Organisations are facing the retirement of many IT technicians and the “Great Resignation”. This has helped create an IT skills shortage when organisations need to hire for new skills as well. The dilemma faced is looking after legacy systems whilst digitising their business in new and innovative ways. They need to invest in new tech talent to meet the current and future needs whilst remaining flexible to meet today’s requirements.
In short, it’s a critical time for business owners. On the 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 organisation 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. The research was based on a survey of 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. It 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 understanding the underlying drivers. According to the survey, it’s difficult to recruit and retain in-house tech skills because candidates want to work on more advanced technologies. Think more cloud-based IT systems and infrastructures than legacy ERP systems. The problem here is that many 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 could not locate talent with such legacy technology expertise.
So what are organisations 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. The top five challenges were
- Increasing operational efficiency/automation 43%
- Keeping up with evolving customer behaviours and preferences (38%)
- Aligning tech strategy with business goals (33%)
- Introducing new digital revenue streams (32%)
- Increased competitive pressure (30%).
The varied responses reinforce the fact that there is an extreme need for balance. Organisations 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. However, answering them as extensively as possible will give organisations a clearer view of where they are and where they want to be. The questions:
- How is your business balancing business needs against the risks of not addressing the IT skills/talent shortage?
- Does the business have a strategy that weighs the need for both legacy and emerging IT skills?
- Does the business have the resources — both time and funds — to train staff on emerging tech as well as existing legacy apps, all while moving 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 organisation’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.
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