What a difference 10 years makes. The Platform-as-a-Service market has grown from (essentially) zero to 12 billion USD worldwide in that time, and back in 2007 Gartner predicted that Software-as-a-Service would reach 11.5 billion USD by the end of 2011 – in fact it was double that, and now that market is estimated to be over a hundred billion US dollars.
The ability to buy software, infrastructure and platforms on a pay-per-use basis has transformed the way organisations think about their technology investments, and the equally rapid increase in sophistication of consumer technology has changed the way employees, customers and supply chains want to interact with businesses around the world.
Businesses now know they have to adapt quickly, provide new ways of consuming and providing data, adjust their business models, pivot and innovate as part of their normal operation. More than ever they look to their IT teams to move out of the back-office shadows and into the role of enablers, and the tools are there to do it.
There is a catch, of course. It’s all very well that the capability exists to spin up a Hadoop cluster, or a MongoDB instance, or a hundred Office 365 accounts with Active Directory etc, with the click of a mouse. The question that haunts the IT Director is, who is going to know how to design, implement and manage this stuff? IT budgets are not increasing relative to this new exalted position in the business. I know of few IT leaders outside companies undergoing rapid growth that get more money to spend year-on-year. Yet their requirement for diverse skills is unrelenting. The IT world is increasingly complex, and the all-rounders that can, for example, take a number of those Azure services above and turn them into a working product are very rare. We can’t all get all the skills we need in permanent employees – there aren’t enough to go around. So we need to find ways to fill those seats in different ways.
Options exist – you can go to a systems integrator who will come and create something for you. It will be expensive, it probably won’t be exactly what you wanted, and you’ll generally be left with something you don’t know how to manage or develop. You can turn to the contract market and pay less, but it’s more difficult to do your due diligence on the quality of the people you employ, and your long term options are equally limited.
Nature abhors a vacuum however, and a new breed of service provider is starting to emerge. These provide skilled people as a managed service – mirroring the options available for technology. They have a core team of experienced technologists, a wide range of associates and access to recruitment teams. They take time to understand the businesses they are working with and provide skilled people when they are needed. Skills-as-a-Service may be a clumsy term, but if the conversations I’m having with IT leaders are anything to go by it’s an essential component of the world we now inhabit. The ‘Gig Economy‘ gets bad press, because a lot of people find themselves part of it without having any choice in the matter. This is a matter for regulation and government intervention. But those that have scarce, transferable skills are increasingly choosing to join this workforce and make themselves available through value-added skills providers.
As someone who has also made that choice to work independently, I see this evolution happening on a daily basis. I’m working with companies that see and are embracing these changes, and I wonder what will happen to those that don’t. I think the gig economy will continue to grow and people will offer their skills on a contingent basis far more commonly in the next few years. Will I look back on this blog in 10 years time and wonder how I could have been so dumb, or will I pat myself on the back for my prescience? Time will tell, as always 🙂
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I’m working with Jumar Solutions who offer the kind of flexible managed service for technology skills mentioned above. If you think this is an option you’d like to consider for your business, please get in touch. If you’re thinking of joining the gig economy and want some advice, shout up.