In an era when just about every business relies on technology, the IT skills shortage has forced many into a seemingly unwinnable balancing act. As organizations come to terms with this new reality, those who don’t plan accordingly could be forced into decisions that stifle innovation and ultimately hinder the business over the long term.
Flexibility and Prioritization
In short, it’s a critical time for business owners. On one hand, they need to carefully prioritize their investments in tech talent based on the needs of the business. On the other, they need a certain amount of flexibility that allows them to pivot when those needs change.
As it stands, 49% of tech professionals say their organization plans to hire for cybersecurity over the next year, No. 1 among all categories and just ahead of cloud/multi-cloud hires (47%). That’s according to a new research report from CIO, sponsored by Rimini Street, which surveyed 255 respondents in IT positions at organizations with annual revenues of $250 million or more.
On the surface, this makes perfect sense. Cybersecurity should be top-of-mind for all businesses since attacks or data breaches can lead to far-reaching consequences that can negatively impact a business for years on end. That said, businesses also don’t want to invest so heavily in security that it drains budgets and hurts innovation, which is another major concern as businesses of all sizes and types embark on digital transformation journeys.
The bottom line is that today’s businesses need to find a balance that makes the most business sense. This includes supporting both legacy and newer tech solutions; if not, the IT infrastructure may not be able to evolve rapidly enough to meet emerging demands on business.
Behind the Difficulty in Recruiting for Tech
The first step to overcoming the IT skills shortage is to understand the underlying drivers. According to the survey, the primary reason it’s difficult to recruit and retain on-premises tech skills is that candidates want to work on more advanced technologies — think more cloud-based IT systems and infrastructures, as opposed to legacy ERP systems. The problem here is that a significant number of businesses rely on older tech — a full 50% of Oracle customers and 43% of SAP customers say they use legacy versions of their respective apps. At the same time, 24% of survey respondents said they have been unable to locate talent with such legacy technology expertise.
So what are organizations to do? The short answer is, it depends. While that may sound like a cop-out on the surface, the reality is that businesses all face unique needs and challenges, meaning there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
For example, when asked about their top business challenges, tech professionals were all over the board. Increasing operational efficiency/automation was the top challenge cited, with 43% saying so, followed by keeping up with evolving customer behaviors and preferences (38%), aligning tech strategy with business goals (33%), introducing new digital revenue streams (32%) and increased competitive pressure (30%).
The varied responses reinforce the fact that there is an extreme need for balance; organizations that over-prioritize one area over others, particularly amid the talent crunch, risk facing an inability to keep daily IT operations running at a high level.
A Three-Step Plan for Success
For those navigating the future of their IT strategy, there are three questions they need to ask themselves. The answers to these questions may not be easy or come quickly, and they may require a bit of deep digging. In the end, however, answering them as extensively as possible will give organizations a clearer view of where they are and where they want to be. The questions:
1. How is your business balancing business needs against the risks of not addressing the IT skills/talent shortage?
2. Does the business have a strategy that weighs the need for both legacy and emerging IT skills?
3. Does the business have the resources — both time and funds — to train staff on emerging tech as well as existing legacy apps, all while marking towards modern IT infrastructure.
Again, answering these questions will take some time and research, and it could require performing a full cost-benefit analysis. This could include (but may not be limited to) the costs of hiring, training and staff retention, and whether that staff has the skills necessary to support and run daily operations, launch new tech initiatives and support the growth of both areas.
The overarching challenge can be daunting. Downtime can be crippling and expensive, and both security and compliance are musts. Taking a hard internal look at your organization’s current capabilities as they relate to where the business wants to go will put you in the best position to succeed in building an IT team that will be able to consistently accommodate evolving business demands.