Building Enterprises of The Future by Creating a Digitally-Skilled Workforce

This post is by Prakash Menon, President, Global Retail Business, NIIT Ltd.

Connected homes, where appliances ‘talk’ to one another and their users, sharing with them vital information about what’s running out and what’s needed. Mobile phones that beep messages, informing consumers about discount sales in the very places they love to shop. Robots that not only work in factories, but even help the chef quickly chop up his greens. Traffic lights that respond to the flow patterns of cars and change accordingly.

No, we are not talking about a futuristic, sci-fi scenario. This is what we are witnessing in the world we live in today. The future is already here and we are all enveloped in a Digital bubble. Yes, individuals, organizations and nations are caught up in what has been christened the Fourth Industrial Revolution—Digital Transformation (DT). It is a phase where a host of Digital technologies—Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Nanotechnology, 3D printing, biotechnology, Social, Mobility, Cloud, Analytics and what have you—are at work and bringing unmatched benefits to their implementers.

A study by the World Economic Forum (WEF) titled ‘Future of jobs’ talks about the developments that are taking place in these areas, which are laying the foundation for an upheaval that is more comprehensive and all encompassing than anything ever seen before. “Smart systems—homes, factories, farms, grids or cities—will help tackle problems ranging from supply chain management to climate change”, the research states. It is apparent then that Digital will address some of the critical problems that countries are presently confronting.

Joining the DT bandwagon

As the Digital wave sweeps across nations in fact, it is becoming imperative, especially for enterprises to get on the Digital Transformation path. What they need to do is usher in change within, in order to sync with the times. There is no time to waste and a proactive approach is critical. Laggards are likely to lose their market edge, and truly trail behind rivals who have reacted rapidly. On the other hand, companies that have taken cognizance of the Digital Transformation phenomenon, been sprightly and agile, and rolled out measures to ‘go Digital’ are expected to be rewarded with greater global competitiveness, higher productivity, efficiency and above all, profitability.

The DT skills conundrum

While many countries and organizations are already taking advantage of Digital technologies, several continue to be Digitally immature. Currently, it is the market leaders and larger enterprises that have successfully transitioned into the Digital Transformation space by leveraging the power of Digital through the use of new age business models.

Other companies and government departments need to follow suit. However, the fact remains that many nations and enterprises are facing significant challenges in their ‘go Digital’ journeys. Key among them is a paucity of manpower that has state-of-the-art DT skills.

Take the instance of the UK, a developed country that in the view of expert Martha Lane Fox, the force behind UK’s Digital Transformation efforts, is experiencing a severe shortage of DT talent. In her opinion, around “16 million people—including technology savvy millennials—lack the basic Digital skills to fully benefit from the Internet”.

A Digital Transformation report by Cisco also points to the fact that employees worldwide are disinclined to change and that 87 percent workers are disengaged from the Digital Transformation processes within organizations.

Creating the requisite DT talent pipeline

Talent in requisite numbers which is committed to DT, is therefore the need of the hour. It is what enterprises require to develop a robust and supportive eco-system for furthering and fueling the DT trend. While they may have set up significant DT infrastructure on their turfs, it is meaningless without a workforce that can handle Digital technologies.

This is important as according to Accenture, the smarter use of Digital skills, technologies and other assets could boost productivity and generate USD 2 trillion of additional economic output globally by 2020!

If DT skills are an impediment as well as crucial requirement, then they are the resource that has to be put in place first. Countries have to create a vast pool of trained DT professionals and enterprises have to upskill their employees with key Digital skill sets. These need to be in areas such as Big Data, IoT/Machine2Machine (M2M), Cloud/Platforms, Social Media, Mobility, Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. Knowledge of industry verticals is a must as are soft skills such as team play, creativity and Design Thinking. Skills in envisioning, designing, manufacturing, operating, and servicing DT, are important as well.

Since people have to be trained to fit profiles of Digital Leaders, Digital Innovators, Digital Developers, Digital workers and Digital citizens, they additionally need to be equipped with knowledge of business trends, high-end mathematical skills, product life cycle management, product manufacturing, software development methodologies, basic functional literacy skills, and at the lowest end, knowledge of computers and smart devices, the Internet and office software.

Within enterprises, employees will have to scale their capabilities by undergoing special DT training programs. Individuals wishing to build careers in the DT realm will have to be made aware of its high potential in terms of remuneration. News is that DT professionals are likely to draw salaries that are at least 50-60 percent higher than the industry average!

And yes, there are enough and more institutions that can help young people and professionals to equip themselves with DT skills. Organizations such as global talent and skills development company NIIT, a leader for over three decades in IT education, are already riding the DT wave and preparing the world for this Fourth Industrial Revolution. In the last year itself NIIT has launched a wide portfolio of courses—including its pioneering DigiNxt series, its cutting-edge platform and the StackRoute offering to create advanced-level programmers—to build human resources well versed in DT.

Quite clearly then, the Digital era is upon the world and expected to radically alter the world of work in the near future. Knowing this, enterprises will have to arm themselves with DT workforce to stay ahead in the markets where they play. This is no longer just a need, but an imperative.

Image Credit: Applico

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