who can implement them, won’t cut it,” it said. 

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That makes upskilling an organisational imperative. However, nearly half the respondents (48%) in the study said that their organisations do not have formal upskilling in place. These organisations point out many barriers to upskilling efforts, including, Lack of time and budget and most importantly lack of support from leadership teams, which can have a strong impact on any digital transformation success. 

Jayne Groll, CEO of DevOps Institute, said, “Without critical leadership, there is no one to shape the learning culture. Strong human skills like collaboration, communication, and social adeptness remain essential to a company’s IT transformation journey.” 

Of the various technical skills, the report has listed a variety of semi-new emerging topics such as DataOps, artificial intelligence, machine learning and augmented and virtual reality. These skills, according to the study, require strong human expertise. And that’s reflected in recent hiring trends. 

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For example, the study identified ‘operations engineers’ is the most in-demand job title, with 60% of respondents planning to recruit for this position in the next one year. But there is an acute skills shortage in this area. Besides, DevOps engineer, software engineer, site reliability engineer, infrastructure engineer and automation architect are the top five job titles that are in demand in the coming months. 

On the criticality of human skills, the study showed that nine out of 10 respondents suggested ‘collaboration and cooperation’ as top human skills capabilities. However, organisations see a lot of skill gaps in these areas. Additionally, diversity and inclusion rose in importance as must-have critical human skills. 

"It was not surprising to learn that teams are spending time and money on tool-related training," said DevOps Institute's Chief Research Officer, Eveline Oehrlich, adding that in the process, however, other skills must be ignored.” 

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“If we pair this finding with the fact that the biggest barrier toward upskilling was not having time, I am tempted to conclude the following: individuals are saying 'upskilling is not a priority for me unless it is technical.' I would advise taking a look at the human skill gaps, which (according to our survey) are collaboration and cooperation, creativity and entrepreneurship and interpersonal skills,” she said, adding that “Unfortunately, without developing these human skills, success, and outcomes will be difficult to achieve." 

“The 2022 data shows that managing 'talent debt alongside technical debt' maintains competitiveness and drives organisational growth. As leaders manage the shortage of skilled individuals, they must embrace a continuous learning environment to expedite organisational transformation and remain competitive in the market,” Oehrlich said. 

study conducted by Salesforce in April 2021 found that 72% of workers claim they’d be more engaged with work if their company increased investments in training (upskilling), and 69% believe support from top management has helped them in their upskilling efforts and has made them ‘happier’ at work.

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