Enterprise hits and misses - techlash at Davos with the digital skills gap in focus

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed January 24, 2019
This week - Davos brings the techlash into focus as the WEF shares plans for closing the digital skills gap. Also: big SIs get a reckoning, and the open source enterprise debate roils on. Your whiffs include emotional support alligators.

Cheerful Chubby Man

Lead story - World Economic Forum in Davos - skills over degrees, robots and the techlash - stories by Stuart Lauchlan

MyPOV: It's easy to criticize the annual Davos sessions as elitist handwringing full of pomp and questionable follow through. Valid? Perhaps, but WEF does spark conversations that matter - particular on the digital skills gap. As per usual, Stuart was parsing the Davos news, most recently, Hire for skills, not degrees - a new paradigm to tackle disenfranchisement in the digital economy. He quotes SAP's Bill McDermott, who blasted through some of SAP's own next-gen rhetoric with this:

You have trust and you have experiences. More than two-thirds of people out there are worried about losing their job to a robot…so tell that person to love technology! I wish you luck with that argument.

IBM's Ginni Rometty talked sense also:

As businesses we have to believe that we’ll hire for skills, not just for their degrees or their diplomas. Otherwise we’ll never bridge this gap. All of us have companies that are full of university degrees and PhDs; you’ve got to make room for everyone in society.

Easy to say, harder to change. On point regardless. Stuart fleshed out the "techlash" sentiments in Tackling the techlash - it's time to "recover the soil" in the digital economy. The techlash is kerosene on the fire of the digital divide: "The Digital Economy needs a new governance model to tackle erosion of privacy and trust, according to a World Economic Forum discussion." Easy to say, even harder to change. But again - absolutely the right topic to fret about.

Which brings us to Stuart's Everyone wants more of the digital pie, but what will it take to provide a bigger slice for all? MIT says:

This is the essence of the mismatch – you simultaneously have people who are finding their jobs automated, at the same time as technology is creating other new jobs... The types of tasks that machine learning affects is, for better or worse, a broad spectrum of jobs.

Concerning? Yes. A problem we must grapple with, well beyond a pretentious meeting of the minds Davos. Silver lining: a true, job-wrecking generally-intelligent AI is very far away. Stuart sums it:

At the end of the day, this was a very Davos-y debate – some good ideas, some interesting comments, now go away and let’s see the fine words being put into long term practice.

Agreed. And we all have to grab a thoughtful shovel.

Happy children eating apple

Diginomica picks - my top two stories on diginomica this week

Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here's my top choices from our vendor coverage:

Jon's grab bag - You're not likely to see a headline like Leadership, transformation, cricket and dogs with Vijay Vijayasankar on diginomica very often, but then, Vijayasankar is not your typical podcast guest. Have a listen. None of you are sick of Brexit, I know. Stuart clears the noise in Do mention the B-word - an exit from Brexit silence from business leaders.

Den weighs our pay-for-data future possibilities in Google gets whacked with €50 million GDPR compliance fine but what if we could monetize our data? Finally, last week's open source enterprise debate trucks on with Den's slow roast special curated commentary in Why you should take notice of the open source in enterprise suckers conundrum. Here's where we land, for now:

The business processes that feed into these systems exhibit the ‘last mile’ problem to which Josh alludes. Solving for that requires the kind of domain knowledge expertise that is rarely found in the open source community.

Me: that's why open source is an enterprise platform, not a full-on solution. Reducing tech complexity to re-usable interoperability via open source is the second to last mile at best. The last mile is what we should be marketing the heck out of even if we don't understand what it means busting our tails on to make affordable/impactful/frictionless.

Best of the rest

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer

Lead story - Start the reskilling revolution without me: Future of Work trends and soft data on soft skills by George Anadiotis, ZDNet

myPOV: If you're willing to power through the brazen auto-play video circus in-your-face UX at ZDNet, you'll get a useful piece from Anadiotis which riffs on WEF themes. This one gets practical, breaking out the latest future of jobs report from WEF, with tips we'll need to turn our robotics futures prosperous.

The resourceful will evolve their skills on the job as the "move up the stack." So-called "Transition Pathways" can help us map out skill shifts from overlapping areas. But as Anadiotis rightly argues, that's not going to solve for all: "Another point made in the WEF report is that a substantial part of those in need of reskilling will have to find their own way."

We all understand that "soft skills" (which can now be defined as skills machines can't easily duplicate) are at a premium. But Anadiotis is right to warn that clarity on soft skills is difficult (what the heck is a "team player" anyhow?). It's good to help well-meaning organizations along, many of which do not have a forward-thinking skills roadmap. But we need to go much further than this article.

Example: as much as creative/critical/emotionally intelligent skills matter, they need to be fused with digital know-how. Not checking-Instagram-on-your-iPhone digital skills, but coding/managing/sharing tasks with machines. How many schools and employers offer that combination?

Other standouts:

  • Blockchain Frontline: 2018 recap and what to watch for in 2019 - Enterprise Times with a useful roundup of last year's blockchain insights and obstacles (e.g. high performance with high transaction volumes). Conclusion: "The reality for blockchain may be more 2020." I'll push that two more years. That's right. I'm declaring 2022 the year of the enterprise blockchain. The year we don't have to hear about POCs when we ask for a live blockchain project somewhere.
  • When is it Time to Say Goodbye to Accenture, Deloitte, IBM or KPMG? - UpperEdge sticks with its no-sacred-cows style by turning the blogging lens onto our favorite land-and-expand and keep expanding digital transformation specialists. Check this edgy nugget: "Start planning the breakup before you get engaged." I don't advise doing that in your personal life, but it just might work with your SI.

Honorable mention


Overworked businessman

So I gave GoDaddy a hard time on being part of an embarrassing security breach. Probably snarkier than I needed to be.

But give GoDaddy credit: they were on the case, replying to me and addressing the issue directly:

It's still a whiff, but this type of decisive response does give me more confidence in GoDaddy than I would have had without the response. Verizon, by contrast, tried to take an issue I had with them private. Then, when they got me on private DM, they faded like a sketchy sandwich. But hey, at least they gave me a circular survey for my trouble:

Yeah, I'm still waiting for Godot.

Then there's this:

No word yet on whether this adorable five footer is TSA-approved. See you next time...

If you find an #ensw piece that qualifies for hits and misses - in a good or bad way - let me know in the comments as Clive (almost) always does.

Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed. 'myPOV' is borrowed with reluctant permission from the ubiquitous Ray Wang.



Image credit - Cheerful Chubby Man © RA Studio, Happy Children © Anna Omelchenko, Waiter Suggesting Bottle © Minerva Studiom, Overworked Businessman © Bloomua - all from Fotolia.com. Feauture image - Snowboard crash @svariophoto - Shutterstock.com.

Disclosure - SAP, Oracle, Workday, Zoho, IQMS and Salesforce are diginomica premier partners as of this writing.