The aim of this blog is to highlight one of the fundamental challenges impacting the ability of Higher Education Institutions (HEI's) to successfully deliver on their digital transformation agenda – namely, an IT staff shortage - and consider how the use of IT offshoring can provide a cost-effective and efficient solution.
HEI’s are not alone in facing a significant shortage of capable and qualified IT staff with a recent survey of 1400 IT employers and employees by UK recruiter Hays finding that almost 95% of employers looking for tech talent have encountered a skills shortage over the past year (1). This is not a new finding but is intensifying as fewer young people engage in tech careers each year leading to a major challenge for organisations that rely on technology to drive their business forward (2).
Within Higher Education specifically, the top 3 reasons provided for the shortage (3) are:
The final reason above indicates a further challenge within the UK Higher Education sector, which is that, although revenue has increased since 2017/18 by over 20%, an increase in total expenditure has outstripped this leading to a net operating loss of over £4 billion for the same period (4). As costs rise and deficits grow the ability of HEIs to offer competitive salaries to attract top tech talent – whether on a permanent or contract basis – is severely diminished.
As Higher Education is undergoing a major period of digital transformation, the lack of tech talent is proving to be a significant impediment as learning technologies and digital platforms are no longer an afterthought; they are critical for effective teaching and learning.
Simply put, digital transformation within HE is the use of technology as central to enhancing the student experience, supporting student progression, and improving the quality of teaching and learning methods. It is not just about updating existing technology but about adapting processes and procedures to incorporate digital technology to create better results – which could be in aid of the retention of students, supporting teaching techniques, driving higher attainment, enhanced engagement, or in delivering a positive overall experience for both the student and the educational institution.
It is now widely recognised by HEI's that digitalisation and the effective implementation and use of technology and data is a critical component to drive institutional strategies and, ultimately, thrive in the new digital world as education becomes a global (and highly competitive) marketplace. Viewed within this context, the ability to find an efficient and cost-effective solution to the IT skills shortage should be of paramount importance to every HEI.
Is Offshore A Viable Option?
The COVID-19 pandemic served as a catalyst for a rapid move to virtual instruction and meetings, effectively accelerating the transformation to a digital education. However, it is important to recognise that the pandemic also demonstrated that certain HEIs could deliver large-scale and complex change projects using remote resources at scale.
Offshore delivery at reduced cost with local and remote teams is not new of course, but there has been an increase in technology companies with deep technical and delivery experience building specific expertise around HEI Corporate and Information systems. This provides HEIs with a cost-effective and ready-made solution to the IT skills shortage as these firms provide several key benefits:
1. Reduced operational costs: costs related to insurance, payrolls, office space, holidays and recruitment costs are eliminated and replaced with a reduced labour cost only, either on a time & materials or fixed price basis.
2. Increased flexibility: with an in-house team, it can be challenging to scale IT delivery teams rapidly to match your project requirements. With an IT partner, the ability to scale by having a flex capacity supporting a core team is often built into the delivery model.
3. Access to the right skillsets – the current IT staff shortage and budget constraints has exacerbated the ability of HEIs to recruit staff with the appropriate skillsets and experience. By using an IT partner with offshore resource capability, you can easily get access to the exact skillsets you need, when you need them at a competitive cost.
Although the Infuse journey began back in 2002, it is over the last 6 years that we have been focussed on supporting HEIs and, in that time, have built a dedicated team of technical and delivery specialists for our HE clients. Our HE practitioners are based across Europe and India, and not only bring a wealth of experience across the student lifecycle, the supporting business processes and underlying technology systems, such as Tribal, Moodle and SAP, but also possess valuable experience in implementing and maintaining critical HE systems.
We have worked hard to overcome the typical disadvantages of offshoring including the option for our team to work UK hours or to extend the day as required and to ensure that our team have the communication skills and cultural fit to work collaboratively with your own staff.
If you would like to find out more about how Infuse works with our HEI partners to deliver their software projects more successfully using cost effective talented resources or a managed services, then please book a call with us here.
For more information on our other services within the HEI sector, please visit: www.infuse.it/he
(1) Hays. Building the Digital Workforce of Tomorrow 2023
(2) Nash Squared. Digital Leadership Report 2022
(3) Hays-UCISA. Higher Education Workforce of Tomorrow 2023
(4) Words Rated. UK University and Higher Education Revenue Statistics. 23 May 2023.