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Race to digital – but mind the skills gap: What 2016 will bring

As ever, the technology sector will move quickly in 2016. Looking ahead, I can predict two major trends – the race to digital and the skills shortage. Both present challenges, but are also opportunities for us in the twelve months to come.

The race to digital

Undoubtedly the biggest trend in the IT sector next year will be the race to digital. Of course ‘digital’ has been on the agenda for some time, but to date the focus for many businesses has been the front-end, enabling customers to interface through a variety of channels. Many businesses have adopted this omnichannel approach with great success this year.

But in 2016, the real challenge will be for companies to digitise their back-ends. This includes ordering systems, customer management systems and logistics. With older systems in place, traditional brands have found that they are falling behind companies founded more recently. These ‘pure plays’ started with a digital blank canvas, were able to implement digital systems from scratch and are now reaping the benefits.

Businesses need to digitise behind the scenes, in order to drive down their cost base and speed up their marker competitiveness. However, this is more costly and complex than the front-end, and over the next twelve months CMOs in brands should be warming up their CFOs to make the investment. To stay price competitive and to be agile in the market through responding to change, bigger brands will need to embrace the end-to-end digital value change – sooner rather than later.

The digital skills gap

The digital skills gap will continue to impact in 2016, with tech companies struggling to recruit candidates with the necessary skills. This is the challenge that concerns me most – and with a shortage of pupils taking STEM subjects at school and university, it’s one that could hinder our economy for generations to come.

All stakeholders in the IT industry must take action to address this and encourage uptake of STEM from GCSEs through to university and career choices. We need to provide engaging role models from a variety of backgrounds; we need to provide opportunities for young people to engage with the tech sector; and we need to encourage children directly to invest time and intellect in technology, engineering and sciences.

As part of this move, we must also encourage uptake of STEM by young women. Currently girls are falling behind boys in these subjects, and this will negatively impact the talent pipeline for years to come. We need role models from within the tech industry to speak with girls and young women at school, university and as they enter the working world, to show them the potential of a career in tech. Diversity is crucial for tech companies to succeed – we need the broadest talent pool, with the widest range of skills and opinions, otherwise the UK tech industry will fall behind.

Regina Moran, CEO of Fujitsu UK & Ireland