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Chris Ducker, Senior Director of global proposition strategy at Sungard Availability Services

The Generation Game – soon to be revived on our TV screens – was the British game show of the 1970s stealing baby boomers’ hearts and Saturday nights. Two members from the same family, but different generations, competed to win prizes –  both bringing a different perspective and skillset to the show’s tasks. Sixteen years since it last graced our screens, technology has been playing its own generation game with us and the difference in approach and capabilities between users of all ages remains a point of interest.

Today, across mainstream, technical and social media, we hear a lot about what the millennial generation are bringing to the workplace; a hunger for progression and purpose, a flexible approach to working, and an affinity with the digital world. Growing up in a world of rapidly changing technology, it is widely thought that this generation adapt better to new tools and techniques, mocking previous generations for their supposed ‘digital dyslexia’.

The senior brain drain

But how much weight does this stereotype hold in reality, and how does the millennial generation fare when faced with traditional tools? As part of a long-term strategy, organisations are building sophisticated IT estates with the addition of external services to their traditional on-premise solutions, rendering environments increasingly hybrid. Younger generations – who have not been educated in the disciplines underpinning so-called mainframe and mid-range computers – are often ill-equipped to operate such older, legacy technologies that for many organisations remain the cornerstone of their IT strategy. Despite this, findings from our inaugural The Little Book of IT research found that nearly one in four organisations (23%) have said that educational investments in legacy technology are not a priority[1].

New technologies are portrayed as the gateway to innovation for organisations and a pathway to foster growth. Unlike legacy technology training, organisations are devoting their dollars to changing infrastructure (58%) and new market technologies (56%) as a matter of priority. As the expression goes “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, but can you teach a young dog old ones? As workers who have been at the organisation for years depart or retire, so too does their expertise and very likely their intellectual capital.  Thus, they leave behind a generation who may well struggle to maintain the legacy infrastructure upon which the business was built. What’s more, The Little Book of IT reveals that legacy modernisation is leading to increased redundancies in 23% of cases; demonstrating that those with these skills are being let go in favour of new blood.  A false economy of skills is being created.

 Out with the old, in with the new?

 With the demands of bimodal IT calling for organisations to manage both traditional, and new, more agile technologies at the same time, organisations will be hard pressed staffing across both types of environments. And, with the UK in the midst of a pressing digital skills crisis, this gap in generational skills adds yet another challenging dimension for companies looking to recruit those deemed suitably fit for the job. How can they ensure their staff are well-equipped to deal with this hybridity?

On the quest for innovation, organisations will need to understand that, while recruiting candidates who are adept with new and upcoming technologies will be highly beneficial, preparing for the inevitable legacy technology brain drain is an equally crucial part of their IT strategy.

A conveyor belt of staff

 With technically skilled employees increasingly scarce, neglecting to keep your existing staff ‘in-the-know’ could have devastating consequences for staff retention. There is no doubt that employees of all generations recognise the value of old and new technologies, but failing to upskill could see them sliding out the door as rapidly as the items on the Generation Game conveyor belt.

If the above seems unlikely, consider this: employees named ”having the right technical skills” and ”receiving appropriate training” as the two biggest challenges hindering digital transformation, in our research which looked at the importance of providing the right digital tools and training for attracting and retaining talent.  Further study showed that 34 per cent of workers found there wasn’t enough training, whilst 23 per cent also said the training they had had was inadequate. The message is clear.  In order to get employee buy-in for new technologies, organisations need to drive an internal cultural change and provide the necessary educational tools for both new and traditional technologies.

Sourcing External Skills

While nurturing your in-house talent is vital to both employee satisfaction and to the success of your IT estate, all is not lost if your organisation simply does not have the resources for an internal training programme that is comprehensive enough to keep pace with digital developments. For whatever reason, if plugging the legacy skills gap amongst your existing staff has to be put on the backburner, outsourcing skills is an option for those who need to run and maintain legacy platforms. This could involve hiring in resource, or outsourcing legacy workloads to third party managed service providers. In fact, the latter of these options is one of the driving forces behind predictions of up to 60 per cent of IT infrastructure moving off-premise.

With 61 per cent of UK businesses being impacted by internal budget cuts, IT leaders will need to gain the confidence and backing of their fellow board members to make these necessary investments in training or outsourcing, if they are to unleash technology’s potential to transform their businesses.  This will involve dedicating a proportion of the training budget to traditional, on-premise infrastructure, or to sourcing these skills externally. In a time when budgets are strapped, this will inevitably translate into a financial hit. However, ensuring your legacy IT is optimised and supported will ultimately render the digital transformation process more successful and place you ahead of the competition.  It will also protect you from the ticking time bomb of a legacy IT skills shortage!

As organisations juggle the varied skills of a diverse workforce and seek to deploy them most advantageously for future growth, digital transformation will be no mean feat. With so many businesses relying on a legacy environment, ignoring the needs of the older components of their hybrid IT estate would be foolish.  And whilst it may well be able to continue running in the background with minimal technological impact for the time being, neglecting it will mean minimal positive commercial impact to the business too. Ensuring your legacy technologies tick over efficiently in the context of a digitally transformative IT strategy will require more patience, time and training than you realise. But taking advantage of the cross-generation IT capabilities and hunger for skills at your disposal will go far to make your organisation’s innovation process seamless.

Done well, it should take you into a new generation of business success and employee growth too.

[1]The Little Book of IT: Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS) commissioned independent technology market research firm Vanson Bourne to conduct interviews with 1,350 IT decision makers from around the globe and across multiple sectors, ranging from medium to large enterprises. The research took place from October to December 2016.

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Duo glide around world’s largest fountain in Dubai



Duo glide around world's largest fountain in Dubai 1

Paragliders Llorens and Goberna take magical flight above the Palm Fountain.

Horacio Llorens and Rafael Goberna defied gravity to perform The Breaking Pointe flight around the world’s biggest fountain at The Pointe, Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. Here is all you need to know:

– Spaniard Llorens is a five-time world champion and Infinity Tumbling Guinness World Record holder, who has performed a series of spectacular projects during the last five years including paragliding with a flock of starlings and with the beautiful Aurora Borealis as a backdrop.

– Brazilian Goberna was a Guinness Book of World Records winner at only 12-years-old and, in December 2016, he took to the skies above one of the seven wonders of the natural world when paragliding at Iguazu Falls.

– This time around, the duo teamed up in Dubai to showcase The Palm Fountain at the Pointe, Palm Jumeirah. They overcame a tricky preparation period to expertly glide between the fountain’s powerful jets of water.

– Spanning across the boulevard, the Palm Fountain features two giant floating platforms covering 14,000 square metres of sea water. Reaching an impressive 105 metres high and lighting up the Dubai sky with 3,000 LED lights, the fountain “dances” to hit songs from sunset until midnight.

– They undertook training first at Paramotor Desert Adventure on January 12 to test out their brakes and motors with technician Ramon Lopez finally arriving after being held up by the heavy snow in Madrid.

– Training was crucial for the challenge of flying during the night with low visibility as safety director Alan Gayton ensured they had a reserve parachute in case of a technical issue with the main parachute. Llorens and Goberna also had to study the movement of the water with great precision in order not to get caught up in the jets of water

– Flying over water, it was also mandatory to have a lifejacket with rescue boats, jet skis and divers on hand which came handy when Goberna suffered a technical malfunction on the first January 14 practice run.

– After repairs long into the night, they returned to Paramotor Desert Adventure to test out the motors again before completing the stunning flight on January 15 with Llorens and Goberna performing in harmony.

– Llorens, 38, revealed: “As soon as we got the opportunity, we wanted to fly there. We needed to know the area really well beforehand and we needed to know how to ‘play’ with the fountain – this was new for us. Such strong streams of water shooting 100 metres up is a lot, so we had to be really prepared.”

– Goberna, 26, explained: “The motor wasn’t flying so good because, prior to arriving in Dubai, it was last used in Europe at high altitude. I needed to adjust the carburettor in the air inside the motor. In the first practice flight over the water, I broke one propeller. I really couldn’t understand what was happening and then another one broke. Eventually, a backup motor was required. After a long journey, the final result was beautiful! The team worked incredibly hard to make it.”

– Llorens added: “The highlight for me was playing between the super shooters with Rafael, because it’s something we’ve never done before; it felt really new and really powerful.”

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EU sets itself jobs, training and equality targets for 2030



EU sets itself jobs, training and equality targets for 2030 2

By Jan Strupczewski

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission on Thursday announced goals for the 27-nation bloc to reduce poverty, inequality and boost training and jobs by 2030 as part of a post-pandemic economic overhaul financed by jointly borrowed funds.

The EU executive arm said the European Union should boost employment to 78% in 2030 from 73% in 2019, halve the gap between the number of employed women and men and cut the number of young people neither working nor studying to 9% from 12.6%

“With unemployment and inequalities expected to increase as a fallout of the pandemic, focusing our policy efforts on quality job creation, up- and reskilling and reducing poverty and exclusion is therefore essential to channel our resources where they are most needed,” the commission said.

The goals, which will have to be endorsed by EU leaders, also include an increase in the number of adults getting training every year to adapt to the EU’s transition to a greener and more digitalised economy to 60% from 40% now.

Finally, over the next 10 years, the EU should reduce the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion by 15 million from 91 million in 2019.

“These three 2030 headline targets are deemed ambitious and realistic at the same time,” the commission said.

The goals are part of the EU’s set of 20 social rights, agreed on in 2017, to make the EU more appealing to voters and counter eurosceptic sentiment across the bloc.

They say everybody has the right to quality education throughout their lives and that men and women must have equal opportunities in all areas and be paid the same for work of equal value.

The unemployed have the right to “personalised, continuous and consistent support”, while workers have the right “to fair wages that provide for a decent standard of living”.

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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UK aero-engineer Meggitt eyes return to growth after pandemic slump



UK aero-engineer Meggitt eyes return to growth after pandemic slump 3

LONDON (Reuters) – British engineer Meggitt said that it could return to profit growth in 2021 provided there are no further lockdowns, despite a weakening in the struggling aviation market at the end of 2020 and early this year.

Pandemic restrictions halted much flying globally last year and forced plane makers Boeing and Airbus to cut production rates, dragging down suppliers like Meggitt, which makes and services parts for such aircraft.

Meggitt’s underlying operating profit plunged by 53% to 191 million pounds ($267 million) in 2020, it said on Thursday, despite continued growth in its defence business which makes parts for military jets and accounts for about 45% of the business.

Meggitt, however, said it expected air traffic to recover in the second half of the year which would help it return to profit growth over the year, although its guidance for flat revenue disappointed analysts who had expected growth of 6%.

Meggitt’s Chief Executive Tony Wood said in November that he had expected flying to start to recover by Easter, but new variants have led to more restrictions and delayed the recovery.

“It has gone back a couple of months… it’s now very much in the summer,” Wood said of the recovery in an interview on Thursday.

Further in the future, Meggitt is positioning itself for the move to lower emissions flying, and its sensors and electric motors will be used on electric urban air mobility platforms, such as flying taxis, and in hybrid aeroplanes being developed.

But Meggitt said new tax breaks announced in Britain’s annual budget on Wednesday aimed at encouraging investment would not change its plans.

“Yes, it will be a benefit. Are we looking at any acceleration as a result specifically of that? Not really,” Woods said.

Shares in Meggitt were down 1% to 427 pence at 0943 GMT. The stock has risen by 50% since news of a COVID-19 vaccine last November, but is still down 23% on where it was pre-pandemic.

($1 = 0.7165 pounds)

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Alistair Smout and Susan Fenton)

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