This story was written by Keith Dawson for UBM DeusM’s community Web site Business Agility, sponsored by IBM. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the Business Agility site is no more. This material is Copyright 2012 by UBM DeusM.

Study Finds IT Skill Gaps

Business and IT managers believe that their IT staff exhibit lacunae.

Managers believe that IT workers have significant gaps in their skills in crucial technology areas. Agile companies will put processes in place to identify and close the gaps.

The non-profit IT trade association CompTIA asked 502 US-based IT and business managers for their opinions on the knowledge level in various technology areas of the IT staff they manage, compared 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.

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This situation is likely to result in increased pres­sure on IT pro­fes­sionals to learn new in-demand skills and to apply new tech­nologies to old needs. The study found, however, that upper manage­ment support for such efforts, in terms of time, attention, and resources, will often be lacking -- even though in a strong major­ity of the busi­nesses, managers view technology as important to their success.

Overall, 93 percent of organizations acknowledged a gap between the existing skill levels and desired skill levels among their IT staff. And 56 percent of respondents said their organization's IT skills are not close to, or only moderately close to, what they wanted.

The areas where these managers saw knowledge gaps tended to be in old-school disciplines at the foundations of IT:

Newer and emerging technology areas that were of lesser concern included:

Such lists tell only part of the story: companies at different scales had divergent concerns. Larger firms placed more emphasis on skills in the areas of virtualization, SharePoint, ERP, big data, cybersecurity, telecom, and A/V. Smaller companies were more concerned with skills gaps concerning search-engine optimization and Apple devices / iOS.

The respondents understood the ill effects of sub-par 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. Smaller companies in particular believed the IT skills gap led to a drop in profitability.

Factors contributing to IT skills gaps, according to the respondents, include: fast-changing technology (46 percent), lack of resources for IT skills development (43 percent), and IT education or training not translating to workplace performance (39 percent). A smaller number, 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 skills gap is recognizing its existence. Most organizations, 56 percent, have no process in place for identifying IT skills gaps. Only 15 percent have formal processes, and we may assume that their proactivity translates to agility in closing the gaps.

How much attention skills gaps receive from upper management and HR will determine to some extent 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 the skills gaps by training or retraining existing employees. And of those, the plurality intends to 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. Their press release hits some of the highlights.