As disruptive as technologies have been in the recent past, artificial intelligence (AI) and other advances bring unprecedented change to organizations and society. Most U.K. executives (73 percent) believe that AI will disrupt their industry over the next three years and transform the nature of competition. What’s more, 77 percent expect the IT workforce to change dramatically and 76 percent think required skills and talent sourcing will evolve over this time.
Yet while executives in the U.K. predict massive change ahead, four out of five think that their current IT workforce skills are sufficient to meet their company’s needs in the coming years. With major tech players scrambling right now for top AI talent, this may be wishful thinking.
A defining moment for IT
U.K. executives plan to use a variety of traditional tactics such as recruiting, training and leveraging contractors to address emerging technology capabilities. But the pressure to compete—along with the accelerating pace of disruption—is causing companies to look for less conventional ways to secure IT skills. For example, half of U.K. executives say that their company is likely to acquire a company to get specialized skills. This “acqui-hire” trend is taking hold across many industries. Will unconventional moves like this be enough to fill impending technology skills gaps?
Confidence is high—but AI is knocking
Our research reveals that executives across industries, markets and company sizes are confident that the current workforce is ready to meet IT needs over the next three years. In the U.K., executives are also confident that the AI revolution is on their doorstep.
- Thirty-six percent view AI as a top strategic priority now.
- 35 percent expect it to become one within a year.
- 80 percent think that the IT workforce will include both humans and robots in the next three years.
When asked about their current IT workforce’s AI skills, 47 percent of U.K. executives call them adequate. Yet as companies scale up AI-related initiatives, technology skills that seem adequate now could rapidly become insufficient.
AI skills are scarce. Closing this skills gap with traditional approaches may not be possible. With the unparalleled impact that AI technologies will have on jobs, processes and business models, a deep understanding of a company’s operations will become increasingly important for the IT workforce. Businesses will likely struggle to unlock the full value of AI if they rely on managed service providers and contractors.
The need for very different skills as AI automates and augments IT jobs and creates new ones will make it even harder to unlock value. Human-centered skills like problem solving, judgment, communication and empathy will be critical for IT to succeed at human-machine collaboration.
An edge from ecosystems
Companies are straddling the old and the new in sourcing technology talent. As they have in the past, companies plan on hiring full-time employees and using managed service providers and external partners and contractors to meet their IT capability needs over the next five years.
As for what’s new, companies are also interested in crowdsourcing as well as talent pools and on-demand labor. Talent sourcing partnerships are changing. A partnership does not have to be a one-to-one relationship with an IT staffing firm. Boundaries are disappearing as multiple organizations join together to create talent ecosystems where talent can be trained and sourced in new ways. These approaches connect organizations to vast talent ecosystems so they get the technology skills they need how and when they need them.
Getting IT done
To harness something as transformative as AI, U.K. companies need to transform too. Here’s where they should start:
Reimagine the IT organization—and ways of working
Drive outcomes and agility by reorganizing technical and business roles into product-focused teams. With design thinking and rapid prototyping, U.K. IT organizations can explore the viability of ideas and rapidly scale the best ones.
Scale up “new skilling” in IT
Embark on pilots with select emerging technologies and periodically review and prioritize the skills required to fully scale them. U.K. IT leaders should be prepared to make addressing skills gaps an ongoing exercise.
Be creative in building talent ecosystems
Make the most of talent ecosystems by taking a sky’s-the-limit approach. Academic partnerships, apprenticeship programs—and even gaming conventions—can be rich sources for both technical and human-centered skills.