IT Teams Face Digital Transformation Skills Shortage
June 13, 2017

Pete Goldin
APMdigest

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Many organizations are at a tipping point, as new technology demands are set to outstrip the skills supply, according to a new Global Digital Transformation Skills Study by Brocade.

The research, which surveyed 630 IT leaders in the US, UK, France, Germany, Australia, and Singapore, indicates that organizations that address this now through additional skills training will be in the strongest position to ensure business growth and competitive advantage.

Overall, 91 percent of global IT leaders acknowledge that IT departments are currently recognized as very important or critical to innovation and business growth. However, more than half (54 percent) predict 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 Contributing factors identified from the research include skills shortages, prevalence of outdated skills, lack of commitment to training at the corporate board level, and the rapidly changing technology environment.

"Businesses are approaching the peak of IT strategic influence. Now is the moment that IT teams feel they have the strongest opportunity to influence the transformation of their organizations," said Christine Heckart, CMO and SVP of Ecosystems, Brocade. "However, with a rapidly changing technology landscape and potential impact on international labor markets, it is critical that IT receives the right training to further develop their skills and business relevance."

The research also found that skills planning had to be aligned with other areas of business planning to avoid the risk of a technology skills deficit, where IT teams are expected to deliver the benefits of technologies that they are ill-equipped to implement.

Organizations 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 organizations at risk of falling behind their competitors and losing customers.

■ Approximately one in four respondents in Australia, France, Germany, Singapore, and the U.S. claim that they cannot deliver on current business demand due to staff shortages. This number rises to 42 percent in the UK.

■ Respondents claim that the lack of access to talent will prevent them from implementing new technologies efficiently, lead to a decrease in employee satisfaction, and result in the loss of market share.

Training is Business-Critical

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

■ There is consistent demand globally to spend more time on increasing skills -- from 15 percent of time that is currently spent on this to 22 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 factors rise to 60 percent and 50 percent respectively in Australia but drop to 37 percent and 30 percent in Germany.

■ Currently, only three hours are allocated per week for learning and skills development. Respondents in Singapore average four hours of skills development per week.

■ 67 percent of respondents agree that the key to closing the skills gap would be to spend more money on training.

IT Professionals Need to Take Control of Their Professional Future

The research also showed that IT professionals at all levels must take increased responsibility for their own professional destiny, embracing the opportunities delivered by new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and all areas of IoT from device management to security.

■ 35 percent of global respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their organization's IT team does not have the right skills to protect their jobs in the future.

■ When asked to identify the one skill that they see as critical to their future career progression, cybersecurity was the most frequently cited, by 22 percent of respondents globally.

■ AI and IoT security tied for second as the most critical skill at 18 percent. While AI was the most critical skill in France and Australia, IoT security was the most valued skill in Germany.

AI - Friend or Foe?

AI could revolutionize the IT skills that are required and the way that we work. AI is likely to replace a number of IT roles and tasks, but this doesn't mean the end for the IT department. Employees need to have the right skills to be in a position to work alongside AI and embrace its future impact, so that organizations can unleash its full potential.

■ When asked which current roles were already being replaced by AI, desktop support (23 percent), data analyst (20 percent), software testers (17 percent), system architects (14 percent), and network engineers (11 percent) topped the list.

■ Within the next 10 years, these numbers are expected to increase: desktop support (37 percent), data analyst (34 percent), software testers (33 percent), system architects (31 percent), and network engineers (31 percent).

■ AI will also impact the role of the CIO, with almost half of the global respondents claiming increased focus from the business.

■ 56 percent of respondents believe that developing AI-related skills is key to securing a role in the future.

Vital Role of the Board

Organizations' boards will often dictate whether employees have the time and empowerment to develop their skills, but this is common at organizations 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.

■ 44 percent of respondents think that new skills acquisition is not seen as being as valuable as it should be by the board. This rises to 59 percent in Australia and 50 percent in the UK. The US
(42 percent), Germany (41 percent), Singapore (40 percent), and France (34 percent) had slightly more positive results.

■ Almost a fifth of global respondents think their boards view gaining knowledge and skills as a cost to the business, rather than an asset. This rises to 35 percent in Australia.

■ However, the majority of respondents in France (63 percent) and Germany (62 percent) see knowledge and skills growth as an asset.

■ Despite respondents claiming that they plan approximately two years in advance for most areas of the business, staffing and recruitment is still on average only planned for a maximum of a year.

■ This is creating a disconnect where organizations are attempting to address key IT challenges with teams not as well equipped in terms of skills and experience as they could be.

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