Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: The CIO's guide to quantum computing

Quantum computing in the enterprise: Four factors to consider

We're a long way from seeing quantum computing hit the mainstream, but that doesn't mean organisations shouldn't be thinking about its implications for the business.

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Image: Getty/ gremlin

Quantum computing is still in its infancy, yet the technology is tipped to transform entire industries, whether by revolutionising healthcare through new drug discovery and DNA sequencing, or by assisting humans in their search for extra-terrestrial life on as-yet-undiscovered planets.

Special Report

The CIO's guide to Quantum computing

Quantum computers offer great promise for cryptography and optimization problems, and companies are racing to make them practical for business use. ZDNet explores what quantum computers will and won’t be able to do, and the challenges that remain.

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But the rapidly growing interest in the burgeoning quantum industry throws up some difficult questions for businesses. One of the most pressing in the near-term is how organisations with quantum computing ambitions can find and attract skilled workers in this new and highly specialised field. There's also the issue of how industry and academia can speed up the supply of candidates with the right qualifications and competencies into quantum computing jobs.

Read on for four business and hiring challenges that organisations face as they move into the quantum era.

Understanding who – and what – you need

While there are many potential future applications of quantum technology, we're still a long way from seeing its real potential. As such, the exact skills and competencies that companies will need to succeed in quantum computing are still not fully known.

There is also the learning gap to consider: quantum computing is a fundamentally different technology to the processes that power the devices we know and use today. When it comes to hiring, research shows that candidates are less likely to accept a job offer if the person interviewing them shows a lack of understanding of the technology. Recruiters and hiring managers will therefore need to brush up on their knowledge and be informed about their exact businesses needs if they hope to secure the best candidates in the future.

See also: Quantum computing's next big challenge: A quantum skills shortage

Attracting talent

Tech companies-- and companies in general for that matter -- are already contending with a chronic skills shortage that has been made significantly worse by the global pandemic. Given that software developers, data analysts, cybersecurity professionals and systems architects are all in high demand, the competition among companies when hiring from a considerably smaller pool of quantum computing pros will be even more fierce.

Employers will have to put a lot of careful thought into how they present quantum job roles for candidates -- not just with the promise of interesting work and a decent salary, but with career development opportunities, flexible working, and the chance to hone and develop their expertise.

See also: The global quantum computing race has begun. What will it take to win it?

Setting the barriers to entry

Jobs in quantum computing carry a high barrier to entry; after all, working in the field requires a demonstrable understanding of quantum mechanics alongside a mix of specialist technical competencies -- not generally a requirement of your typical 9-5 job.

It's for this reason that organisations hiring for quantum roles target candidates with doctorates and Master's degrees -- again, giving them a small candidate pool to choose from. Given that computer science and similar subjects are declining in popularity at school and university level, employers will likely find that their need for quantum skills will increase faster than the rate of doctorate graduates coming out of university.

Organisations, and the tech industry more widely, will need to work together to speed up the pipeline into students into quantum roles. They will also need to lower barriers to entry by thinking about transferrable skills and how they supplement employees' existing experience with on-the-job training and upskilling initiatives. A survey of 500 managers familiar with quantum technologies by Classiq, a quantum software company, found that 94.9% were interested in taking part in quantum computing training. An even greater number (95.7%) said they wanted schools and universities to offer more training in the field. Clearly, the appetite is there.

See also: What is quantum computing? Everything you need to know about the strange world of quantum computers  

Beware of hype

Gartner predicts that, by 2023, 20% of organisations will be budgeting for quantum computing projects, while Classiq's research found that 62 or organisations had already allocated a budget for quantum computing.

While the technology promises many exciting applications and represents a significant leap forward in the technical landscape, quantum computing remains in its infancy, and it's going to be a long time before it gets anywhere close to the mainstream.

Organisations interested in pursuing quantum technology need to be careful not to be swept away by the hype that typically surrounds breakthrough innovations, particularly as vendors and analysts continue to make predictions about its capabilities and potential impact. Similarly, those who invest in quantum technologies shouldn't expect any quick wins: quantum computing represents a paradigm shift in the technology ecosystem that will take place over many years. Businesses value and ROI will only be achieved with sustained, long-term investment -- and businesses should expect some failures along the way.