IT Talent Shortages: What Businesses are Doing to Cope

For organizations that are having trouble recruiting IT professionals with in-demand skills, some options have become available in the cloud and gig economy.

Andrew Froehlich, President & Lead Network Architect, West Gate Networks

March 7, 2019

3 Min Read

It's hard to believe -- but we're already well into 2019. For many IT department leaders, this year's biggest worry is finding and keeping the technical talent that are necessary to keep the lights on and to drive new projects. Because the U.S. unemployment rate is so low, combined with the fact that many businesses are following similar technology trends, certain skillsets are nearly impossible to obtain. That said, progress must continue if you want to stay ahead of the competition, Thus, many companies are forgoing their external talent searches and instead seeking to cope in other ways.

If the appropriate talent can't be found externally, businesses often opt to train existing employees to fill in any skills gaps. This works well in certain job roles where existing employees already have a solid skillset foundation with which to build on. For example, if a business needs a systems and server virtualization engineer, they can train an existing employee that has desktop support experience. The obvious reason for this is that many of the skills required to be an infrastructure systems administrator cross over to desktop support skills.

That said, now that businesses are moving toward a full digital transformation framework, some of the new skills required are completely unique and cannot be easily or quickly developed in-house. These include skills in big data and artificial intelligence (AI). Both are incredibly hot areas of enterprise IT, and both require skills that are difficult to obtain overnight. Thus, those that do have the skills are in very high demand. All the top-tier talent is being sucked up by the largest companies that can afford to pay top dollar. Think companies such as Google, Microsoft and IBM. Ultimately, most businesses are going to be hard pressed to find this type of talent that's willing to work on less glamourous projects with lower pay.

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In these situations, IT leaders are looking at a couple of options to gain the advanced technology the business demands without using internal IT staff to get them there. The first option is to bring on "hired guns" that move from company to company designing and deploying new technologies, then training in-house staff to maintain what they've built. These types of consultants have the skills, yet they prefer to architect and build, not support. They also can make far more money performing "gig" work, as opposed to becoming a full-time employee. Thus, when a segment of IT becomes red-hot, most people worth their salt will gravitate toward consulting, as opposed to taking on full-time employment with a single employer.

The other option that is growing in popularity is to leverage the as-a-service market for many of the hottest technologies. This includes Google’s Cloud AI, AWS AI Services and Microsoft’s Azure AI, which are just a few examples of how a business can integrate pre-built AI into their existing applications with little expertise required. So, instead of hiring employees or contract consultants to build technology from the ground up, some are finding it more effective to purchase a technology platform delivered as a cloud service. While the flexibility isn't quite as great as that of an AI service that has been fully developed from the ground-up, many are finding that the speed-to-production and cost savings make up for any customization shortcomings. That, and the fact that since the platform is offered as a service, little in-house expertise is required.

IT shortages aren’t going away anytime soon. If you’re struggling to find the right talent, perhaps you need to broaden your thinking on how the end solution can be built for your business. In many areas of IT, it’s going to be impossible to hire or train employees to get what you need. Instead, expand your options to include gig contractors and cloud services to fill in your IT shortage gap. While either solution may not be ideal, they’re likely the best you’re going to get.

About the Author(s)

Andrew Froehlich

President & Lead Network Architect, West Gate Networks

Andrew has well over a decade of enterprise networking under his belt through his consulting practice, which specializes in enterprise network architectures and datacenter build-outs and prior experience at organizations such as State Farm Insurance, United Airlines and the University of Chicago Medical Center. Having lived and worked in South East Asia for nearly three years, Andrew possesses a unique international business and technology perspective. When he's not consulting, Andrew enjoys writing technical blogs and is the author of two Cisco certification study guides published by Sybex.

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