The biggest IT skills shortages of 2018

Angus Kidman 13 December 2017

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Cloud is crucial, but techies also need to bone up on soft skills.

IT experts make big dollars, but how can they maximise that income? A key element is ensuring that they have in-demand skills. New data from Gartner suggests that while it's helpful to train in "hot" areas like crowd computing and business intelligence, being able to translate that tech knowledge and explain how it actually impacts on the business is equally vital.

I attended Gartner's recent IT Infrastructure, Operations Management & Data Center Summit in London, thus inserting myself into rooms filled with besuited tech wizards and indulging my deep-rooted desire to hear people talking about "machine learning" and "the digital tsunami". Hey, everyone needs a hobby.

One of the more noteworthy sets of figures was a survey of CEOs and IT leaders asking them to identify where they saw the biggest potential skills shortages. Here's a list of the top 10:

Area% concerned
Cloud34%
BI/analytics23%
Critical thinking/problem solving22%
Technical skills21%
Security20%
Business acumen/knowledge19%
Legacy modernisation18%
Mobility18%
Internet of things (IoT)16%
Communications skills16%

While we can see plenty of buzzwords in that list (IoT, anyone?), there are also lots of broader abilities (often labelled as "soft skills") being called out: critical thinking, business acumen, communication skills. The vision of people with tech and science skills being introverted losers might provide punchlines on The Big Bang Theory, but it doesn't cut it in a modern IT environment. Understanding business impact and being able to talk about plans with others is crucial.

Speakers at the conference were quick to highlight that. "We need to look for more outcome-driven results for the business," Gartner research VP Milind Govekar said. "You don't want to be known by the infrastructure you keep, but by the results you provide. Tech is important, but it's not tech-first or tech-only."

Another advantage of "soft" skills is that they remain useful even as technology demand changes. That's helpful when trying to guess what will happen even 18 months from now in technology is nigh-on impossible. "You cannot create a five year plan anymore," Gartner's David Cappuccio said. "If you create a five year plan you're creating a ghost.

IT roles remain in demand, and that's reflected in the fact that most tech positions still potentially qualify for visas for overseas workers even after a crackdown earlier this year. Staff also remain the biggest source of IT expense (with communications costs a distant but hefty second). However, to really pull in the big bucks, you'll need a balanced portfolio of abilities. The most important code is the social code.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.

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