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Closing the IT Skills Gap to Address Business Demands
By Matt Kolon, CTO - Asia Pacific & Japan (APJ), Brocade
The next step for IT, as revealed in our Global Digital Transformation Skills Index Study, is to move in an internal consultancy role. This requires many talented people to use emerging technologies to effect necessary change.
Our research shows that, of all the activities that the IT department dedicates time to, the least is spent on skill development. While some markets are greater offenders than others - the UK dedicates only an hour a week to training compared to Singapore’s four – the pace of technological change certainly demands more effort and money to be spent on keeping teams up to speed.
Talent shortage and outdated skills are the barriers to delivering on business demands
One of the key issues that our research highlights is that planning for training timelines does not align with longer IT planning cycles. So, for instance, whilst a grand plan for a strategic IT shift may kick-off two years in advance, training and staffing concerns are only considered six months in advance.This disconnect is being felt by CIOs and IT decision makers, with around one in four claiming that lack of skills, outdated skills, and insufficient manpower are holding the department back from delivering on its goals.
It’s a curious scenario, as our IT decision maker respondents almost unanimously (91 percent) agree that their company recognises the importance of the IT department for future innovation and growth. Despite this, nearly half of the IT decision makers surveyed pointed to insufficient budget and training time as key blockades to their success, and 67 percent agree that the key to closing the skills gap would be to spend more on training.
The importance of further investment (both time and money) in IT upskilling cannot be understated. We have entered a period of rapid technological advancement where numerous technologies are coalescing to dramatically change the face of IT.
We have entered a period of rapid technological advancement where numerous technologies are coalescing to dramatically change the face of IT
It’s telling then that, when queried on which skills would be vital for future success, IT leaders’ responses were so varied. Whilst those at the front of the pack aren’t that surprising – artificial intelligence (AI), cyber security, cloud - other, less headline grabbing skills such as DevOps and Software-defined networking (SDN) were also popular choices. In fact, 68 percent agree that the future of the IT department will rest on the acquisition of more specialised skills.
The IT skills gap is only likely to get worse and organisations need to act now
With the lack of investment in training that currently exists, IT leaders foresee the skills gap only widening as time goes on. In fact, almost half of global respondents believe that hiring IT staff with the right skills will only get tougher over the next 10 years as the talent pool becomes ever shallower.
Recent geopolitical events have done little to soothe IT leaders’ fears around the widening skills gap. Nearly half (43 percent) of our respondents agreed that the current political climate was negatively affecting their attempts at hiring sufficiently skilled employees. This was of particular concern in the US, where just over half felt the political climate was a skills obstacle. Interestingly, despite BREXIT, UK's IT decision makers felt this was not a major concern for sourcing talent now and in the future.
As IT leaders are already worried about staff and skills shortages impacting digital transformation goals in the here and now, if these concerns aren’t addressed, the threats businesses face will only intensify.
In the minds of key IT decision makers a diminished talent pool holds myriad threats to businesses. Besides the practical considerations around implementing new technologies effectively, the greatest concerns globally are a decrease in employee satisfaction and a loss of market share to competitors.
If lack of skills does indeed lead to a slowdown in digital transformation efforts, there are a number of knock-on effects that IT leaders fear will affect the business. In France, for instance, they worry about losing business staff due to poor IT, and 62 percent predict business staff leaving if IT can’t secure talent. In Singapore, IT leaders are concerned that they’ll be unable to attract new customers if they don’t keep pace with competitors’ digital transformation initiatives.
These are serious issues for businesses of any size, and highlight how crucial it is for IT heads to get ahead of this problem before it escalates.
It’s not too late for IT leaders to make the systemic changes needed to ensure the future of their teams. If they don’t act now, they risk the skills gap becoming a chasm that swallows their department.
Organisations and CIOs must recognise the importance of IT for future success and the problems they need to solve. It’s time for CIOs and the board to step up the training regime and solve the IT skills gap.