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IT Talent Shortage Hobbles Emerging Tech Adoption

The lack of skilled IT workers is hurting the deployment of emerging technology, according to a new survey from Gartner. In areas from cloud to cybersecurity, this crisis is expected to last for years to come.

The pandemic accelerated the digital transformation plans of companies as they sought new ways to connect with their customers and enable their employees to work remotely. But for many companies, even though the digital transformation timeline has moved faster than expected, it’s still not gone as fast as they would like.

A new report from Gartner has revealed one of the reasons for the delay. The survey shows that IT executives have identified the talent shortage as the most significant adoption barrier to 64% of emerging technologies, compared to just 4% in 2020. What’s more, lack of talent availability was cited more than any other barrier in the survey, including implementation cost at 29% and security risk at 7%.

“The ongoing push toward remote work and the acceleration of hiring plans in 2021 has exacerbated IT talent scarcity, especially for sourcing skills that enable cloud and edge, automation, and continuous deliver,” said Yinuo Geng, research VP at Gartner, in a statement. “As one example, of all the IT automation technologies profiled in the survey, only 20% of them have moved ahead in the adoption cycle since 2020. The issue of talent is to blame here.”

The survey found that talent availability was the leading inhibiting adoption factor among all six tech domains -- compute infrastructure and platform services, network, security, digital workplace, IT automation, and storage and database.

In spite of the talent shortage, 58% of organizations are either increasing or are planning to increase their emerging technology investment in 2021, compared to 29% in 2020. Those planned investments are not just under the purview of the IT organization. Other organizational leaders are contributing to and influencing technology investment decisions in what Gartner calls the trend of “democratized delivery.” Specifically in 2021, 82% of IT leaders said they either agree or strongly agree that non-IT enterprise leaders are exerting influence over tech adoption decisions.

Gartner notes that organizations continue to prioritize cloud deployments and investments in security technology in order to improve resilience and critical IT infrastructure. Yet, the talent shortage in cybersecurity is a continuing crisis, according to the Information Systems Security Association International (ISSA). The skills shortage has impacted 57% of organizations, according to the ISSA’s 2021 study of cyber security pros. Among the issues check marked by the 489 cybersecurity pros surveyed were an increasing workload for the cybersecurity team (62%), unfilled open job requisitions (38%), and high burnout among staff (38%).

How can the industry solve the talent crisis? Some career IT pros point to unrealistic educational requirements. For instance, does everyone who goes into a cybersecurity career need a 4-year degree?

“When you start talking about training people, you don’t need a PhD in computer science,” says Tommy Gardner, CTO of HP Federal, a position where he advises agencies and other government organizations on their IT security challenges. “Community colleges can be a first step out of high school. Students can focus on statistics and math. You don’t need a 4-year degree to play in this field. You can be very successful if you have the skills-based knowledge.”

In April, Mass Mutual CISO Ariel Weintraub told InformationWeek that the cyber security talent shortage was significant in the market, and the company has hired candidates from other backgrounds, both in computer science and beyond computer science.

But the talent shortage in cyber security or across all of IT remains a huge issue as the industry heads into 2022, even as organizations recruit from outside of technology and focus on training more entry-level candidates. Last year, Gartner named the talent shortage as one of six macro factors that will frame business strategies for the entire decade of the 2020s.

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