How democratising IT can help alleviate the IT skills shortage

If you’ve picked up the paper or read the news in the last few months, then you’re probably aware of the impending IT skills shortage the UK is facing.

Business leaders state their main concern is reducing the IT skills gap within their company, and have initiated plans to prioritise this issue in the near future. While there have been numerous calls to action in recent months to address the issue – including one to make coding a compulsory part of the school curriculum - we are still a fair way from finding a feasible, long term solution.

As more and more of what we do relies on technology, the greater the problem becomes. For small businesses the issue is amplified. Faced with fewer resources, a leaner team and smaller budgets, access to IT tools and professionals is more limited and often out of reach. Considering small businesses accounted for 99.3 per cent of all private sector businesses in the UK at the start of 2015, it’s important essential IT tools are accessible to all.

Consider custom app development. While custom apps offer immense value to businesses, programming or coding skills were traditionally required to develop these apps. This meant it wasn’t a feasible option for small businesses. Instead, they would rely on off-the-shelf apps. While in some instances, these apps do the job, they don’t always address the individual needs of a business or provide any kind of competitive advantage. Apps of this nature tend to be generic to appeal to a wide audience, so there is little or no personalisation. This clearly presents disadvantage for small businesses, especially those with niche services, which could benefit from a customised solution.

However, with the rise of tools which can be used to create custom apps without any coding or programming skills, it has opened up huge opportunities for small businesses. There are fewer requirements for technical expertise to develop a simple custom app. Now almost anyone has access to a tool which was once available only to larger organisations. In essence, it’s helping to democratise IT and it’s a great example of what we need to see more of within the industry.

There is a need for businesses to have access to technology tools that anyone can use - not just those with programming or coding expertise. For example, anyone can develop a custom app using templates where they can easily drag and drop components. Making it easy to create and maintain does not necessarily reduce the potential power of the result – these tools have the built-in smarts behind a simple user interface. It’s this type of innovation which empowers users to create the solutions they need.

While this is only one piece of a large and complex puzzle, access to tools that don’t require great technical knowledge can help alleviate immediate pressures for technical skills and open up more tools to more people. There will be less reliance on technical experts and more opportunities for people who might not be highly technical, to branch into a new area. This doesn’t mean businesses will be left in the dark when it comes to developing their own solutions though. Working with partners means anyone at any stage during their developer journey can ask for advice and consultancy, to create the most successful business solution for their company. This opportunity does not only benefit individual businesses, but us as customers and ultimately the UK economy as a whole.

As the IT skills shortage unfortunately continues to grow, we need to look at every avenue to help alleviate the pressure. Upskilling and making it easier for more people to perform previously highly technical tasks is one small step that can help make a difference.

David Head, Consulting Engineer, APAC, FileMaker, Inc.

Image source: Shutterstock/Kirill Wright