Overcoming challenges of cloud transformation, talent shortage

November 14, 2022 08:46
Photo: HK Government

Talent shortage has been a major challenge that could potentially hold back Hong Kong in its digital transformation journey. Edvan Chan, Managing Director, North Asia at Racksapce Technology has discussed this issue with EJI via an email interview.

EJI: How has the pandemic affected the adoption of cloud and multi-cloud technology in Hong Kong?

Chan: Digital transformation is rapidly accelerating in Hong Kong especially during the pandemic. According to a joint report by Google and Ipsos from earlier this year, digitisation has encouraged e-commerce, which in turn, has made it easier for local small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to go global and solidify Hong Kong's status as a leading merchandise trading economy.

A recent IDC study also indicates that organisations are going ahead with digital transformation plans as they recognise the need to swiftly respond to shifts in customer expectations in the digital economy

So we know that business leaders want to ensure digitisation brings continuity amid current volatility, while also having one eye on the long term. Achieving this hinges on being dynamic, and it will look different for every organisation, but the core commonality is to move IT from being inflexible and reactive to being proactive, agile and aligned to the business.

Official data in the wake of the pandemic shows that the majority of organisations in Hong Kong are leveraging the cloud to better navigate emerging challenges.

However, a risk that is being born out of this can be observed in the banking industry, for instance. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority notes that locally based banks are at different stages of cloud adoption. This uneven adoption can exacerbate risks, including security threats as well as misconfigurations among others, that have real consequences on operations and the business' bottom line.

EJI: What are the challenges in terms of hiring and retaining technology talent in Hong Kong?

Chan: According to the Multicloud Annual Research Report 2022, IT leaders are facing a talent dilemma of sorts, with more than half (53%) of all respondents citing talent shortages as a major business challenge.

With PwC noting an acute talent shortage across the Asia Pacific region, Hong Kong-based organisations face intense competition in attracting and retaining talent, which is by no means helped by the fact that official data shows that its population is dwindling and emigration is among the key factors behind it.

Addressing this crisis requires proactive and swift action. First and foremost, organsations must improve understanding of the reasons behind the changing workplace dynamic. They can then plan and invest strategically in developing local talent to build leadership pipeline and drive a robust talent management strategy.

Similarly, organisations must be wary of large-scale kneejerk reactions to industry trends. Ultimately, attracting and retaining talent still boils down to the individual employee, who can be motivated by a myriad of reasons, including the challenges of a job, money, options, and personal beliefs. Another thing to consider while continuing to digitise, is how to achieve transformation that is people-friendly. Haphazard additions to the technology stack can raise IT complexity and aggravate skill shortages. It is critical, then, to take into account employee concerns and pain points when introducing new technology, and this should also feature in how organisations plan out their reskilling and upskilling initiatives.

EJI: What is the government doing to support cloud and technology adoption in Hong Kong and the city’s pursuit to become a world-class innovation and technology center?

Investing in tech has been a key policy area of the current-term government. According to the 2022/2023 Budget, HKD130 billion in public funds have been earmarked for information and technology (I&T) spending in recent years.

This has undeniably given impetus for Hong Kong's improved performance in global digital competitiveness. According to 2022 IMD World Competitiveness Ranking, Hong Kong was ranked fifth globally, up from seventh last year.

This includes spending on infrastructure, such as the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park, Phase 2 of the Science Park Expansion Programme and the Cyberport expansion project to name a few.

Furthermore, we also see the government striving to develop cloud talents. For one, the Government Cloud Infrastructure Services is helping to foster development of the local IT industry by strengthening the relevant professional skills and faciliatate cloud-first business models.

Additionally, the education system is also being embedded with more IT-related curricula to nurture future talents. The "IT Innovation Lab" in secondary schools and "Knowing More About IT" programme for both primary and secondary learners offers subsidies to local schools to organise extra-curricular activities.

There is also the regularisation of the "STEM Internship Scheme" , which will offer local universities subsidies to arrange short-term internships for their STEM undergraduates and postgraduates.

This scheme also ties in with the "Research Talent Hub", which acts as a career pipeline that provides funding support for technology enterprises and research institutes to engage and recruit talent.

EJI: How can Hong Kong develop a holistic talent pipeline that serves to digitally upskill Hongkongers, so that we can close the overall skills gap here?

Chan: Collaboration with governmental agencies inevitably offers opportunities to equip the workforce to raise their digital skills. The myriad of government initiatives to develop talent shows that authorities are willing to act. Local businesses can offer to drive these initiatives through public-private partnerships which ensure that talents are nurtured to meet the demands of the job market.

Investing in solutions or building partnerships with specific specialisations also offer pathways for organisations to build a more future-ready workforce while simultaneously growing their business.

In the short term, organisations can be more mindful of the drawbacks faced by employees when considering how to upskill or reskill themselves. True, this may seem counterintuitive to short-term business goals, but when an organisation can invest in its existing talent they lay the groundwork for longevity and sustained growth.

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Managing Director, North Asia at Rackspace Technology