Friday, November 9, 2007

IT Skills: Shortage or Commodity?

Everyone has been agreeing for many years that there's an IT skills shortage. The IT managers we are interviewing for our software survey agree too. Yet I've been hearing some interesting new perspectives on this old story in the last few weeks. Enjoy...

Alas! the shortage is real

One CIO went so far as to say that this will be his most significant challenge in the future. The Companies increasingly seem to be training up people to meet their own needs, rather than relying on tertiary institutions. Unfortunately, as soon as people have valuable skills they hop jobs. ITWeb Salary Survey 2007 reports: "A severe shortage in experienced IT skills fuels job-hopping, with over 50% of respondents having looked for a new job in SA, and about 5% ready to take up an overseas offer." In an effort to keep these rare gems, companies offer higher salaries, resulting in a downward spiral.

Inflated salaries are harmful

The rules of supply and demand are at play. A scarce resource is worth more money than one that's abundant. There's resistance from business to the unrealistic salary expectations of IT staff. Ultimately, IT needs to demonstrate value to organisations that exceeds its costs. It's no longer so easy to maintain the illusion, as IT costs soar and the value to business seems nebulous. And yet the value is real. But perceptions are negative.

Insourcing combats shortage?

An interesting view is that keeping strategic IT skills inhouse reduces risk: dependence on suppliers suffering from a skills shortage of their own. The outsourcing-insourcing pendulum is swinging again. Current plans to combat the skills shortage seem to be half-hearted. Some dramatic action is needed. And yet the demand for skills continues to grow and the shortage remains a reality.

Welcome to the house of fun.

Until IT becomes a fun place to be again, at the forefront of innovation as it once was, the only attraction to young professionals is money. And there's more of it to be had in other careers. We've lost sight of fun on our way to becoming a mature industry. Perhaps we need to remember the addage "Growing old is inevitable, growing up is optional". If we remain a young industry at heart, rather than taking ourselves too seriously, we will attract talent.

Read more about it...

- ITWeb Salary Survey 2007
- My Digital Life: IT skills shortage choking SA business, August 2007
- IOL: IT Skills Shortage Likely to Balloon, July 2006
- ITWeb Skills Survey 2006
- Mail&Guardian: Shortage Confusion Mismatch Surplus, August 2005