Innovation at scale could be hampered by digital skills shortage in Southeast Asia, IDC research shows

A global skills deficit presents an important hurdle for enterprises aspiring to scale digital initiatives.

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Asia-Pacific is witnessing increasing demand for digital talent and capabilities as a result of digital transformation initiatives, according to IDC’s latest IT services forecast.

To succeed in their move from proof of concept (POC) to enterprise-wide digital transformation strategies, firms in ASEAN and the wider Asia-Pacific region are looking for service partners that can help them bring ‘innovation at scale’.

This, combined with a shortage of skilled staff, is likely to change the role of IT services providers from “transactional partners” to “true collaborative partners,” according to IDC.

Sandra Ng, group VP of practice group at IDC Asia-Pacific, defines innovation at scale as the ability to develop or create innovations in a sustainable fashion so that the impact on business is wide and deep.

“To qualify as such, these innovations have to make a difference to financials, brand value and company valuation,” she says. 

By 2023, a quarter of all organisations in Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) will begin implementing a strategy for enterprise wide innovation at scale, according to IDC.

For CIOs in ASEAN this means that the IT function will only be more relevant as technologies play an increasing role in all industries and processes, says Ng. “However,” she warns, “this is provided that the function can add value and contribute to the business.”

Skills shortage

With the increased demand for digital talent, the global technology industry is experiencing a skills crunch. By 2030, experts predict that the technology sector will face a labour-skills shortage that will reach 4.3 million workers.

Southeast Asia is no exception. Indonesia, for example, is at the top of the list of countries expected to be most affected if preventive measures are not taken, with a US$21.8 billion impact just within the technology, media, and telecommunications sector.

This skills deficit, if not properly addressed, will pose an important obstacle to the region’s innovation at scale initiatives. 

To tackle this shortage, IDC says that businesses in the region are focusing on building both technical and business skills by investing in country-specific local learning hubs, online and offline training emphasising knowledge transfer, and change management initiatives from its engaged technology providers.

Although the skills gap isn’t affecting CIOs alone, IDC’s Ng offers CIOs several recommendations for how they can address the challenge and minimise its effects.

These include reskilling the current workforce; bringing new talent from universities and technical colleges via internship programs (and converting the most suitable interns upon graduation); augmenting capabilities from IT vendors (IT services firms including consulting arms), and co-innovating with startups and ecosystem partners.

Ultimately, cross-country cooperation and continued adoption of industry-led programmes are a must to ensure the region can close the skills gap, and keep it closed.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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