10 IT leaders weigh in on their biggest talent gaps for 2017

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CIO_Talent War_2

The future of technology is rife with challenges old and new (think: security and IoT security), and opportunities for digital disruption are up for grabs (I’m looking at you, artificial intelligence). As CIOs plan for the year ahead, they're assessing the capabilities of their teams and identifying areas where they need to boost their skills. We wanted to know:  What are the biggest IT talent gaps or considerations for CIOs today?

Cutthroat demand for mobile talent

“Mobile is continuing to grow and evolve. Many companies that were slow to adopt mobile are now actively building internal capabilities. It’s just how businesses will operate going forward. So that puts more of a strain on the talent pool, and demand for those resources has become quite cutthroat.

Mobile is also maturing, and new revenue models are emerging. That means skill sets, as they relate to mobile, will continue to shift as we go into 2017. Being able to find developers who not only know iOS/Android and all the tools that go along with it, but also understand new languages like Swift is going to be increasingly challenging.

Additionally, there are new techniques, like Reactive, that change the development paradigm in many ways. Not every developer has the capacity to do well in their domain, but then also be out front of the technology horizon, and understand how to leverage those new tools. It definitely makes finding the right people very challenging. And when you do find those people, they’re in high demand.” – Chris Huff, VP, mobile & consumer app development, The Weather Channel

Talent hotspot – security

“The technology profession is at, or close to, zero unemployment – well below the national average. It’s a good place for us to be, but it also has its challenges. Underneath those numbers, there are some hotspots. Right now, a very hot area for everybody is around attracting and retaining strong security talent. We’re laser-focused on that.

Luckily, because our organization is geographically diverse, we’re able to leverage multiple labor pools to not only source those specific jobs, but all of our jobs. We have many IT jobs at our headquarters in Rhode Island. We have an IT center of excellence in New Jersey. We have huge IT presences in Irving, Texas; Richardson, Texas; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Chicago metro – the company is very geographically dispersed. We use that as part of our talent management strategy, and it’s helping us attract and retain skilled cybersecurity personnel.

Lastly, we are fortunate to have a culture that works extraordinarily well in a virtual setting, which has also allowed us to have talented colleagues in appropriate roles work remotely through VPN and PC-based telepresence technologies.” – Stephen Gold, CIO, CVS Health

Technology + business skills wanted

“We’re always looking for people who can have both a deep technology conversation, as well as a deep business conversation. You need the right blend of those people in your organization. But we also can’t forget that technology is hard, and people who are very skilled at technology don’t always have an interest in business processes. Having that right mix – and respecting them both appropriately – is a responsibility of the CIO and his team.” – Keith Collins, CIO, SAS

Talent that can help you go digital

“With the ever increasing focus on digitization, IT leaders need to focus their recruitment efforts on bringing people on board with skills that address their organization’s business and process needs. According to our recent research, a majority of companies felt IT lacked the skills to help them make the transition to a cloud-first model.

IT needs to hire people with business acumen and design thinking coupled with individuals who can drive a high degree of automation leveraging orchestration, machine learning, and advanced analytics. As for ‘soft skills,’ IT needs to find individuals who can work effectively with line-of-business teams and transform them to drive value to the enterprise. If IT can do this, they will immensely show their value to the rest of the business.” – Chris Bedi, CIO, ServiceNow

Next-level cloud skills

“In the pursuit of multi-cloud strategies, companies are having to grapple with increasingly diverse and complex environments as their hybrid and multi-cloud deployments grow. Cloud native applications have to be resilient to cloud outages without network downtime. There’s already an existing demand for cloud skills like cloud migration, data analytics, and security. The biggest career opportunity in 2017 will be in the interplay between cloud networking and on-premise networking – IT professionals that can maintain application availability and resiliency in spite of relatively unstable infrastructure.” – Pino de Candia, CTO, Midokura

Skills that impact the bottom-line

“Last year we saw demand for coding skills increase for IT staff because IT leaders wanted to move all of our tech stack to code (Infrastructure-as-Code). In turn, we are seeing our IT staff become more gifted generalists and less technology specialists. This year, the key skill is understanding where should effort be best applied for maximum gain. That means our IT staff must become more business aware and understand how their decisions impact the bottom-line. With DevOps, we now have proof that IT can and does impact market capitalization of the company. We should staff accordingly.” – Robert Reeves, CTO, Datical

A talent gap that can’t be closed

“Cloud: Most cloud companies use hosting providers such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. How they build their infrastructure to ensure resilience, disaster recovery and scale is of critical importance. However, there is a talent gap when companies believe they need to hire people who meet specific profiles for such jobs (i.e. DevOps Engineer). What happens is they hire IT administrators as opposed to software engineers. Consequently, they miss out on the critical computer science background needed to really build a rock solid cloud infrastructure. Hiring strong computer scientists with a propensity or desire to learn cloud infrastructure is key.

Security: In a cloud world, security is of critical importance. Every company should have a team focused on security but it shouldn't end there. Security needs to be the responsibility of everyone on a team. Because this area is so fluid and ever-evolving, no one person will be able to fully catch everything. To augment this, it's worthwhile to hire third party security testing firms to test and validate your infrastructure as an anonymous and signed-in user. From my perspective, security is a talent gap that can't ever be truly closed.” – George Papayiannis, CTO, Vena Solutions

The role of training

“In my organizations, I don’t typically run into IT skills gaps but rather individual shortages. I challenge my IT management and HR teams to plan and define the appropriate training path for the right individual almost irrespective of academic background. I realize the downside is that ramp-up period, but the wait time, if properly managed, is worth its time in gold in terms of team cohesion, productivity, and future potential.

Another CIO-related IT skills gap challenge is in helping to lead the stability of the business management teams to avoid falling into the ‘next big thing’ trap. It’s far more effective and secure to manage and maintain a ‘boring’ but highly stable system written in COBOL that everyone in the organization understands and that provides the benefits the business organization needs. Alternatively, maintaining and developing business systems constructed in the latest IT trend organization that are not necessarily understood require always having some teams in permanent training modes.” – Miguel Blanco, CIO, Global Experience 360

A well-rounded resume

“While technologies continue to evolve across the IT landscape, the most valuable employees will increasingly be those who can bridge the gap between practices. Whether it be designers who can code up their wireframes or DevOps engineers who can help modernize existing code for emerging platforms, a breadth of skills will far outweigh deep knowledge in any particular domain. There’s certainly room for experts in any organization but with tech moving so quickly, expecting 10+ years is generally much less valuable than a well-rounded resume with rich diversity.” – Tom Ingold, CTO, Boundless

A CIO skill needed in 2017

Bonus: CIOs not only need cutting-edge skills on their teams – they must also constantly evolve their own skills to keep up. Below, Mike Macrie, CIO of Land O'Lakes, shares a must-have skill that CIOs will need in 2017.

“Product development leadership is really critical. It’s owning the full life cycle of a product, including its business results. That’s a really big job, and there are a lot of people who can’t balance the competing needs of functionality and minimum viable product to make sure the customer really uses it. Are they going to adopt it? Is it going to sell? Figuring it out is a tough job that balances skills across business, technology, and leadership.” – Mike Macrie, CIO, Land O' Lakes

Carla Rudder is a community manager and program manager for The Enterprisers Project. She enjoys bringing new authors into the community and helping them craft articles that showcase their voice and deliver novel, actionable insights for readers.