Citizen developers could be the answer in the battle for talent

There has been an explosion in the Internet of Things (IoT) in recent years. Gartner predicts 26 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020, with related products and services generating more than $300 billion per year.

But this gold rush has prompted an arms race for talent as businesses from every sector look to bolster their ranks to compete in a market that’s dominated by technology, mobility and social media. Many of these connected IoT devices are controlled via mobile technology, increasing the need to develop core software applications to support them (which are growing rapidly themselves). But finding the skills to build these mobile apps is easier said than done when the nation is currently facing its biggest tech skills shortage to date.

Mobile tech – the most wanted recruits

Gartner claims that 75% of IoT projects will take twice as long as they should in 2018 because of a lack of key talent. The Government is responding to this deficit, with investment in skills and technology taking centre stage in the recent Autumn Budget.

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In the meantime, organisations must take creative steps to plug the gap between the skills they need to deliver on mobile innovation, and the supply of talent available to recruit in the market.

Our latest Tech Cities Job Watch report found that demand for permanent IT staff with Mobile skills has increased by 39% in the past year (from Q3 2016 to Q3 2017). With a concurrent 26% increase in the number of contractor roles over the same period, mobile skills are now the most wanted of the five technology skills disciplines that are covered in the report (Big Data, Cloud, IT Security, Mobile, and Web Development). Topping the ranking for the first time, mobile-focused roles for IT professionals made up 28% of all those advertised in the UK in Q3 2017.

The remuneration contradiction

Despite the significant rise in demand for Mobile skills, the same report also revealed that this fluctuation was not reflected in the remuneration for these roles. While the volume of permanent and contractor positions advertised for mobile skills rose 39% and 26% respectively, permanent salaries only grew by 1% and day rates by 2% over the same period, thus failing to keep pace with inflation.

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It was a similar picture across the other technology disciplines as well, with only modest salary rises in permanent big data (1%) and cloud (1%) roles. Interestingly, despite the demand drop for web development, permanent salaries had a modest rise of 2%, while IT Security saw remuneration drop by 3%, despite a 39% rise in demand for permanent positions.

Mobile plays an integral role in innovation within organisations, as developers continue to build and experiment with connectivity. But this apparent disconnect suggests that businesses are looking at alternative routes to making external hires, and taking on new approaches to tackle the technology skills crisis.

Engaging the citizen developers to bolster new recruits

The demand for mobile innovation and number of vacant positions are there. Hiring additional permanent staff and contractors with Mobile skills to remain competitive in the connective era will remain a priority, but this is no longer the only solution to the issue.

Businesses are also looking to upskill from within the organisation and outside the IT team through citizen developers – employees without a traditional coding or development background. Today, almost 60% of custom apps are now built outside the IT team – almost one in three of those are by employees with limited or no technical development skills. New, easy-to-use software platforms and a renewed focus on internal training have made this possible. It has also enabled organisations to reduce their dependence on hiring external developers or paying high premiums for additional mobile IT specialists; instead training their own.

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To achieve this effectively, businesses need to ensure that they have the right training programmes in place to complement the skills they are looking to bring in through external recruitment. They should aim to foster a culture of upskilling and transferable skills within their organisation.

The pace of change is such that specialisms within technology can quickly become obsolete. Employers must now focus their hiring policies on learnability – the ability and enthusiasm to take on new concepts and skills – rather than bring in individuals with specific qualifications on their CV.

Organisations can then ensure that their workforce is ready to respond to the latest trends and have the skills in place right through the ranks to explore new opportunities faster than the competition.


Sourced by Martin Ewings, director of Specialist Markets, Experis

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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