IDT Trends & Market Insights Report 2018-2019

Intro

2018 has been about macro trends, not micro trends. We’ve seen the stabilisation of technology, with emerging tech of past years mainstreaming all the way into BAU. This is good news for employers job taxonomies have seen little change, and have had the chance to settle without the onslaught of the revolutionary skills and role changes we’ve become accustomed to in past years. This is giving rise to a maturing of talent both in the volume and calibre of people with the right skills in areas that were once scant. This year our commentary is less about the latest tech skills in demand, and more about the opportunities that exist at a macro level, and the challenges leaders face in realising them.

Business strategies are playing a larger role in technology initiatives and operations than ever before and this is how it should be. How the organisation is led, and how productivity is achieved through people across technology is critical. Another major consideration is how productivity is achieved through tech without people. In this report we’ll look into both of these areas automation and the changing role of the tech executive as we seek a new generation of smart leaders to navigate effectively.

The driving conversation around talent is skills. In the past employers have gone to market to bring new skills in through hires. We’ll present the case for wide-scale skills interventions for the near-future, of individuals and businesses alike planning to acquire news skills through short, high impact programmes.

The wider tech sector, including those business areas that utilise digital technology, is booming with two key contributors having a notable impact. The first is the growth of funded startups. The second is the globalisation of the NZ talent economy, and offshore businesses hitting our shores to leverage our great people and conditions. Both are leading to a higher demand for great talent, and the subsequent shortage and increasing salary pressure that follows.

 

Globalisation of the New Zealand Talent Economy

Following the very public opening of the Auckland offices for multinational HR Tech firm Workday last year, we have seen a significant increase in interest by global organisatons seeking a New Zealand presence. While Workday’s key motivator was to leverage a location to deliver an around the clock follow the sun customer support experience, the combination of New Zealand’s privacy and immigration laws and a well trained, English-speaking workforce also provided incentive.  

The recent spate of startups eyeing New Zealand technology talent as the global demand for talent far outweighs the supply. A Silicon Valley based emotional intelligence and voice analysis startup Ambit Analytics has recently begun hiring developers and data scientists to grow a presence in Auckland following a successful US capital raise. Co-founder and CEO Greg Lok noted that combined with the availability of well trained specialist software developers, the western values alignment, a predominantly English speaking populace and a timezone three hours off the west coast of continental USA were all key factors when selecting Auckland.  

Similarly, Rhode Island USA headquartered inMusic the world’s premier music technology conglomerate has recently beach-headed in Auckland to build a product development centre. Rapid scaling of personnel has drawn UX designers, developers, testers and product owners into new teams. In comparison to US remuneration levels and time to hire for these occupations, New Zealand offers a lower cost and more responsive employment market.  

As the Trump Administration continues to tighten immigration laws, this trend will continue, increasing the demand for right-shoring where technology professionals based in New Zealand deliver global technology products and services.

 

Startup Investment

The Kiwi startup landscape has been incredibly buoyant this year, and this trend will develop further in 2019. There are a number of key forces driving this, creating a perfect storm of growth conditions. Firstly, there are more founders, people smart enough and courageous enough to cross the chasm between idea and commercial execution, while being prepared to take the risk and do what it takes to have a proper swing. Secondly, we now have a number of proven accelerators and incubators. They are providing the support founders need to rapidly gain the practical skills needed to traverse the inception phase and quickly gain traction. CreativeHQ’s Lightning Labs which powers a number of programmes including the Kiwibank Fintech and Centrality Accelerators, is meaningfully taking the Techstars model from the US and delivering results locally, with many startups leaving their programmes and getting funded. The Icehouse’s Flux Accelerator is also gathering momentum, into their third cohort of participants. Thirdly, the early stage funding scene is thriving and a lot more money is now available for founders to tap into. The angel community has grown in 2018, likely committing more than $100M to early stage companies by year end more than a 20% increase on last year.

Government is also chipping in to play a role by placing grants, offering rebates and giving advice through Callaghan Innovation and NZTE to promote business growth. The private equity and venture capital scene is also cash rich, ready to take stakes in small volumes of the right high growth firms. So what does this all mean for the wider tech landscape and specifically the impact on talent and skills? With so many funded startups the war for talent is raging, especially around dev and product talent that can develop high quality, secure SaaS platforms rapidly. Software Developers who use rapid development frameworks, especially JavaScript-based, are in huge demand. Product Owners, UX Designers, SREs and Test Engineers complete the list of what startups most want from Santa this year, and more than likely the next too.

 

Automation Arrives

Wide spread productivity gains from automation technology are desired, yet businesses are unsure how they can realise them. Do they create their own technology in-house, or rely upon vendors to rollout more generic solutions? The most obvious examples of this technology introduction are through the implementation of AI, RPA and robotics systems into the local market. Already there are examples of delayed and abandoned projects from early adopters, simply because there is a misunderstanding of available resources, costs or the commitment/change required to deliver them.  

The local stars from Algorithm Team, a specialist bespoke algorithm development company, are one of the few local organisations creating custom Machine Learning (ML) and AI technology for NZ businesses.  They had this to say:

Our clients often misunderstand the benefits of ML. While ML cannot magically find answers in garbage datasets or solve poorly defined problems simple opportunities to apply ML are  sometimes missed.

When ML can be applied, the  challenge becomes: how to go about it? Applying ML is complex. Often much experimentation and ingenuity are needed to get effective solutions. These demand developing substantial experience in solving practical problems. Businesses wishing to benefit from ML need to invest in the right people. There is a global shortage of qualified data scientists, and demand is expected to continue to rise significantly in the coming years.

Salary growth for these professions will continue in the double digit percentages, and the pool of available people will only be expanded through the arrival of offshore talent, and the long process of reskilling and retraining required for those undergoing a career transition

 

The Rise of the Need to Reskill...Fast

Technology-driven change across New Zealand organisations is leading to wide scale shifts in skills and expertise now required to complete tasks. These seismic shifts are resulting in redundancies, as restructures are used to update operating models that incorporate new technologies and delivery methodologies. Just one example of this is Spark - a leading service provider. They radically overhauled its business practices  through a robust agile transformation. While it trained up thousands of staff in agile and design thinking, many others were displaced and re-entered the job market with skills and expertise that needed updating.

Pressure to adapt skill-sets to new technologies, and the threat of automation of some jobs mean that every professional must now ensure their own skill-set does not become obsolete.  In parallel, businesses must have a talent strategy that acknowledges the availability of people with the skills that can deliver initiatives. Where there are shortfalls, they can respond by rapidly upskilling incumbents who may then be retained and redeployed. Andrew McPherson, Founder and Director of Industry Connect - an Auckland upskilling venture who is at the forefront of this tsunami notes “New Zealand technology companies quickly adopt new technologies. As these become popular they drive the demand for skilled people a lot faster than the skills become available, particularly at the intermediate and senior level.  Teams are often too busy working within existing frameworks to be able to reskill and retool. In addition it is difficult to anticipate which new technology will become popular and widely adopted. This creates a pronounced skill shortage in the market that can last 2 - 3 years.

 

Evolving State of the Enterprise Technology Executive Role

The combination of exponential technological change and the significance on business disruption has propelled the “Enterprise Technology Executive” well into the frontline. This is amplified by the ubiquity of technology throughout the enterprise. Established agile practices, human centred design approaches and lean product development frameworks that were once the mainstay of IT departments are now being rolled out business-wide. With these advances comes the need for a technocrat who is not only well endowed with technical know how, but increasingly a deep understanding of how technology can be leveraged for competitive advantage. Fundamental to this is the innate requirement now for tech leaders to front enterprise-wide talent strategy incorporating digitalisation and in particular the impact of widespread automation.  While the need for upskilling and retooling surfaces, equally the requirement to ethically address the displaced is taking centre stage.

This search for advantage at the board level has seen the competition intensify for savvy and contemporary tech execs with proven business change pedigrees. The businesses that have been technology laggards are now looking to raise performance and are bringing in leadership who have cut their teeth in digital transformation or large scale change. The mandates of these executives is to increase productivity or augment established business models by harnessing technology. Cloud transition and agile rollouts are simply not enough. The new standard is to adopt automation and digital to impact productivity and CX. But clearer thinking is needed to factor in the talent implications these initiatives will create. It’s important that you now  plan the talent horizon, and explore how to blend both existing and new employees so that skills quotas are met.

There has been a huge increase in the expectations of the technology executive.  Because of this, the role has morphed into an integral and deeply involved business leader creating and contributing to strategy, rather than a glorified IT Manager executing the technology operation. As such, a varied range of job titles are emerging spanning the traditional CIO to CDO and now roles such as Chief Automation, Algorithm, Customer Experience, Marketing Officers are incorporating key elements of technology leadership across the enterprise.

If there is one single message we want you to take from this report, it is this. Invest in developing and honing key competencies that will equip you to deal effectively with your peers in the C-Suite. Fundamental to this is the need to be politically astute to effectively deal with stakeholders at the highest levels. This  includes the governance layer where your enhanced relationships and influencing skills will play a pivotal role in your ability to foster trust and get commitment for continued support of your initiatives.