Internal skills gaps and talent market pressures are a persistent barrier for most infrastructure and operations leaders’ initiatives and this I&O skills shortage is not expected to improve in 2024.
The challenge is further exacerbated when it comes to implementing edge in an organization. Skills gaps are particularly hard to fill for edge initiatives because of their complex and diverse objectives, implementation requirements and technologies.
Edge computing provides the hardware, software and services to extend an agile digital enterprise to the edge, enabling lower latency, reduced data traffic and semiautonomous computing. According to a 2023 Gartner survey of more than 2,400 chief information officers and technology executives, 19% of respondents have already deployed edge computing, and an additional 32% expect to deploy during the next three years.
To achieve success with edge implementations, I&O leaders must build edge skills as a crucial early step despite the diversity of expected objectives and technologies involved in edge initiatives. However, Gartner has found that many organizations are facing three major skills challenges during the implementation of edge solutions.
Lack of a formal edge skills strategy
Organizations are failing to incorporate upskilling as part of their edge strategy, leading to either an absence or untimely use of relevant skills needed to implement edge initiatives.
A common pitfall I&O leaders run into is to assume that the entire organization needs the same level of skill sets and expertise for edge implementation and operations. Edge implementations require diverse and specific skills, which makes it harder for an organization to be at the same expertise level. As a result, even if they have clarity around the skills needed for implementing these technologies in their organization, I&O leaders are unable to ensure the skills are in place before starting an edge initiative.
To combat this issue, I&O leaders should first identify the business and technology needs for their edge strategy. Following this approach, they can create an edge skills strategy based on relevant business use cases. Different use cases require different skills.
For example, distributed business processing would require data management skills whereas system automation would require monitoring, networking and security skills. I&O leaders must focus on narrowing the gap by prioritizing those skills that meet their organization’s outcomes. It’s important to focus on the organization’s shared needs, not just the perceived skills of siloed information technology functions.
Without a formal edge strategy, I&O risks several uncoordinated initiatives. An edge strategy should be linked to any related enterprise technology strategy, in particular, the enterprise digital transformation strategy.
Lack of all the necessary IT, operational technology and internet of things skills in the current talent market
I&O leaders responsible for hiring talent for edge initiatives need to find a diverse set of skills because of the broad and evolving scope of technologies involved. Many technologies for edge computing are still evolving and will need to be evaluated before talent can be hired.
I&O leaders should boost talent efforts internally by supporting the appraisal, development, pooling and sharing of edge-related skills across the IT function. To gain the required skills, they also need to encourage upskilling and incentivize training and reskilling activities. I&O leaders can find the full set of edge skills they need by adopting more collaborative tactics that embrace change, cut across IT domains, and evaluate alternative and external pools of skills.
Inefficient use of existing diverse skill sets as IT and OT teams tend to be siloed
Although edge projects are interconnected initiatives, they are deployed independently to focus on a specific use case or a specific part of the enterprise. In fact, many modern applications are being developed and deployed by operational technology or OT teams that lack data management skills, or by IT teams that lack edge computing skills and experience. This siloed manner of working leads to underutilized skills and operating in silos makes it hard for IT and OT leaders to align with business outcomes and to address the needs of different teams.
I&O leaders should work with other business leaders to use fusion teams in order to break down silos. Fusion teams are multidisciplinary digital business teams that combine business and technology domain expertise and must be involved in edge initiatives. Organizations should establish an edge center of excellence or COE that enables collaboration between IT and OT thereby allowing fusion teams to work.
The COE will comprise the skills that the organization needs, and be responsible for centralizing control, setting out guidelines, putting up guardrails, managing standards, owning initiatives and helping the organization accelerate the deployment of edge computing. As COEs enable a centralized enterprise capability and support fusion teams in capabilities on a point-in-time basis, siloes between different teams end up breaking down. This results in an effective use of skill sets across different teams.
Ajeeta Malhotra is a principal, research, at Gartner Inc. focusing on infrastructure and operations. She wrote this article for SiliconANGLE. Gartner analysts will provide additional analysis on edge computing and the I&O talent gap at the Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference taking place Dec. 5-7 in Las Vegas.
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