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Skills shortages in IT are nothing new however a recent study₁ has further highlighted how concerns within the sector are at near critical levels. The research, which surveyed 630 IT leaders in the UK, US, France, Germany, Australia, and Singapore, indicates that many organisations are at a tipping point, as new technology demands are set to outstrip the skills supply.

IT leader Brocade commissioned the study with the aim of uncovering how well-placed global IT leaders consider themselves and their teams to be in terms of meeting current and future business demands. Interestingly, like many surveys, the respondent pool is not large but this survey provides a wider context as it is geographically diverse and this diversity provides an interesting view across different business cultures.

The survey provides a long list of challenges facing IT teams ranging from limited budgets to the lack of decision making the IT department has. What is clear is that the country with the biggest staff issues is the UK with 42% of companies under resourced. Of the six markets surveyed, Germany was found to be the best prepared to meet its digital transformation goals, closely followed by the US. The UK lagged well behind its counterparts with almost two thirds (63 percent) predicting they will struggle with a lack of IT talent in 12 months. Contributing factors identified from the research include skills shortages, prevalence of outdated skills, lack of commitment to training at the corporate board level, and the rapidly changing technology environment.

Organisations are attempting to move their IT departments away from their traditional roles, but the lack of skills and the time required to learn those skills have held them back. IT decision makers (ITDM) believe this could be a major contributor to their inability to meet business demands, putting organisations at risk of falling behind their competitors and losing customers and market share.

The IT skills gap is only likely to get worse and organisations need to act now
The political landscape is also a contributing factor in the widening skills gap. As market uncertainty intensifies in the next few years, it is more important than ever for IT departments to remain agile and take advantage of new technologies.

  • Ninety percent of those questioned in the UK had some level of concern about future hiring of IT staff, while 63 percent were concerned about a lack of skilled talent to choose from.

Training time and investment will prove to be business-critical
Training continues to be an issue as day-to-day IT maintenance tasks take priority. For organisations to address the technical skills deficit, they first need to invest time and money – or face the consequences.

  • There is demand in the UK to spend more time on increasing skills – from 10 percent of time that is currently spent on this to 20 percent.
  • Respondents reported that insufficient budget (45 percent) and training time (45 percent) are constraining IT departments’ attempts to develop skills more than any other factors. These were most pronounced in the UK (61% and 50%).
  • Currently, only three hours are allocated per week for learning and skills development, this goes down to one hour for UK respondents.
  • Seventy percent of UK respondents agree that the key to closing the skills gap would be to spend more money on training.

Vital role of the board in ensuring long-term IT skills development
Organisations’ boards will often dictate whether employees have the time and empowerment to develop their skills, but this is common at organisations that do not have the right support. The boards also have to ensure that skills and training improvements are aligned with other areas of business planning.

What is clear from the study is that those organisations that address the issues raised will be in the strongest position to ensure business growth, competitive advantage and a successful future.

Digital Transformation Skills Study – conducted by independent research house Vanson Bourne – March 2017.