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Got an IT skills shortage? Solve it by changing the problem

Children in the UK have been using computers at school since the early 1980s, so you would think that we’d nurtured more than enough IT experts for our current needs.  

The reality, as many employers know all too well, is quite different.  

Even though, by 2015, 90% of jobs will need digital skills, Europe faces a shortage of up to 700,000 IT professionals. It’s good news for skilled, technical employees – they can command a good 20% extra on top of their salary. But for employers, finding the right people is getting tougher and more costly.  

But if you’re in this position, what can you do?  

The key is to change the problem from one you can’t solve to one you can. If there is a limited number of people with the right skills, you need luck and long purse strings to attract the right talent. But what happens if you change your working practices to make the best use of the skills that are available to you? Let’s take a look at some of the options.                                

1. Audit your IT systems

Many organisations still rely on IT systems that are more suitable for doing business in 2004 rather than 2014.

Typically they rely on servers that are hosted within the building, or in specialist data centres. They often also use bespoke or self-hosted software that require a dedicated team of IT professionals to keep things running smoothly from day-to-day.  

By auditing your systems and software, you may find that many of these expensive solutions are no longer needed (see ‘Look to the cloud’ below), and as a result you need fewer skilled IT staff to maintain them.  

Indeed, you may find that it makes sound financial and operational sense to outsource specialist IT support, cutting your internal overheads – the first six months of 2014 saw the most spent on IT outsourcing since the outset of the economic crisis in 2008.    

2. Look to the cloud

While IT outsourcing is growing, Gartner has found that cloud computing is taking away an increasing slice of this market.

There are many reasons for this. Firstly, businesses are attracted to cloud software that needs no self-hosted servers, doesn’t require expensive updates, has no need of specialist IT staff to set it up, and can be accessed using any internet enabled device.  

Secondly, security worries about much cloud software have largely evaporated as vendors have been able to prove that their products meet stringent standards.  

Thirdly, a switch to the cloud has become official policy for a variety of governments, with the UK making great strides to improve services and cut costs via cloud software available at its Digital Marketplace. It’s almost as though this official seal of approval for the cloud has opened the floodgates to new ways of working – and which require organisations to have fewer specialist skills in-house. 

3. Make the most of existing skills

While it’s worrying that between 7% and 27% of adults in OECD countries have “no experience in using computers or lack the most elementary computer skills, such as the ability to use a mouse”, most employees do have at least some experience in using the common computer software such as web browsers, word processing tools and spreadsheets.

That means it’s a good idea, where possible, to equip staff with an interface that is simple to use and has lots in common with popular software packages.  

In this respect, much cloud software has an edge. When it is designed to work in any browser, on any internet enabled device – like our cloud collaboration software, Kahootz – it’s going to be more familiar to users than complex, bespoke, self-hosted solutions (ask anyone who’s worked for an organisation that has had a new, purpose-built database or CRM imposed on them!)  

Indeed, software like Kahootz is so intuitive to use for any person who has used a PC and common office software, they need little or no training to use – cutting your costs further.

So, if you’re suffering from an IT skills shortage, be creative and change the problem to one you can solve. Can you decommission hardware and software that needs specialist IT support? Would outsourcing IT skills be more cost effective? And are there cloud solutions out there that require no internal IT support or regular upgrades?  

After all, if there’s only a limited pool of IT talent, it’s far better (in the words of ad legend Dave Trott) to get upstream of the problem and change it from one you can’t solve, to one you can’t!

Good luck.

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