Managers say IT workers have significant gaps in their skills in crucial areas of technology. Agile companies will put processes in place to identify and close such gaps.
The nonprofit trade group CompTIA asked 502 IT and business managers in the US to compare the knowledge level of their staffs in various technology areas with the needs of their organizations. The vast majority of these managers say that gaps exist, and that these gaps affect the businesses in various ways.
This situation is likely to result in increased pressure on IT professionals to learn in-demand skills and to apply new technologies to old needs. However, the study found that upper management support for such efforts in terms of time, attention, and resources will often be lacking -- even though managers at a strong majority of the businesses view technology as important to their success.
Overall, 93 percent of organizations acknowledged a gap between the current and desired skill levels in their IT staffs. And 56 percent of respondents said their organization's IT skills are not close to or only moderately close to what they want.
The areas where these managers saw knowledge gaps tended to be in old-school disciplines at the foundations of IT:
- Network infrastructure (LANs, WANs, etc.)
- Server and datacenter management
- Storage and backup
- Help desk and IT support
- Database and information management
New and emerging areas of technology that were of lesser concern included:
- Mobile devices
- Big data
- Mobile application management and development
- Apple devices
Such lists tell only part of the story. Companies of different sizes had divergent concerns. Large firms placed more emphasis on virtualization, SharePoint, ERP, big data, cybersecurity, telecom, and A/V. Small companies were more concerned with search engine optimization and Apple devices/iOS.
The respondents understood the ill effects of subpar IT skills on their organizations -- 41 percent said staff productivity was impacted, 32 percent said customer service and engagement suffered, and 31 percent cited security holes. Small companies in particular said the IT skill gap led to a drop in profitability.
Factors cited as contributing to IT skill gaps included fast-changing technology (named by 46 percent of respondents), lack of resources for IT skill development (43 percent), and IT education or training not translating to workplace performance (39 percent). About 29 percent cited low IT pay in some areas and the difficulty this creates in attracting and retaining skilled staff.
What's to be done?
The first step in addressing a skill gap is recognizing it exists. The majority of organizations (56 percent) had no process in place for identifying IT skill gaps. Only 15 percent had formal processes, and we may assume their proactivity translates to agility in closing the gaps.
To some extent, the attention that skill gaps receive from upper management and HR will determine the effectiveness of measures to close them. The survey revealed a difference of opinion between IT and business functions as to how robust this management support is. (See the chart above.)
Most organizations say they plan to address their skill gaps by training or retraining employees. The plurality of those organization will point employees at online, self-directed training or education. The next-largest group will rely on training provided by a vendor (e.g., Microsoft, Oracle, etc.).
The CompTIA study is available for free to members of that organization. A copy was provided to Business Agility. A press release hits some of the highlights.