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IDC's Cushing Anderson: "IT Organizations Require Enhanced Skills: 4 Steps to Success"


Our guest blogger, leading analyst Cushing Anderson from IDC, provides his opinions on recent IDC research on the value of training to business. This data can be found in a new IDC video, available here. Enjoy the article!


By Cushing Anderson


The world of IT is in the midst of a massive structural shift — from the PC- and client/server-based "2nd Platform" of technology growth and innovation to what IDC calls the "3rd Platform" era: built on a foundation of mobile, social, Big Data, and cloud technologies. Today, virtually all business innovation is based on this new platform, with hundreds of thousands to millions of high-value, industry-transforming solutions and services for altering the end customer experience being built on this new platform.  Datacenters are a foundation on which many of these services are built, and their role as the most concentrated source of IT capacity and business value will expand dramatically in the next five years.

An IT organization's ability to become competent in 3rd Platform (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) is constrained by a talent pool that is growing too slowly to meet business demand and too concentrated geographically for many enterprises to access. In 2013, IDC surveyed CIOs about the skills they'd need to support enterprise strategies until 2018. The talent that was identified as most urgently needed included expertise in business intelligence (BI), analytics, mobile development, social developers, security, and business analysis. Not surprisingly, these are the skills necessary to drive digital transformation.

CIOs and other technology leaders have found these critical skills to be in short supply, particularly when their business is not close to major cities. And, the shift to cloud is also impacting the skills the IT organization needs. IDC believes that the availability and skill level of talent have a direct impact on functions as diverse as network security, sourcing, application development and system management. While IT employment worldwide will grow about 4% every year from 2015-2020 – all of that growth will come in cloud-related positions. By 2020, more than 1 in 3 IT positions will be cloud.

With the need for skills increasing, and the supply short, enterprises of all types will need to develop a practical solution to acquiring the skills they need in order to maximize the value of technology to the enterprise. IDC has long believed that the remedy to most organizational skill challenges is the implementation of a strategy, comprehensive talent development program. The benefits of effective training are clear:

  • An hour of training on some end-user technologies saves about 5 hours of user support time each year.
  • Trained end-users need about half the technical support required by untrained end-users
  • Well trained IT organizations spend about 1/5th the time diagnosing and fixing infrastructure problems.
  • But most importantly, organizations with compressive training programs have 24% higher profit than organizations with little or no formal training programs

Unfortunately, however, training can't just be "one and done". Research shows that skills and performance degrade over time without ongoing training. We have found that without ongoing training, an IT organization can lose 60% of its capability in just 3 years as a result of staff changes, technology and process changes and insufficient refresher training. We call this "knowledge leak".

If recognizing training is so important, but skills continually degrade, how can an enterprise expect to keep up? A multi-pronged strategy is essential:

  1. When possible, hire new and replacement employees who are fully trained and certified for the roles they will fill. But that is not always possible, or takes too long to fill essential position.
  2. Therefore, commit to fully training and certifying new hires for their roles.
  3. To hold-the-line against "knowledge leak", provide at least 10 days of relevant training to all IT employees each year.
  4. To get ahead, and to take greater advantage of new technologies and be prepared to take full advantage of the 3rd platform, commit to fully developing IT employees for their current and anticipated next positions.

With a strong commitment to training and certifying IT employees, enterprises can ensure they will have the skills they need to fully and effectively leverage their strategic moves to the third platform.


About the Author


25+ years in high tech in various roles that include Consulting, Channel Mgmt, Product Mgmt and Marketing. Technology areas include storage and data management, high availability, cloud and hosting, networking, and mobility/wearable technology for enterprise, SMB , and channel business. Industries include healthcare, financial services, ISVs, Service Providers and telecos.

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