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The public sector has a digital skills gap which requires urgent action – to solve this, employers can advance workplace technology skills through multidisciplinary methods

In the past two years, we have learned technology plays a pivotal role in meeting the growing requirements of every sector, especially in the wake of shrinking budgets and ongoing digital skills gaps.

Salesforce published its Global Digital Skills Index, highlighting a growing global digital skills gap crisis and the urgent need for action. This study reveals that experience in collaboration technology is viewed as the most important digital workplace skill for workers today, as well as for the next five years.

However, despite respondents’ prowess with everyday collaboration technology like social media, only 25% rate themselves as “advanced” in those collaboration technology skills needed specifically for the workplace.

Digital skills readiness isn’t just about organisations attracting talent in their respective industries: closing the digital skills gap is vital for advancements in the economy. The pandemic has accelerated the need for digital skills to a level never seen before, creating a significant talent crunch. This is an even bigger problem within the public sector.

Skills shortage in the public sector

Many organisations in the public sector find themselves in a vicious cycle – they accumulate technical debt and struggle to attract new young talent to improve legacy systems, meaning they stay behind on digital public services. Yet there has been a massive increase in demand for digital public services during COVID-19, and this trend looks set to continue. To survive, public sector organisations continue to build digital services that satisfy the public – but how do they do it without access to the amount of requisite talent?

The ongoing need for digital services and solutions juxtaposes dwindling budgets and mounting skills shortages. Organisations are facing an uphill struggle to meet the public sector’s growing requirements while juggling costs and safeguarding against future disruption. However, even under extreme pressure, these organisations have displayed remarkable resilience and resourcefulness to keep the UK and its communities functioning – and safe. Of course, IT departments and technology played a pivotal role in enabling this.

Empowering the right people

The idea that digital transformation rests solely within the IT department is both outdated and inaccurate: today, anyone with an idea can lead digital transformation projects. For public sector organisations, an effective way of establishing a competitive digital workforce and positively impacting the UK economy is by using the already-existing talent and arming them with the tools they need to participate in digital projects.

In 2021, with the help of low-code platforms, proactive organisations began upskilling their employees to reduce the burden on a solitary IT department and empower all employees to become makers with accessible, intuitive low-code features.

Regardless of programming experience, low-code development allows for the creation of fast, easy, and customisable apps to solve unique operational problems. Additionally, low code platforms are ideal for hybrid and remote work environments.

Employees can deploy low code applications to a remote workforce quickly and efficiently as the software exists across cloud or on-premise infrastructure, making them ideal for a more distributed collaborative workforce post-pandemic. Low-code/no-code thus empowers all employees to become involved in the development process, taking modular functionality components from a low-code library into a visual workflow for a specific business process.

Benefits of successful low-code platform implementation

Low-code development enables IT departments to meet public needs quickly, avoiding inflexible architectures and integration headaches. But it also eases the burden on IT teams by empowering all employees to combine their expertise with that of technology professionals and digital experts to develop apps that make a real difference to society and the public.

Knowsley Council is a strong example of a local service provider that used a low-code solution to adapt to the increased demand from its residents and local businesses. Using low-code/no-code, the council built an application that enables Knowsley residents to request assistance or volunteer their services to support their local community—and did it in just 24 hours. This application connected people who need help with the people who can help, providing support for 7,000 vulnerable residents.

Moreover, with low-code approaches, councils and government departments can rely less on recruiting (and retaining) top-level, expensive coders. Instead, they can engage people as developers who understand the detailed logic of how a service should work and have the necessary soft skills to collaborate using visual workflows to quickly build the desired infrastructure.

Another benefit of low code is that skilled coders can be released from basic development work and deployed to more technically challenging projects. For example, systems integration projects improve the extent to which digital government services are ‘joined-up’ services rather than the silos that frustrate citizens.

Using multidisciplinary teams to improve digital public services

We have seen the benefit of public sector organisations using multidisciplinary teams to improve digital public services. By empowering frontline staff and problem solvers with non-technical backgrounds to work together with technology professionals and digital experts on software development goals, the public sector can capitalise on the excellent soft skills and business acumen of all their staff combined, thereby developing new talent within their workforce, both in technology and non-technology roles.

Gartner predicts that by 2024, nearly 75% of organisations will use at least four low code development tools for app creation and digital initiatives. Ultimately, this collaborative approach to development will help grow digital skills across the public sector as part of a long-term solution to its talent challenge. Lower barriers to entry also serve to inspire innovation from a diverse group of people that fully understand the needs of the public.

Low-code/no-code tools can efficiently support organisations and help them continue serving and protecting the public in times of crisis by overcoming the digital skills gap that currently holds them back.


This piece was written and provided by Mark Smitham, Public Sector Lead, Mendix.


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