How citizen developers can help save Australian businesses from IT skills shortage
Warnings from business leaders across Australia, including Coles CEO Steven Cain, have highlighted widespread delays in digital projects and investment due to a lack of technology skills in the country. In the wake of the pandemic, the shortage of IT skills in the country has accelerated, along with skills crises in countless other sectors.
Broadly, there are two market forces driving the need for software programmers in the local market: digital transformation acceleration across the business landscape, as noted by industry analyst firm Gartner; and the skills shortage arising from a historically high unemployment rate, amplified by the border closures during COVID-19. According to recent data from recruitment firm Hays, the programming languages, frameworks and products that are most sought after can vary from organisation to organisation, but it’s undeniable that significant demand exists for software developers within the IT sector.
Hoping to change this, the federal government has recently held its Jobs and Skills Summit, a great opportunity for collaboration and sparking ideas to help Australia move past the current challenges. While these ideas might still take time to bear fruit, there are other solutions that can make a difference in the IT landscape today.
Leverage existing skills with new tools
Many organisations are in a position to leverage existing resources and skills for software development work, advancing projects that may otherwise have to be put on hold due to the IT skills shortage. Thanks to tools such as low-code platforms, companies can give non-IT people the power to develop software without prior programming experience.
Low-code development involves the creation of software solutions through a visual system, removing the need-to-know computer code to put a program together. Through its visual nature, accessibility, and ease of collaboration, the low-code model allows non-technical developers to meaningfully participate in the software creation process.
The rapid growth of low-code usage over the past two years can be largely attributed to the growing interest among organisations in the digital transformation of their business processes, according to analysis from market research provider Research and Markets. By using non-technical experts to develop new software, companies are increasingly enabling their digitisation projects.
Thinking of how to better prepare the future workforce for these demands, Mendix, a Siemens business and leader in enterprise low-code, is undertaking a program with the University of Queensland to educate 500 business students each year in low-code software programming. The University of Queensland Business School course gives post-graduate students an industry certification stating that they have an ability to develop software applications using the Mendix low-code developer platform, enabling new career success paths by providing them with the digital skills needed to meet the nation’s needs.
Charging up citizen developers for ‘fusion teams’
The clear need for non-IT programmers ties into a high-level global trend identified by industry analyst firm Gartner, which anticipates that by 2024, 80 per cent of technology products and services will be built by people who are not necessarily technology professionals.
This trend is primarily driven by a new category of buyers outside of the traditional IT enterprise. According to Gartner, these non-IT buyers are occupying a larger share of the overall IT market, and the deepening skills shortage in the software development space could work to accelerate the trend even further. A rethink around how organisational teams collaborate and operate can power change.
One way forward is employing multidisciplinary digital business teams that focus on delivering products instead of projects – a concept classified as ‘fusion teams’ by Gartner. At the centre of so-called ‘fusion teams’ are domain knowledge business stakeholders, or ‘citizen developers,’ who have a clear understanding of what solutions their respective parts of the business require for success. Combined with existing developers and a low-code model for product and solution development, these ‘citizen developers’ can employ low-code platforms to turn their visions into reality.
With a wealth and breadth of diverse knowledge and experience that extends well beyond the IT department, ‘fusion teams’ and their ‘citizen developers’ can bring a fresh perspective to the software development process and play an invaluable hand in the actual creation of new software. This approach can lead to better outcomes for more stakeholders and provide an immediate solution to the IT skills shortage.