Technology has permeated through almost every business. This in turn has accelerated the need for a reimagined workplace and for the workforce to be skilled to take advantage of the available technology. This is set against the backdrop of a tech talent problem. The current gap of 4.46 million tech professionals will nearly double to 8.04 million by 2026, according to Zinnov.
Developing digital tools through digital engineering can help organizations reimagine the entire work ecosystem by bringing in more flexibility and resiliency that frees the workforce from the physical constraints that existed traditionally.
According to the Institute for Digital Engineering (IDE), the emerging digital engineering capability ‘is the fusion of advanced digital technologies with best-in-class product engineering capabilities, delivering physical resource intensive processes in a digital environment’.
“Engineering new digital tools is enabling the adoption of emerging technologies like AI, VR and cloud, which are redefining work. It helps to bring out the creativity in the workforce by giving them a digital cushion to experiment and innovate,” says Vijay Guntur, President, Engineering and R&D Services at HCLTech.
Organizations recognize this, with digital engineering spend predicted to double between 2025-2030, crossing $2 trillion in value.
To take advantage of the new products and services being developed from digital engineering teams, workers need to be prepared with the skills they need to succeed.
For example, traditionally a field engineer would need to work onsite. Now they can do all the same work in a virtual environment. To operate in this new environment, engineers now need to be trained in different technologies that can support them including using AR or VR to detect and fix problems in a remote setting.
“There's a huge upskilling opportunity and need. One is for firms that are building new products and services. The second is for end user organizations, who can use those skills to make their people and workforce’s more efficient and technically capable,” continues Guntur.
Upskilling, though, is moving beyond teaching technical skills with digital and interpersonal skills taking center stage in data-driven organizations.
Enabling the remote work environment with digital engineering
Remote and hybrid work environments are here to stay.
Digital engineering is an essential cog in keeping this new way of work going by enabling the required connectivity and productivity that are now needed daily.
“Digital engineering is creating the tools and processes for people to come and work together,” says Guntur.
On top of the development of new tools and digital touchpoints that facilitate remote work, leaders are under pressure to create a data-driven culture to make the most of the data at their disposal. Data can totally change the face of the workplace of tomorrow when used correctly for decision-making.
A data-driven culture is one that blends multiple data sources effectively to provide useful insights and instant value. This mitigates the challenges around extracting information from multiple and often complex data sources, identifying the right analytical tools to assess employee needs, working with varied formats and overcoming data privacy and security concerns.
Guntur explains: “When working remotely, we need to be able to generate and collect enough data from collaboration tools to make sure work is consistent and of the high quality our customers expect. Today, traditional working dynamics of face-to-face interactions have been replaced by data.”
He continues: “We've deployed a workplace solution called Nippon, which 100,000 people use regularly to contribute data back into our system. This provides insight into their productivity around certain workloads, products and systems and ensures effective remote work.”
The emergence of new roles
With these new data-driven organizations embracing new technologies, there are going to be new roles and responsibilities.
IoT and machine learning (ML) skills are already in high demand, but this trend will continue for years to come.
According to the 2022 McKinsey Global report, tech industries are leading in AI adoption, while product development and service operations are the business functions that have seen the most benefits from applied AI.
Blockchain, the Metaverse and cybersecurity are the pillars of Web 3.0 and jobs related to these will create opportunities.
Apart from these, cloud computing and data analysis are another important area that will support the entire innovation cycle.
“On top of this, skills that focus on anything to do with user experience and design, including human behavior and interaction, will become a priority. You’ll start to see more people with those capabilities, because face-to-face interactions are being replaced by remote interactions,” says Guntur.
He adds: “More people will also take up the role of product managers, building new technologies and capabilities for customers.”
Avoiding burnout and retaining digital engineering talent
When businesses adopt new technologies, the rate of change can be rapid. This can lead to a significant culture shock for those using the new tools who are not used to them. It will also cause challenges for the people developing these technologies, the digital engineers, who will come under increasing pressure to maintain them.
In this environment, high turnover is a challenge. Setting up the employees for success is the only way to retain top talent in technology.
To do this, organizations need to define the right KPIs for passionate and skilled engineers, while allocating mundane tasks to automated technologies has become extremely important.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and other document automation tech can be leveraged to reduce the burnout in digital engineers. Custom integration and context awareness can lead to exceptional productivity improvement. For example, HCLTech's iDoRAN can operationalize and automate static documentation and manual processes enabling complex data processing for real-time business intelligence integration.
Reducing mundane repetitive work, which provides low value, will allow companies to create efficiencies, enabling employees to focus on more challenging, high-impact work that utilizes their skills more effectively. This will lead to higher employee satisfaction.
According to Guntur, “providing career advancement opportunities can be a long-term strategy to retain high-quality talent. It ensures that employees maintain intrinsic motivation”.
Cross-training and upskilling can also lead to productivity improvements and retention. “Digital engineering provides constant opportunities for people to upskill and do new and better things,” says Guntur.
He adds: “Beyond work, there’s an opportunity for organizations to rethink how they can connect their employees with local communities and the planet, allowing them to participate and contribute to a larger purpose outside of work.”