Three steps to address the IT skills gap

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Anyone who says there isn’t a skills gap has their head in the sand. Every organisation at any time has a skills gap, and there are always new skills needed. New ways of working and new technologies are emerging, and at the same time there is the constant movement of people between roles and organisations. As a result, organisations must always be reviewing and working on addressing that gap.

Firstly, understand what you have. Establish what skill set you need within your organisation, and make sure those skills are well defined. Definition means the capabilities, knowledge, and outcomes required.

Secondly, understand how much you need. This means developing a capacity plan to have a picture of the demand for particular skills and when they will be required. Often, this is the point when there is a lot of blank looks around the room. How well do we know what we are going to be doing over the next 12 months or longer? I’ve mentioned it before, but this is where a good internal relationship manager embedded in the business comes into his/her own, by working closely with the business to produce an accurate activity demand forecast.

And lastly, understand what you have got and how complete it is. Undertake a skill set review and grade all your resources and their effectiveness; compare against the demand forecast and look for the gaps. In nearly all cases there will be gaps, but if there aren’t any, well then you’re potentially costing the organisation too much and different action may need to be taken.

So, where can you get the skills from? There are many dependencies, so let’s consider some of them. There is the obvious, such as how much money can you throw at it, and how long is the requirement. But location (onsite or remote) also comes into the equation by generating other skill requirements from your management teams that may need to be factored in. Should the skills be provided from your own internal team? Should you buy in temporary (consultant) labour, or should you buy in services for the work at hand? Timescale, availability, duration and funding will dictate the routes you follow.

Flexibility is also a consideration. Most people don’t want to do the same thing day in day out, so cross-skilling is also a valuable strategy and your labour plan should include time for this. And never forget, training takes time and cannot be fixed overnight – hence the need for copious planning.

Once you have found your skills and invested in them, from whatever source, you need to be able to retain them. Make sure your remuneration matches or exceeds the market rate and consider investing in IT-specific remuneration surveys from employment companies. Ignore this at your peril – the cost of replacing skills far exceeds the costs associated with the correct remuneration.

And lastly, don’t think you can run your organisation’s IT without internal capability. At a minimum, you must have sufficient understanding and capability to ensure you are getting full value from any service providers you are working with.

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