There can be little doubt that technology is the single greatest factor affecting how, both as individuals and a society, we will shape the future. But the past is important as well. That’s why we think McGregor Boyall’s three decades of experience of information technology recruitment is vitally important. IT recruitment has been, and still is, at the heart of what we do. And what we do is introduce the very best information technologists to organisations who are looking for the very best information technologists. Our proven experience over thirty years has allowed us to build a wide-ranging client base that spans all sectors, not just the financial services sector for which we are perhaps best known.
So if you are a talented and skilled information technologist whose experience has been gained as a permanent employee or as a contractor, please contact us so that we can discuss career options with you. Whether your experience has been gained in analysis, development, support, infrastructure, project management or general management, we look forward to talking with you.
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We surveyed more than 1,500 employers to gather data on current hiring trends, the use of the job retention scheme (furlough), the return to home working, skills in demand and the impact the global pandemic is having on salaries and rates. We are pleased to be able to present the results for November below:
We surveyed 1,500 employers to gather data on current hiring trends, returning to the office, skills in demand and the impact the global pandemic is having on salaries and rates. We are pleased to be able to present the results below:
The Pandemic has accelerated digital transformation. A recent report suggested that the overwhelming majority of UK enterprise decision makers believe COVID-19 has increased their budget for and speed of digital transformation plans. From utilising artificial intelligence to increased reliance on blockchain, organisations are undergoing radical change to stay competitive in the post COVID-19 landscape.
Rapid change from external pressures can lead to incredible innovation, but it can also result in costly errors. In 2018, research by CISQ identified that software errors cost organisations in the US $2.8 trillion. Software issues can lead to security breaches, poor customer experience and wasted time trying to fix problems after deployment.
So, how can organisations avoid the riskier aspects of digital transformation? DevOps — an approach that integrates all stages of design, development and IT processes — is the ideal solution. DevOps and digital transformation go hand in hand. Many large-scale companies are now relying heavily on a DevOps approach, including Starbucks, BMW, Disney, Verizon and Adidas.
But why does DevOps provide such value to organisations? Let’s find out…
One of the most important things a DevOps approach achieves is breaking down the barriers between teams. Frequent feedback in developmental stages means that issues can be identified quickly and early. This means that small problems are usually resolved before they become big problems. It also results in far less time being wasted in developing technologies that are not fit for the purpose.
This increased efficiency is reflected by how much faster DevOps teams operate. A recent analysis by BCG shows that deployment time is reduced by up to 90%. In addition, the quality of the work increases (change failure rate is reduced by 50-70%) while overall IT costs are reduced (15-25%).
‘Don’t worry, operations will fix it.’ Not with DevOps. Developments tend to utilise a shared code base, frequent testing and automated deploys which enable the team to work together throughout the process. At no stage is the code ‘passed over’ to a separate team, meaning that everyone is responsible for the end product.
This shared responsibility results in both the obvious efficiency and quality benefits, but also a number of cultural benefits. DevOps supports a culture of collaboration, skill sharing and modernity. The shared responsibility also reduces fear of failure, which fosters creativity and innovation. Finally, DevOps teams are happier, more engaged and productive.
Automation and standardisation are integral to successful DevOps. It reduces human error, eliminates many monotonous tasks and increases the consistency of the output. Best practices and solutions can also be more easily shared across teams.
This translates to employees spending 50% less time remediating security issues and 22% less time on unplanned work and rework. Through automation, DevOps achieves stability in an organisation, allowing employees to spend more time creating new features or code.
To summarise, the benefits of DevOps in organisations are clear. Adopting this approach allows organisations to deploy new software more quickly while reducing the risk of costly errors. It’s also key to breaking down barriers between teams, establishing shared responsibility and allowing more time to be spent on creative work (e.g. new features) — all of which are essential to supporting digital transformation within an organisation.
COVID-19 is changing the way we work and live. With the increase of remote working and reliance on screen-time for entertainment and social interaction, the digital industry is said to be booming. The Financial Times reports, “Tech companies are still hiring feverishly as they move to take advantage of a world shifting increasingly to digital as a result of the coronavirus, despite mass lay-offs elsewhere and growing concerns over plummeting global markets.”
Companies with existing online infrastructure are seeing new subscribers, more time spent on digital platforms and increased reliance on e-commerce. According to The Economist, “Alphabet, Google’s parent, saw sales rise by 13% in the first quarter compared with the year before, and profits reached $7bn.”
But will this digital trend last?
Although we expect an eventual return to in-person activities, COVID-19 is expected to have a long term impact on digital engagement. For example, “tech phobia” is commonly cited as a reason why some, particularly those over 65, may avoid new technology. However, with no alternatives, this age group are embracing new technology. In addition, younger family members are taking the time to help them get set-up and familiar with these new apps and services. What this means, going forward, is that mobile and digital offerings will have a much wider audience, beyond tech-savvy customers and digital native millennials.
MckInsey recently highlighted the post-pandemic trends beginning to emerge in China. For example, there has been a 55% increase in customers planning a permanent shift to online grocery shopping and an increase of 3-6% percentage points in overall e-commerce. Once people overcome the initial barriers, this data indicates that customers may permanently switch or significantly increase their use of digital services.
These behavioural changes are being supported by rapid transformation of digital infrastructure. On an individual company level, businesses are investing in digital strategy – for example, Hotel Chocolat recently announced a multi-million pound investment plan. There is larger scale investment from business – Alibaba Cloud will be putting $28 billion into developing their infrastructure over the next three years. Further government support will be available for UK businesses driving innovation and development.
Finally, an internet connection is now essential for information regarding the pandemic and accessing vital goods and services for those self-isolating. The Human Rights Watch have emphasised the importance of achieving equal access to digital services (and particularly a good quality internet connection, which thousands are currently struggling with). It is clear that we can expect further investment in digital infrastructure in our future.
Who will thrive in the post COVID-19 world?
Evidently, those with a strong existing digital service will be well placed to retain their position once the pandemic has subsided. COVID-19 has created a form of ‘digital Darwinism’ according to Mary Meeker, author of the annual Internet Trends Report, whereby businesses with a clear digital strategy will leave behind those without. In a recent report, McKinsey outlined several actions that should be taken to meet customer needs and prepare for the future. These actions include:
Focus on care and concern: prioritise employee needs and the wider community by reaching out and staying true to company values.
Meet your customer needs: adapt or create digital services and models that meet remote and social distancing requirements.
Reimagine the post-COVID-19 world: plan for economic cuts, changes to brick and mortar stores and increased uptake of digital channels.
Build agile capabilities for fluid times: utilise resources such as social media and ‘ear to the ground’ insights to respond to fast-moving customer signals.
It is these companies, who support customers through the crisis by providing efficient digital services, that will retain customer loyalty in the post COVID-19 world. Those who look further ahead, to develop exceptional experiences and utilise developments in infrastructure, will thrive in our digital future.
Working from home has been vital to slow transmission of the coronavirus. However, a new threat has emerged: increased online activity, use of new applications and less secure home networks are opening up individuals and organisations to a host of cyberattacks.
According to a recent Forbes article, in an analysis of the first 100 days of the COVID-19 crisis security firm Mimecast reported a 33% increase in detected cyberattacks – including spam (+26%), malware (+35%), impersonation (+30%) and blocked URL links (+56%). Certain industries are being particularly targeted, such as healthcare (e.g. The World Health Organisation have reported a fivefold increase in cyberattacks and PPE themed scams have increased) and banking (increased use of online banking presents many opportunities for hackers – such as exploiting new users who may not be familiar with the service).
A recent report from McKinsey highlighted the multitude of potential cybersecurity risks exacerbated by remote working. For example, changes in app-access rights (such as enabling off-site access and lack of multifactor authentication) and use of personal devices or tools (such as a laptop without central control or an unsecured network) increase the opportunities for cyberattacks. While technology was vital to navigate our way through the COVID-19 crisis, rapid adoption of new digital offerings has increased risk. New tools such as video-conferencing have been particularly affected, where an unauthorised person joins a call to steal information or cause disruption. There are also fake tech support scams – increasingly sophisticated attempts to manipulate remote workers (especially those who may be working from home for the first time) with fabricated access and other tech support issues.
The weakest point in any technical system is the person sitting behind the screen. The majority (at least half, according to Trustwave’s 2020 Global Security Report) of cyberattacks occur via social engineering, a psychological manipulation process using tactics such as sending a scam from a trusted source. As always, cyber-criminals know how to target human vulnerabilities, and the number of phishing scams capitalising on our fear of COVID-19 has significantly increased. In addition, we are more likely to fall for a scam when tired or stressed – given the change to working from home, where many are juggling a variety of stressors – we might be even more vulnerable to these kinds of attacks right now.
What can you do?
Given that the person behind the screen represents a security weak-point, they also represent an area of improvement. We will need to learn how to practise good cyber-hygiene, similar to how we adopted thorough hand-washing and social distancing to reduce the risk of the coronavirus.
There are several excellent resources on improving cybersecurity. For example, Siemens have provided their eight top tips for cybersecurity in the home office, including only bringing home essential devices, not mixing personal and business use of devices and ensuring all software is always up to date. The Electronic Frontier Foundation provide more in depth advice on how to spot a phishing scam.
However, while this information is useful, it can be more difficult to establish reliable cyber-security habits. A reported three in four remote workers have yet to receive cybersecurity training, despite the clear increase in risk. More importantly, remote workers are falling for these cyber-attacks. This was recently highlighted by software development company, Gitlab, who found that 1 out of 5 of their own remote-working staff exposed user credentials by replying to a fake phishing message. Regular testing of existing cybersecurity plans in this manner can help to identify areas for improvement.
While cyber-attacks are growing ever more sophisticated, so is cybersecurity. Gamification is one fresh approach to cybersecurity training. Reading through countless tips and the odd video on cybersecurity is unlikely to translate to robust cyber-hygiene habits. However, gamified training results in increased engagement, knowledge and information retention.
Increased investment in cybersecurity may provide us with a host of interesting ideas. Cheltenham Borough Council recently announced plans for a £400 million campus development, situated next door to GCHQ, said to be the ‘Silicon Valley of the UK’. The complex will help to bridge the current skills gap and enhance the UK’s cybersecurity capacity.
Clearly, the coronavirus has highlighted a variety of cybersecurity threats. With remote working expected to continue for the foreseeable future and beyond, it is vital to address current shortcomings in security. Looking forward, the industry is an exciting one, poised for innovation and development.
Times of crisis have often sparked innovation. The Second World War, for example, brought us the forerunner of modern-day computer, advances in radar, the basis of microwaves and mass production of penicillin. COVID-19 is having a similar effect on digital development. Ideas that might have seemed far-fetched (such as the rapid scale-up of online grocery shopping and other e-commerce) are promoted by a crisis-inspired culture of experimentation. Here are five examples of how technology is developing in response to extraordinary demands.
1. Data Analysis Tools
Finding data is easy, understanding it is hard. To this end, the pandemic has inspired several AI tools to help us make sense of the large amount of available information. Data analytics company, Arria NLG, are involved in two projects helping to transform data into an easy-to-understand narrative – the COVID-19 Live Report and the COVID-19 U.S. Tracking Report. AI analysis is also being used by a group of Northwestern University researchers to identify which research will return reliable, usable results that will help aid the search for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.
The power of blockchain was recently demonstrated in a $12 million cross-continent commodity trade transaction of wheat. Usually, a transaction of this kind can take up to a month. However, using dltledgers’s blockchain platform, this was reduced to just five days. More and more businesses are expanding their reliance on blockchain – such as Nestle, who recently extended their use of the IMB Food Trust blockchain platform to their Swedish coffee range. The implications for keeping supply chains running seamlessly – something the coronavirus has highlighted as a serious challenge – are remarkable.
3. Natural Language Processing
With varied applications, such as helping customers navigate online platforms or as efficient medical tools (such as those used by Providence St. Joseph to offer coronavirus-related information), chatbots are proving useful during the pandemic. Chatbots are most commonly used to increase efficiency by answering simple queries, while forwarding more complex requests to a human operator. However, natural language processing, which refers to the deep learning that allows the chatbot to extract meaning from human conversation, improves with increased data. With some custom-made chatbots already proving useful in advanced interactions (such as Replika’s virtual friends, helping some people cope with the effects of social isolation), the uptake in chatbot use may enable the AI underpinning them to become vastly more sophisticated in the years to come.
At their recent virtual event, IBM announced a new range of AI-powered services, designed to support businesses in automating their digital infrastructure. According to Verdict, the new offering will “use automation to detect, diagnose and respond to IT anomalies and will integrate with other products such as those from Slack and Box.” Developments such as these will allow businesses to successfully adapt to a more digital future.
Many companies have reported that they are looking to increase use of robotics for food service, warehouses and cleaning operations. Blue Ocean Robotics have responded to this increased demand by creating a cleaning robot, able to destroy viruses, bacteria and other harmful microorganisms with concentrated UV-C ultraviolet light. It can sanitise environments such as hospitals, offices, shops and schools without the need for chemicals, meaning that people can be present during the cleaning. Production was quickly accelerated due to coronavirus-related demand, and it now takes less than one day to create a robot. The general public have often been uncomfortable with the idea of robots (and the issue of replacing human jobs with robot labour remains). However, with social distancing likely to be in place throughout 2021, robot labour may become more acceptable, stimulating demand for and development of robotic technology.
This article has showcased a small handful of the exciting innovation occurring during the pandemic. Given that there is expected to be a permanent shift towards use of digital services and practices such as remote working, these developments could have far-reaching implications for the technology industry for years to come.
Our Technology Market Insights Report & Salary Guide 2020 provides the latest insights on the market collated by our Technology Recruitment Teams, and from data collected from surveying our clients and candidates.
McGregor Boyall are fully committed to addressing the gender imbalance in the UK Technology space. We recently surveyed women working in technology to gauge their views on the current state of play, and to obtain key action points for the market.
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Our Technology Market Insights Report & Salary Guide 2019 provides the latest insights on the market collated by our Technology Recruitment Teams, and from data collected from surveying our clients and candidates.
Our Technology Salary Guide 2017 provides the latest insights on the market, provided by our Technology team.