As more companies undertake digital transformation projects, having the right IT professionals with the right skills has become more important than ever. IT managers gearing up for such projects say they particularly need experts in big data, analytics and cybersecurity -- the very skill sets that are in acute short supply. Even if they are able to find candidates, there are usually not enough or not exactly the right match. And training existing staff for in-demand skills is challenging and takes time. “When we’re moving into the cloud, social, mobile computing and big data, it’s not business as usual,” says Diane Berry, research vice president of CIO workforce management at Gartner. “These are whole new areas that are transforming industries. It’s significantly harder to reskill in these areas, which puts pressure on [IT managers] to really take a look at their people and planning.” To make matters worse, CIOs aren’t very good at workforce planning. According to a 2010 Gartner study, less than a third of IT organizations had a formal process to make informed decisions on when, where and what types of IT skills they will need.
And a 2016 survey by staffing and training company TEKsystems revealed that 68% of respondents think it's more challenging to staff IT projects today than five years ago. Of the 53% who said they have a formal, strategic plan for their workforce, 74% reported that responsibility for that strategic plan was held by a manager or director rather than upper-level management. And 73% reported that they only start planning for the workforce for a project within 90 days of needing the staff. “There’s a desire to be more strategic, but there’s a struggle in how to actually make that happen,” says Kevin Holland, director, learning and IT transformations solutions at TEKsystems. Clearly, the potential is there for companies transitioning from the traditional IT model to a new digital, cloud-based model to be caught flat-footed when it comes to staffing. Computerworld talked to IT leaders at organizations large and small to see how they’re handling the issue. Read on for their insights on when to retrain current workers and when to hire fresh IT talent.
According to Computerworld’s Tech Forecast 2017 survey of 196 IT managers, directors and executives, the skills most difficult to hire for are security (25%), programming/application development (15%) and business intelligence/analytics (14%). Asked how they planned to manage around these shortages, 49% of survey respondents said they would outsource or hire contingent workers, 42% said they would increase current employee training, 28% said they’d re-evaluate their recruiting process, and 28% said they’d create flexible organizational/team structures and operating models. It’s important to have Plans B, C and D in place, because the challenge -- both in hiring and in training -- is only going to grow, enough so that it could significantly impede major IT projects, according to tech managers and industry watchers.
The success of digital transformations depends on getting a critical mix of IT skills and experience just right, says David Foote, chief analyst and co-founder of Foote Partners. There isn’t enough talent at the right level of experience in the marketplace to satisfy demand, he says, and what’s more, technology is advancing so fast that companies will increasingly struggle to get that mix right. In talking with tech leaders on how they’re tackling the problem, it becomes clear that an organization’s strategy is closely tied to its size. Larger companies typically ramp up training -- no surprise, say analysts, because they have the budget and likely a training infrastructure already in place. Midsize and small companies, which don’t always have the luxury of those resources, have to get creative. “The big boys are able to develop their own boot camps and training centers,” Gartner's Berry sums up. “Midsize organizations struggle. They don’t have the resources or the expertise to do that type of training.”
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