Workforce Transformation

Conclusion:

Australia was one of the fastest markets in the world to transition from Microsoft’s persistence licensing of Office and related services, to the subscription-based Office 365 (launched in 2017). More recently, Microsoft introduced Microsoft 365, which bundles Windows OS and related services into the subscription licensing. In most cases, organisations selected to migrate into the Office 365 enterprise plan 3 (E3) licensing, as this offered the closest like-for-like offering for the Office suite.

However, organisations are now looking at their 365 licensing and realising they have not realised all the benefits of Microsoft’s 365 offerings. In addition, Microsoft is evolving its licensing bundles to entice clients to adopt higher levels – currently this is largely via the additional security features that are bundled into higher-end 365 enterprise plan 5 (E5) licensing.

With licensing costs disproportionately impacting small to medium-sized businesses, concerns on the platform’s value remain crucial as these pain points impact their investment in this suite of services.

IBRS recently hosted a roundtable discussion with members of the Australian IT community to uncover some pressing challenges users have encountered with Microsoft 365. The key findings and recommendations from this peer event are detailed in this paper.

Conclusion: Don’t be the last organisation to assess the trajectory of email and other electronic communication strategies and solutions. As awareness of CO2 emission sources grows, communities and governments will be considering both large and small changes to achieve a net zero emissions target by 2050. New challenges will be presented to measure large industry specific Greenhouse CO2 emissions and smaller seemingly innocuous sources such as email.

Moving forward, upcoming generations will challenge the use of email as the primary communications channel and opt for more flexible, integrated communications channels. The tools will focus on aiding collaborations within and outside the organisation, and streamlining email overload. Much of this has already started, with vendor integration seeing emails as one element of a multi-functional approach to electronic communications. Digital marketing, customer relationship management, singularity workflows, workforce management, and project management Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) developers are all embedding emails, chat, social media, Agile Kanban boards, and emerging communication methods within their products to engage future generations in the way they experienced prior to joining the workforce.

Conclusion:

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised expectations for improved organisational processes, new policies, and evolving workplace habits. Armed with experiences from 2020 and 2021, many (not all) knowledge workers now prefer to work for organisations that can give them tools to do their jobs remotely and effectively. What is often overlooked in this discussion is the increased need to consider diversity and inclusion in a hybrid work enablement process.

Leaders have critical decisions to make in relation to both hiring and the creation of a workplace that embraces diversity.

Conclusion:

During the lockdowns imposed around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and organisations had no choice but to find a way to pivot and continue operations. This pushed numerous businesses to work away from the workplace. Working from home became the new normal.

With the challenge of not being able to work in the office and not being able to work together in a physical setting, came a new set of hurdles and expectations. Businesses who were able to invest in technology and infrastructure prior to the pandemic were able to adapt immediately. However, this setup does not only require up-to-date technology, it also requires that the organisational culture be one of trust and accountability, especially with the change in employee expectations.

Now, with the easing of restrictions, normal is again being rewritten with the concept of a hybrid workplace where employees can work from home on some days, and come to the office on some days.

The Latest

18 November 2021: AWS recently announced the launch of AWS Skill Builder, a digital learning platform which provides free Cloud computing skills training globally. It currently has over 500 free, on-demand courses - including nearly 60 new Cloud computing classes added this year. 

This expands AWS’s free access Cloud skills training programs in the region, in addition to last year’s launch of the AWS re/Start program - a free, 12-week full-time skills training program that prepares the unemployed, and underemployed, for careers in Cloud computing. Training is done in partnership with Indigenous training companies Goanna Solutions, Academy IT, and FDM in Australia and Te Pūkenga, the largest tertiary education provider in New Zealand. 

In addition, AWS is collaborating with local institutions such as The University of NSW’s (UNSW) CyberSECurity Education Network (SECedu) to teach both professional and practical cyber security skills in response to the growing demand for Cloud-oriented security skills.

Why it’s Important

Cloud skills are in hot demand, with competition for talent driving up salaries. 

Furthermore, IBRS has noted a growing dissatisfaction in paid programs for Cloud training and certification, though this is more a matter of perceived quality of delivery than concerns over the material in the training programs. Tech training is a booming industry right now, and the quality of independent training suppliers is mixed.

Therefore, it is no surprise that there is some scepticism about the quality and effectiveness of free Cloud professional training. If the paid programs are struggling to get it right, how will free programs deliver?

IBRS believes that scepticism is healthy. However, after a review of the AWS strategy and offerings, IBRS has concluded the program is robust and addresses some of the most critical skills gaps organisations are facing with Cloud migrations. Rather than treating these programs as ‘free’ organisations should be evaluating the available programs and building them into their internal skills development initiatives.  

AWS’s Skill Builder initiative is based on the concept of micro-credentials (small, granular certifications) which make it relatively easy to insert into organisations' existing skills development programs.

Reviewing and inserting Cloud training programs (from any of the major hyperscale Cloud vendors) into an organisation's internal skills development program is where the tight training budget can be spent effectively.

Who’s Impacted

  • Educational policymakers
  • CIOs
  • Educational ICT strategy leads 
  • Principals and senior leadership of higher education institutions
  • Digital workspace teams

What’s Next?

Adoption of Cloud computing across multiple industries is predicted to spawn a huge number of new roles over the next decade. Organisations should consider supporting a workforce education program. Their investment in digital skills training will not only help organisations achieve their digital transformation goals but also improve employee retention.

Related IBRS Advisory

Conclusion: ICT leaders are increasingly expected to combine traditional technical skills with leadership competency in an agile and flexible environment. This often presents a challenge: how can leaders connect with teams and individuals, from across disciplines, rapidly, and in a positive performance manner that achieves organisational and employee outcomes.

This paper covers how the principles of situational leadership can be leveraged by ICT leaders, to influence the approach applied to their management of individuals and mixed teams, to drive cohesion, collaboration, and delivery, and avoid dysfunction.

Conclusion

Low-code solutions expand the entry-level for application development by enabling non-developers (a.k.a. citizen developers) and developers alike to create applications visually. Low-code platform solutions allow citizen developers to develop applications using WYSIWYG tools to create functional prototypes of applications that digitise special – often narrowly defined – business processes. This can be highly disruptive without clear policies (see ‘Non-techies Are Taking Over Your Developers’ Jobs – Dealing with the Fallout’). In addition, to avoid the Microsoft access problem of creating fragmented applications and processes, the ICT group needs to be involved in the selection of a low-code platform that provides not only eforms and workflow capabilities, but also governance features to avoid the chaos that can ensue from unfettered development.

Low-code platforms can be viewed as offering a spectrum of capabilities, as detailed in ‘How to Succeed with Eforms Part 1: Understand the Need'. To provide a smooth transition along the spectrum of development capabilities, organisations may either:

  • introduce a second developer-focused low-code platform, since many citizen-developer-focused solutions have insufficient capabilities for developers.
  • adopt a single, low-code platform that provides both the simplicity needed for citizen developers and the power needed for developers.

Conclusion

Whilst many enterprises have successfully implemented a bring your own device (BYOD) mobile policy, many have put this in the too-hard basket fearing a human resources (HR) backlash.

Revisiting the workplace mobile policy can reduce operating costs associated with device loss, breakages, and unwarranted device allocation. IT service delivery operating costs have been increasing annually as more sophisticated and expensive handsets hit the market. Meanwhile, mobile applications are creating increased security concerns which add to asset management and monitoring costs.

Now is the time to take stock and transform the organisation’s mobility space by creating a shared responsibility with staff. Mobile phone allowances are fast becoming the norm with a multitude of different models now being adopted. Choose the one that delivers cost savings across the board as there are both direct and indirect costs associated with each option.

The Latest

15 January 2021: Samsung released a set of three Galaxy S series smartphones, aimed at the consumer market. All models support 5G. The high-end model - the Galaxy S21 Ultra - has features that rival its flagship executive-level smartphone, the Galaxy Note. In addition, the announcement stressed Samsung’s workplace features:

  • Wireless DeX for using smartphone as desktop
  • Office 365 integration
  • Knox Suite for device management and end-point security.

Why it’s Important

Despite the market for smartphones declining sharply in 2020 (a drop of 16 percent), Samsung gained around 5% market share. The decline in the market is due to consumers retaining their smartphones for longer periods of time due to the increasing costs of premier devices.  

Samsung’s efforts to sell into enterprises - blending consumer and enterprise features - are proving effective in shoring up its strength against rivals. The vendor has been making inroads into the enterprise space with both consumer-grade devices and semi-ruggedised devices. The S21 series of devices support Samsung’s enterprise security features, DeX and the Knox (as well as third-party) end-point management services. 

The devices also include new cameras that make them attractive for field-based asset management activities. The S21 Ultra is a large format device that supports pen-input (via an add-on pen and case) positioning it against Samsung’s popular Galaxy Note.

Who’s impacted

  • Field support teams
  • Telecoms / comms teams
  • Workforce transformation strategists
  • End-point / security teams

What’s Next?

While Samsung’s DeX feature is interesting, IBRS has seen very few organisations launching DeX desktop experiences from smartphones. For now, this remains an ‘experimental’ idea, limited to tech. However, launching DeX desktop experiences from tablets is growing in popularity.

Samsung is betting heavily on 5G, especially in regard to new services on its devices. The new cameras can produce not only high-resolution images, but high-colour sensitivity (12-bit) RAW images and depth of field information, which open up new applications for asset management, field maintenance, and design. Any files that leverage these camera capabilities will be large. 5G networks will make such files viable in field applications.

From recent client research, IBRS notes that organisations using premium consumer-grade devices (namely Apple and Samsung) for field force tasks overestimate the battery life of these devices, and as a result, the replacement cycle needed. When such devices are used for ‘typical’ consumer use, batteries last for 3-4 years before their capacity diminishes to a point where they are problematic. In contrast, such devices used for field-forces result in batteries decaying within 2 to 2 ½  years. Therefore, buyers of enterprise smartphone devices need to monitor device health, adjust their device procurement lifecycles - and budgets - accordingly.

Samsung’s new S21 range supports enterprise features and cameras that make them attractive for field use. The range of price points for the S21 series make them attractive against their rival in enterprise smartphones.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Redefining what ruggedised means
  2. Keeping your mobile device strategies up to date

Conclusion: Despite decades of investment in new technologies and the promise of 'digital transformation', workforce productivity has languished. The problem is that technological change does not equate to process nor practice change. Put simply, doing the same things with new tools will not deliver new outcomes.

The mass move to working from home has forced a wave of change to practices: people are finally shifting from a sequential approach to work to a genuinely collaborative approach. And this work approach will remain even as staff return to the office.

The emerging wave through 2020 and beyond is process change: continual and iterative digitisation of process. Practice and process changes will be two positive legacies of the pandemic.

Conclusion: Since the rise of personal computing in the 1970s, organisations have focused on acquiring digital tools and, since the late 1990s, on promoting digital skills. While we are now in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, where digital skills are essential, the so-called soft skills of employees also need to be constantly updated and upgraded.

Conclusion: Creating an environment in which IT and business professionals can adapt to a new and remote (also known as alternate work) environment will test the ingenuity of many senior managers.

To meet the challenge, managers must help their staff avoid being anxious and isolated and enable them to easily access their peers for advice and guidance. Failure to keep contact could lead to a decline in productivity and staff not feeling part of the team. Alternately, not having to travel to work sites and work prescribed hours can be a blessing for others.

Conclusion: Organisations should tap into their management team (department heads, managers and team leaders) to keep their working-from-home employees committed to the organisation. These organisational leaders have the most direct relationships and therefore are the most qualified to invite engagement from employees and other stakeholders. However, new models for engaging and measuring employees are needed that reflect the shift to virtual teams and virtual management: there is a shift from managing by activity to managing by trust.

Conclusion

DevOps, business intelligence (BI) and data, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) are all driving rapid change within IT departments. The challenge will be finding Cloud certified people to meet the rising demand.

Leaders have two main choices. Upskill their existing teams, or embark on a recruitment campaign that brings in Cloud certified professionals to manage Cloud migration and provide the ongoing support and optimisation needed to bring the full value of Cloud to IT operations.

For organisations who suddenly realise how far they are behind on the Cloud value curve, pressure will mount to deliver results quickly. Make sure staff are certified and ready to address your hybrid or multi-Cloud environments.

Conclusion:

The challenges of delivering good IT in the modern marketplace1 has resulted in a shortage of key skills in the market, greater mobility in the workforce between employers, and an environment where the cost of sufficient IT servicing is unaffordable for many. Permanent employees are hard to retain, and investment in skills uplift of staff can be seen as a risk. Organisations are finding it harder to recruit and retain the right skills, not only for resourcing of projects, but also for resources needed to support business as usual.

The 2022 workforce market has resulted in many organisations reassessing how they recruit, manage, and remunerate their workforce. The concept of an organisation developing a workforce plan based on a permanent workforce for business as usual, with contract resources for surge capability to run projects, seems to no longer work. Do organisations need to pay above the market to attract skills, or is there an option to change how skills are acquired such that productivity, not the hourly rate, is key.