The skills shortage is causing organisations to scramble for network consultancy and outsourcing services - a situation that is unlikely to improve before 2004.
Out of 260 companies in North America surveyed by IDC, 59 per cent had to pay for outside help to cope with a workload fuelled by the introduction of e-commerce and other Web applications. Another 36 per cent said they did not have the facilities or resources to support their own networking needs, while a further 32 per cent said the growth of the internet was forcing them to look at contractors.
Richard Brewer, analyst at IDC and author of the report, called User Demand for Network Consulting, Integration, Outsourcing and Support Services, said: 'The number one obstacle for customers is the lack of skilled support in-house, but suppliers are also finding it difficult to recruit skilled people.'
Vendors have a better chance of attracting experienced individuals because they can offer better contracts and more challenging projects than user organisations. Brewer believed the skills shortage would begin to ease in about five years.
The most important criteria for customers when choosing a services partner was reliability and availability, which was quoted by 50 per cent of respondents.
A further 33 per cent cited technical expertise as essential, while only 11 per cent said pricing was their most important consideration.
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