By Diane van Zyl, Lead: Smart Skills Sourcing, at Altron Karabina
With the growing requirement to digitally transform operations amidst a scarcity of certain technology skills, businesses are now looking to alternative methods of securing the required expertise in a more sustainable manner. This includes sourcing talent on a short-term basis from partners with in-depth technology and industry expertise in order to fill the skills gap they might have, while also benefiting from not having to bear the costs of a full-time employee.
More than just moving a few things to the cloud, digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of the business, fundamentally changing how you operate and deliver value to customers. Most importantly, this transformation needs to be incremental, cost-effective and sustainable, and requires the blending of human and digital capabilities in order to build the company of the future. This is proving to be a challenge for many South African companies who are either unable to find people with the right expertise or do not have the budget to hire an expert full time, hindering their ability to get over the initial ‘hump’ of vision to execution.
The skills that are currently in high demand primarily relate to the demand for digital transformation and includes the following :
- Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning – big data developers, data analysts, data scientists, data engineers
- Cloud computing – cloud architects, cloud security specialists, cloud migration specialists
- Cybersecurity – information security, network security, cloud security services, web security and security architecture
- Mobile app development – programming skills, cross-platform development skills, agile methodology skills, user interface (UI)/ user experience (UX) skills
- Project management
- UX design – UX consultants, UX design specialists, UX researchers, product design consultant)
It should be noted however that this scarcity in talent does not always mean that the skills are not available locally. While the brain drain plays a role in this shortage, the rise in remote working brought on by the pandemic has also seen an increase in experienced technology professionals going the contract route in order to continue to benefit from a fully remote working environment. They know their skills are in high demand and can dictate what they want. Then, there may be highly skilled individuals available, but they are priced beyond what organisations have budgeted for.
Faced with this shifting environment, organisations are now adopting alternative approaches to sourcing skills and this can be observed in the local market. Traditionally, the approach has been for businesses to work with industry partners on a project basis, where project teams including project managers and implementation specialists are sent to deploy certain solutions. However, the pandemic has made organisations more aware of costs – and while they might not have the budget to have a large on-site team, they still need the critical skills in specific areas, for example reporting, where they require a BI report developer or a Power BI developer.
Altron Karabina, being an organisation that partners with businesses and understands the challenges that are inherent in their digital transformation journey, decided to set up a Smart Skills Sourcing (SSS) unit in order to add value to customers by giving them the opportunity to contract an experienced person who can make an immediate impact and add value to their projects, for a period of time that can range from three months to three years.
Sourcing skills smartly
Altron Karabina does the hard work of sourcing the right candidates, putting them through rigorous interview processes that apply to any other company employee. This includes both a technical interview and technical testing in their area of speciality as well as examining their communications skills. While the company is a Microsoft partner, it can source technology agnostic IT skills – with those people being tested by quality trusted external partners – that organisations need, ranging all the way from a database administrator, to project manager, to a solution architect.
Only when the company’s recruiters are comfortable that the candidates meet the right criteria are they even put in front of a customer. This means that customers are assured of having high quality, skilled, experienced and certified resources who can work on their projects or even fulfil ongoing requirements such as that for an IT risk manager.
To further lessen the burden on businesses, Altron Karabina continues to proactively manage these employees so that customers stand to gain the full benefit. Consultants have open lines of communication back to Altron Karabina and are taken care of by experienced people managers with backgrounds in areas such as psychology. There are also monthly check-ins with all of the consultants where they have a platform to raise any concerns that they might have. To instil a sense of belonging, consultants are also invited to town halls and break out sessions and have the opportunity to integrate with the rest of the staff and even upskill if they wish.
Taking this approach means that businesses are able to cut down on the expense and time needed to go through the whole recruitment process, which includes first finding suitable qualified candidates and then having to vet them. It also means that they can reduce the risk of bad hires as they can assess the performance of the consultant before deciding whether they want to keep them for a longer period, or even take them on permanently if the need arises – in essence, organisations get to try before they buy.