Canadian employers are facing major labour shortages with information technology sectors feeling the greatest pinch. Canadian governments and businesses are scrambling to fill an estimated 200,000 tech-related job postings. In this environment, public sector employers are turning to innovative technology environments that can help them develop new capabilities in literally days, but also address the realities of a historically large digital talent shortage.
Canadian governments have typically balanced building technology solutions themselves with buying commercial off-the-shelve products. The pendulum swings back and forth depending upon budgets and leadership preferences. But with the tight talent market, everything is changing.
Some provinces cannot afford to hire expensive and experienced digital staff, and Atlantic Canadian provinces in particular have had to outsource major information technology services and projects entirely. One Provincial Chief Information Officer in the Atlantic region recently said his organization would never want to buy a server again, lacking the resources to maintain it.
“Despite the talent shortages, a “build it yourself” culture persists in many Canadian Public Sector agencies.“
Despite the talent shortages, a “build it yourself” culture persists in many Canadian Public Sector agencies. The Federal and Provincial governments of Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia share a growing interest in open source to augment their internal technology capabilities.
In Ontario, the Ontario Digital Service, a team of coders, user experience experts and digital strategists, is leading the development of many of the province’s technology projects. The Ontario Covid Alert App and Covid-19.ontario.ca were championed and launched by the Ontario Digital Service and provide great examples of applications built in-house.
In Ottawa, the Canadian Digital Service provides a similar service to federal departments by developing tools that public servants can use to modernize workflows, reduce procurement costs and deliver a better user experience.
The tight technology labour market is a steep obstacle for these organizations if they hope to continue the “build it yourself” approach. Technically skilled personnel are essential to design and build the applications and maintain them over the long term.
“Organizations that prefer to build applications on their own also face the risk posed by staff turnover – a particular challenge in the public sector, which can expect 30% of staff to change in a given year.“
Organizations that prefer to build applications on their own also face the risk posed by staff turnover – a particular challenge in the public sector, which can expect 30% of staff to change in a given year. Those agencies that build custom applications might be intimately familiar with their functionality and patch cycle but what happens when critical employees leave?
Given the very real skills and employment gaps for public sector technology roles, is the “build it yourself” approach realistic?
Yes, because newer approaches to the low-code/no-code development model are growing in popularity. Whether cloud-based or on-premises, these revolutionary platforms can empower what some are calling “citizen developers” – those with the most rudimentary coding skills – who can envision, create and deliver secure applications in days and weeks as opposed to months and years.
The key to success with low-code/no-code environments is that there is no actual code. Whether you’re an enterprise developer or someone with no coding skills, you can drag and drop application components, connect them, and create web-based or mobile applications. It really is as simple as that. Even if faced with staff turnover, new employees can easily pick up where others left off. The pandemic served as a proving ground for low-code/no-code environments – a situation where citizen applications were required almost overnight and needed to work flawlessly.
Oracle’s Covid-19 Therapeutic Learning System demonstrated the effectiveness of low-code/no-code. United States policymakers required a COVID-19 data collection platform to better understand the progression of the pandemic and take actions to keep citizens safe. Using APEX, Oracle’s low-code/no-code platform, Oracle stood up a prototype within three days and deployed the complete platform in less than two weeks.
“Low-code/no-code technology is just one way Canadian agencies can begin to address technology talent shortages and staff turnover.”
Low-code/no-code technology is just one way Canadian agencies can begin to address technology talent shortages and staff turnover and build sustainable, long-term solutions in-house. Through cloud native applications, the Canadian Public Sector can continue to quickly and securely build applications themselves without a roomful of computer scientists.