CIOs have always worried about IT talent shortages. But the situation is more drastic today than it has ever been.
Our Chief Technology Officer for Cisco UK and Ireland talks about the challenges and opportunities faced by CIOs in the face of digital transformation.
If you’ve spent any time in IT you’ll have seen the buzzwords evolve. Every year brings a new technology, language, methodology or discipline that’s in demand, whether it’s blockchain or virtual reality, python or R, DevOps or Agile, cybersecurity or Internet of Things (IoT). The business and the market don’t stand still, so the IT function must keep evolving too. And sometimes it’s not easy to find the right talent in the right place at the right time for the right price. So why are things different now?
New skills requirements are emerging
After a period of relative stability, we’re on the cusp of a step-change in how IT operates. You can see this in the rapid emergence of new technologies and skills areas, principally AI and analytics. A list from the World Economic Forum shows that seven out of the top 10 emerging job roles are IT-related, and the same keywords crop up time and again (see Figure 1). New IT methodologies like DevOps are also requiring fresh skills from IT practitioners.
Demand is intensifying as infrastructure complexity grows
In other areas of IT, urgent demand is the problem. Forbes describes the cybersecurity talent gap as an industry crisis, as the growth in data breaches and the burden of compliance drives companies to hire.
According to a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) survey from Opus and research firm the Ponemon Institute, the human factor is the top security threat, with 70% of CISOs calling “lack of competent in-house staff” their number one concern and 65% stating “inadequate in-house expertise” as the top reason they are likely to have a data breach1
It's the same for cloud: now that most companies are moving along a multi-cloud journey as a central part of how applications are delivered within the business, everyone sees the need to have experts in-house to drive that strategy and execution. The growth in demand for these skills is not a surprise, but it has outpaced the talent market: there simply aren’t enough relevant graduates out there, let alone seasoned experts, for recruiters to hire.
According to LinkedIn research, the two most in-demand role areas — cloud and AI — are also those with the greatest talent gap in the employment market.2
In other areas of the IT landscape — networking, IoT, applications — infrastructure scale and complexity is growing at pace. Even with a degree of automation, it’s challenging for teams to monitor, manage, change and govern IT estates that are growing by thousands or tens of thousands of devices each year (especially when those devices and their users are geographically distributed). Headcount will never keep pace with infrastructure expansion, but some scale is natural.
Chintan Patel, Chief Technology Officer for Cisco UK and Ireland, sets out how data will change the roles that CIOs need to fill in the future.
Top talent is being pursued from all sides
While demand for more people and new skills grows, supply is being stretched more than ever before. Organisations are battling against the “brain drain” effect, as IT giants in Silicon Valley and across the world lure tech talent with not just higher salaries, but more varied and challenging work. And IT teams are even finding themselves in competition for talent against their own businesses. Due to the pervasiveness of digital transformation and the criticality of technology to every area of business, technologists are more in demand across all departments, all industries and all countries.
According to the European Commission, by 2020 there will be 500,000 unfilled vacancies for IT professionals, and already four out of ten businesses across Europe are finding it difficult to source people with the right digital skills3 . It’s not just IT that’s competing for the best digital talent.
IT’s chance to lead
Tackle IT talent from the top
To lead IT talent change effectively, CIOs themselves need the right skills — and to be in the right position in an organisation that’s ready for change. To find out more about how you can position yourself as a change leader, check out our research and perspectives here.
The public sector and the CIO
Perhaps more than in any other sector, public bodies need to recruit, nurture and retain top CIO talent. This of course can be challenging, with tight pay restraints and a history of IT outsourcing. But CIO leadership in the public sector is today an essential ingredient in helping to frame technology opportunity and risk in the context of digital transformation.
A capable CIO can also ensure that IT deployment is designed to support new ways of working and new service models, maximising efficiency through automation and self-service, often for highly complex and sensitive services. This includes having a central role in responding to and managing the risks inherent in digital transformation: cyber, data management, infrastructure resilience, business continuity and supplier governance.
Looking ahead, the public sector will therefore need to re-evaluate how it views its CIOs – as strategic leaders, not just as IT operational managers. This is partly about culture and the digital maturity of an organisation, resolving tensions between CIOs and digital leaders through considered design of IT governance and accountability. It is also about defining a CIO leadership role that allows sufficient scope and authority for delivering successful digital change.
By Jos Creese, Digital advisor and founder of CCL (Creese Consulting Limited)