TORONTO – Every business dipping its toe into the digital age is worrying about the skills gap. So what can they do to tackle that gap and accrue talent?
As a senior leader of Avanade since its conception in 2000, and its CEO since 2008, Adam Warby is specifically equipped to help answer this question. ITWC had a chance to sit down with Warby to discuss accruing talent, the remote workforce, digital ethics and automation, and digital transformation.
In part one of our Q/A with Warby, he discusses how businesses can tackle the skills gap and accrue talent in this digital age.
This is part one in a four-part interview.
Part two on the remote workforce.
Part three on digital ethics and its role in the development of AI and automation.
The following is an edited transcript.
ITWC: The skills gap seems to be a constant concern in IT, although students coming out of school would argue that there are not enough jobs. Is the gap as great of a concern as many believe it to be?
Adam Warby: There are a lot of paradoxes like that in this digital world. As you can imagine, I’ve lived through three decades now of IT. I’ve seen a lot of changes in skills in that period, and I think the thing that creates gaps in skills is the pace of change, and that’s what is creating the issue now. Technology does obsolete certain skills.
We, for instance, are doing no on-premises exchange migrations or upgrades right now to talk of. What we are doing is cloud, and Office 365. The skills gaps are real, the question is how big is the gap and how long will it take to close, and we spend a lot of time thinking about the demand and supply of talent.
I think some of the new skills and capabilities that are coming up centers more around creative thinking, creative design, and business analysis, because systems and systems implementation is moving from being a typical product structure to being much more agile and experience related. Those things are changing the types of skills, and that’s where some of the biggest gaps are in the market.
From a Canadian perspective, I don’t know the market too well, but from what I perceive from our business that Jeff [Gilchrist, Avanada Canada’s general manager] runs here, is that Canada has the benefit of a very diverse and rich marketplace, especially here in Toronto. I think that as long as you have that, you have a chance at being able to keep up and get people skilled.
ITWC: How can businesses take advantage of this perceived skills gap and accrue talent? How can they close the gap?
Warby: We have this term – people ecosystem – and it refers to thinking of your talent not just within your four walls, but across your own ecosystem. I think people need to look outside of their own four walls to partnerships and connections they can have outside of their business. They need to plan for the types of skills that they need. That is often one of the biggest pitfalls most people find, is trying to create skills on demand, and that’s quite hard to do.
So as an example, at Avanade, we’ve seen a very significant increase in the demand around Microsoft’s dynamics suite and capabilities. We kind of saw that building and so we started to run boot camps and training programs. We’ve gone onto new campuses to find people that are interested in getting involved with customer experience. So I think forward looking, look outside your four walls, and investing in the two or three most important skills you think will help your future.
ITWC: Is the popularity of Silicon Valley waning as other cities or regions expand their technology presence? I.e. Toronto/Waterloo and Vancouver?
Warby: I don’t really look at it that way. I think of it more in terms of what is happening in our clients industries. Whether it is financial services, retail, or manufacturing, what is happening with the shifts in those industries and the change in the demands of skills there.
For sure, Silicon Valley is a growth place and the heart of innovation for our industry called technology, but not everyone wants to live there, and not everyone wants to be in the tech world. We think of it from the client back and what does it mean for somebody who is interested in reinventing retail for example. That’s a fun business thing to do – not everyone wants to invent the next techy thing.
ITWC: When you see the Canadian government make a move like helping Thomson Reuters make the move back to Canada, what does that tell you?
Warby: I think the cities that are competing for talent, and making proactive investment incentives, are all important. London, where I live and work, has to compete on a global scale too, and we are going through our own interesting changes and debates on whether or not London will be a more attractive place to work, depending on what happens with the Brexit topic.
I think Toronto is doing some good things, and you see it in Europe in places like Berlin that are trying to create centers of innovation. We all need to tap into those places that want to lead and create a good environment for us to build skills.