Posted on 25/07/2017 by Gary Fay
With great upheaval comes great challenges, and if 2017 can be summed up in a word, upheaval must be near the front of the queue. Politically, sociologically, technologically - the world feels like it’s built on fast-moving sands.
In cybersecurity, business IT and digital transformation, things are no less secure: recent high-profile hacks have made worldwide headlines, and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), aimed at protecting the use and storage of personal data, has caused tremors across all industries - particularly in IT where the challenges are technical. And finally Brexit, with all its uncertainty, looks set to define a generation.
This Holy (or Unholy, whichever way you look at it) Trinity makes up the three biggest challenges facing the IT industry right now, and the bottom line is that they are all inextricably linked. Let’s assess each in detail.
No matter what the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, the government and the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) have indicated that GDPR is probably here to stay. As the most wide-ranging legislation ever proposed for the management of EU citizen data, the impact on any firm with a digital footprint (tantamount to all firms in this day and age) is considerable.
Business IT firms will be looking to cybersecurity and IT experts for advice and assurance, as they juggle increasingly complex customer data sets and modern digital transformation.
It’s all about accountability and consent: a business needs to know the data they hold, how it’s stored and handled, and the way it was collected. Then it needs to make customers and clients aware of how they intend to use that data, and make that information available on request. It’s imperative that startups and established digital businesses alike have the right skills in place to take a holistic look at the technologies they deploy and the services they offer.
GDPR, as we’ve said before, is not a legislative challenge, it’s a technical one. And for many businesses, eyes will invariably turn to IT, particularly those with experience of implementing digital change, to advise on best practice of managing these new demands on data handling.
Which brings us to our next challenge.
Brexit (and Talent)
OK, we’re cheating here, but the two go hand in hand. Brexit overall has been the elephant in the room for over a year now, and is likely to remain there for at least two more. As a result, the overriding theme is one of uncertainty.
In the immediate aftermath of the vote in 2016, some large digital players, particularly in London’s fintech industry, suggested that a relocation to continental Europe could be on the cards. In recent months, however, the industry has been more optimistic, with Ford joining a number of multinationals in building new tech hubs in the UK, ‘despite Brexit’. With the financial outlook looking gloomy - the slowest-growing advanced economy in the world according to the recent IMF reports - Brexit will impact every business, whether directly or indirectly.
More specifically, by far the biggest impact of Brexit on the UK IT industry is in talent. And there are two issues. First, the UK is by far the most popular destination for Europe’s highly skilled workers, With the free movement of labour taken away, it becomes much harder to tempt these workers to these shores, and much less attractive for a workforce who could easily aim for Germany or France instead.
The second problem is with the talent that is already here. According to a recent Deloitte study, 47% of high skilled workers from the EU were considering leaving the UK in the next five years.
On the cybersecurity front, the skills shortage has been well publicised. As a result, some businesses are turning to skilled contract staff in the short term. However, unlike the last contractor crisis, the Y2K panic, which was very much ‘fix and forget’, cybersecurity will be an ongoing concern. This has led to a situation where permanent salaries are growing faster than contract rates, as businesses look to put their in-house expertise on a more secure footing.
Some have suggested that the shortage may be the result of businesses looking for fully formed experts, rather than being prepared to upskill more junior staff. The same could be said for GDPR expertise, with training companies falling over themselves to provide GDPR education for staff at all levels. In times of economic constraint, training budgets are often the first to be slashed, but the IT industry may do this at its peril.
Artificial Intelligence promises to be the single biggest disruptor to the job market since the industrial revolution, and although AI is still in its infancy, we’re already seeing the impact in the jobs market. Virtual and artificial reality, meanwhile, are transforming the way businesses train their staff, and the way international teams communicate and collaborate. Cybersecurity is a constant and consistent battle, with more and more hacks hitting the headline. And on the horizon, quantum computing is moving sharply into view.
With so much change, so rapidly, the challenge for digital and business transformation teams is in moving quickly, and future proofing a company’s IT systems to allow for change.
The challenge doesn’t solely lie with IT either - business leaders have a responsibility to put digital agility at the heart of the business’ culture. Standing still in the current climate isn’t just moving backwards; it’s the equivalent of plummeting backwards off a cliff with an anvil instead of a parachute.
We’re in a period of uncertainty which hasn’t been seen for at least a decade. Technology is moving faster than ever before, and the only thing predictable in the political landscape is unpredictability. The changes in legislation will have a huge impact on everything from data to employment.
For candidates (and employers), it’s essential to look holistically at the challenges facing the industry as a whole, understand your place in the ecosystem and tool up/skill up to future proof your employability.
In a time of uncertainty, it pays to be prepared. And we’re committed to putting our candidates first. Take a look at our candidate charter