Much has been written in the past few years on the shortfall in the availability of skilled IT professionals to meet increasing demands across a range of sectors.
The IT skills shortage is a complex problem which is being exacerbated by factors that need to be addressed now in order to ensure organisations have IT staff, with the right skills, who can work on challenging projects that will help businesses to innovate and grow in the future.
One factor is the growing complexity of IT infrastructure. As organisations invest in cloud services, workers are struggling to adapt. This is further aggravated by the lack of standardisation across platforms, meaning IT workers do not have a common language with which to work.
Multi-sourcing strategies are also affecting learning on the job. With businesses looking to a multitude of vendors to provide services, IT workers within organisations are ending up with siloes of knowledge, focusing only on their areas of responsibility. This lack of end-to-end experience results in engineers less skilled at problem solving, limiting their value.
Poor use of existing talent also should be addressed. Skilled workers are being used ineffectively, spending most of their time on low-level, repetitive tasks, rather than assignments where they can add value.
Our research shows that in many cases over-qualified IT professionals are spending almost a third of their time on low-level IT tasks such as responding to incidents, following standard operating procedures and performing diagnostics. There is clear neglect of critical, often expensively gained, skills and expertise.
IT decision makers surveyed said their staff regularly use only about half of their applicable qualifications. Higher-level skills can easily atrophy, and these people are not learning any new skills either. Consequently, they can become bored and feel unfulfilled.
So what can be done? Organisations need to think about developing or installing systems that will help them manage increasingly complex infrastructure and multi-sourcing strategies, freeing up IT staff for more important disciplines. Having a single system that acts as an overarching framework across all systems and processes is one way of doing this.
Expert systems can act as a veneer of intelligence across an organisation's IT infrastructure, helping to move IT workers away from their individual siloes by giving them visibility of the complete picture.
Expert systems also provide an ITIL framework which offers a practical structure for identifying, planning, delivering and supporting IT services in a more standardised way, so engineers can deliver a higher quality of service, no matter the platform.
Expert systems can now automate many IT support incidents, and not just discrete tasks, or steps in a process, but end-to-end management activity. This ranges from the detection of an event or the receipt of a request, through to diagnosis, execution of a remediation, validation of success, and notification or escalation as appropriate.
Many organisations, particularly those in the public sector, have been stung by training entry-level engineers, only to find that when they've got to a level where they are truly valuable to the organisation they leave for a higher salary. Organisations need to think about how they train their staff - automation can help here too.
The skills shortage is not going to be solved overnight, but action can be taken now to start to tackle the problem.
Frank Lansink is European managing director at Ipsoft
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