IT skills — demand and gaps
In a previous article we looked at the specific demand for skills to ensure that organisations get the best out of Cloud Computing and virtualisation. This time we’ll take a much more rounded look at IT skills demand within the corporate environment – and where skills gaps still exist.
Have we turned the corner? In a recent Computerworld Survey nearly a third (29%) of the 353 FTSE 1,000 companies surveyed were planning to increase IT staffing. This is in marked contrast to the last two years with 23% last year – and back in 2009, in the grip of recession, just 20%.
These forecasts are corroborated by other trend analyses – a recent report from KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation revealed the IT skills in short supply. The report highlighted short supply of IT staff with skills in C#, database administration, data management, software development, security management and VB. The study also found IT skills shortages in business analysis, project and programme management, Citrix, data management, .Net, and across the security space.
So, what’s changed? How has demand for these IT skills come about? An undeniable feature of this new world order is cost cutting for many and cost containment for all – and these factors are very firmly driving our strategic thinking in IT terms. IT-enabled service delivery is currently undergoing a period of huge transformational change, and consequently we are seeing acceleration in the adoption of virtualisation and cloud technologies and a shift towards a more flexible, agile workforce.
Employees expect, and often need to work from anywhere, from any device. Therefore, we are witnessing the convergence of consumer technology and consumer behaviours with the corporate environment which only adds to the complexity.
The NCC Benchmark of Strategy & Spending 2011-12 highlights the technology shifts that are driving the skills demand.
Most significant areas of IT activity
Here are the skills that senior UK IT leaders say are in biggest demand:
- Programming and Application Development – two thirds of businesses surveyed plan to hire in this space in the next twelve months. Into the future, the area where the largest number of IT jobs will be is the domain of the developer, programmer, and system architect. IT increasingly will be about web-based applications and the other rapidly emerging business requirements – mobile applications. The big shift will be away from those who deploy and support apps to those who build them.
- Project Management (but with a twist) – they’re not looking for people who can just monitor and manage projects. They want people who understand users and can translate their needs for IT managers. They want PMs who enable business leaders to make better technology decisions and who are proactive in identifying new technologies that can transform the business. These project managers will be the front line contacts with technology vendors and consultants. You can already see many current IT managers shifting in this direction.
- Help Desk/Technical Support – mobile operating systems have added a new dimension to help desk and tech support.
- Networking – this demand is being fueled partially by virtualisation and cloud computing projects. The reports reveal a high demand for people with VMware and Citrix experience.
- Business Intelligence – data is arguably the primary asset of the business. But how do we turn data into information – and ultimately into better business decisions, more effective customer management and better focused sales activity? BI is the answer…
- Data Centre – acceleration of virtualisation and Cloud adoption could also be behind the increased need for IT professionals with backgrounds in data centre operations and systems integration.
- Web 2.0 – skills centered around social media will be in demand, with .Net, AJAX and PHP as key back-end skills, and HTML, XML, CSS, Flash and Java, on the front end.
- Security – security remains a top concern of IT leaders.
- Telecommunications – the survey indicates a demand for people with IP telephony skills, and for those familiar with Cisco IPCC call centre systems.
Undoubtedly, technology will play a pivotal role in enabling UK businesses to emerge stronger. And given the continuing Euro zone challenges and the knock-on effect this can have on business confidence, it is most welcome to see a more buoyant technology skills sector in the UK. Perhaps employers are beginning to accept that they need to have the right people in place with the right skills to kick start the economy?
Ian Jones is Head of Publishing and Research at the National Computing Centre (NCC).