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IT Infrastructure Skill Shortage a Challenge for IT Leaders

Lack of available IT professionals is a major challenge facing healthcare CIOs as IT infrastructures continue to adopt new technology.

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- As IT infrastructure continues to grow, the demand for qualified and experienced IT staff continues to be a major challenge for CIOs. 

Healthcare IT staff shortage

That’s another major takeaway from a recent Harvey Nash survey of more than 3,000 CIOs and IT professionals across all major industries. The authors of the survey found that the technology skills shortage has risen to the highest level since the recession almost a decade ago.

Sixty-five percent of of respondents believe a lack of talent will prevent their organizations from keeping up with the pace of change, up 10 percent from last year. Lack of talent is hugely impactful to organizations looking to advance their IT infrastructure because they may not have the budget to hire the right person to manage the new technology. Being that they are in demand, specialized IT professionals are more expensive to hire.

Organizations with larger IT budgets are more likely to be impacted by the technology skills shortage. While larger budgets should allow for more spending on qualified IT staff, it generally has the opposite effect according to the study. Organizations that can afford to implement new solutions may have trouble finding enough qualified IT professionals to fill the roles required for successfully implementing new technology.

“IT leaders at larger organisations are more likely to be seeking data analytic, digital and enterprise architecture skills, whereas their peers at smaller firms are less likely to feel those skills are in short supply,” the authors stated.

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Data analytics is the most in-demand skill for the second year in a row. According to the survey, 39 percent of CIOs reported that their organizations are suffering from skill shortages in this area. Other areas suffering from skill shortages include: project management (32 percent), business analytics (28 percent), development (27 percent), and enterprise architecture (27 percent).

For healthcare organizations looking to deploy data analytics, the shortage of data analytics professionals could halt the implementation process. Big data analytics is growing rapidly across the healthcare industry, and healthcare organizations are constantly seeking the right qualified professionals to monitor these solutions.

CIOs also face concerns about retaining their staff once they have found the right professional for their infrastructure. Eighty-nine percent of polled CIOs have ‘some’ or ‘great’ concern about holding onto their best staff which is consistent with last year’s results. Smaller organizations showed better results when it came to retaining staff with a higher than average result for keeping on staff as their IT budgets grow.

“More than four in ten IT leaders in the professional services, pharmaceuticals, broadcast media, advertising, and financial services sectors consider their organisational culture a contributor to staff retention,” the survey found. “However, respondents in government are half as likely to recognise the value of their organisational culture in retaining talent compared to IT leaders at firms near the top end of the range.”

CIOs continue to employ IT staff on a full-time basis, however over the past several years, they have begun to explore and test the benefits of adding contingent employees to their IT staff. Twelve percent of respondents sourced half or more of their staff from flexible or contingent contracts.

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“There does appear to be a small but steady growth in the number of IT leaders using flexible contingent labour for more than half of their technology team,” survey analysts found. “Since 2011 this highly contingent-orientated community has grown by 33 percent. IT leaders have been increasingly looking at outsourcing as a means of accessing skills and capability compared to the more traditional view of outsourcing to save costs. As project demands grow, the contingent labour force is probably the fastest way to train people on board.”

Healthcare was among the industries listed to most likely increase their dependence on contingent labor over the past several years. While contingent labor strategies were originally adopted to save money, they now allow IT professionals to benefit more organizations by being able to work for more than one on an as-needed basis.

Organizations with ‘set it and forget it’ cloud or analytic solutions may not need a full-time professional monitoring their infrastructure constantly and may benefit greatly from contingent IT employees.

While contingent employees may help, they are not the answer to solving the IT skill shortage. The demand for more qualified staff is still high with 44 percent of CIOs looking to increase the number of staff they have operating their IT infrastructure this year.

Healthcare organizations have several government assisted options for training IT staff for their specific needs such as the Health IT Workforce Development Program funded by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). Training current IT staff in new technology before it is purchased and deployed will significantly assist healthcare organizations in retain IT staff.

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