Technologists Urgently Need Non-Technical Upskilling

Technologists Urgently Need Non-Technical Upskilling

May 20, 2020

SolarWinds study claims converged roles and contracting budgets increase the need for qualified technologists across hybrid IT environments.

Findings from the recent SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2020: The Universal Language of IT reveals a new reality for technology professionals where roles have converged yet budgets remain focused less on emerging technologies and more on infrastructure, hybrid IT, expanding their charter from operations to optimization.

The universal language of IT encapsulates the evolving role of technology in business, and technologists responsibility for ensuring overall uptime, availability, and performance as well as greater partnership with leadership to drive business success.

As cloud computing continues to grow, technologists claim they are increasingly prioritizing areas like hybrid infrastructure management, application performance management (APM), and security management to optimize delivery for the organizations they serve.

With the convergence of IT roles in response to the interconnected nature of modern IT environments — and now the need to support a new or larger remote workforce —technologists are also setting their sights on non-technical and interpersonal skills to ensure teamwork and communication with business leaders increases their fluency in the universal language of IT.

According to SolarWinds EVP and CTO Joe Kim, skills development is urgently needed across both technical and non-technical areas to remain competitive. Kim says more than ever before, technology professionals must work alongside business leaders to meet organizational goals while also investing time and energy into cultivating the necessary skills to drive business success.

“For years we’ve been talking about hybrid IT and what it means for tech pros. We see the effects of hybrid IT in breaking down traditional siloes and bringing core competencies across on-premises and cloud environments together. Especially now, when organizations worldwide are facing new challenges and uncertainty, we must take this reality seriously, focusing on skills development and readiness in key areas like security, cloud infrastructure, and application monitoring. While IT continues to be a main driver of business importance, tech pros have an opportunity to help reassure the business and focus on effectively communicating performance now and into the future,” says Kim.

Key Takeaways

Technologists are focusing less on emerging technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and edge, and
more on hybrid IT and security.

The top three technologies influencing organizations’ staffing needs (by weighted rank) are: Cloud computing (i.e., SaaS, IaaS, PaaS) (46%) Security and compliance (37%) and Hybrid IT (29%)

Only a collective 34% name emerging technologies—like AI, edge, microservices, and containers—as the biggest influence on staffing needs.

According to the report, this makes sense when you consider organizations aren’t allocating their budget to emerging technologies – particularly as this year’s budgets are reevaluated in the face of economic
challenges.

Nearly three-quarters (70%) indicate their organizations’ tech budgets allocate less than 25% of their spending to emerging technologies.

A hybrid IT reality has created a universal language of IT where technologists roles and siloes converge, and complexities are exacerbated by flat to shrinking budgets and a lack of qualified personnel.

With the convergence of technologies and responsibilities, the top three ways technical roles have
changed over the past three to five years are: A need to retrain existing staff (44%), assumed additional non-IT responsibilities (i.e., presentation skills, public speaking, business  writing/planning, justification of time/budget) (35%), and, increased work week hours (33%).

At the same time, the report claims technologists are experiencing barriers to successfully supporting their organizations, including: lack of budget/resources (34%), unclear or shifting priorities (21%) and
currently offered IT management solutions lack features to meet needs (15%).

What’s more, nearly half (44%) of respondents believe technologists entering the workforce don’t have the necessary skills to manage modern, distributed IT environments—outnumbering those who believe they possess the skills (31%). Many personnel and skills issues relate to growing areas like APM and security and compliance.

Sixty-four percent of of IT staff are spending more time managing apps and services rather than infrastructure and hardware. This represents a monumental shift in the strategic importance of applications to the modern business. This trend will likely to continue to rise: according to Gartner, by 2022, as many as 60% of organizations will use an external service provider’s cloud managed service offering, doubling the 2018 figure.

Gartner also predicts the ongoing effect on skills: by 2020, 75% of enterprises will experience visible business disruptions due to infrastructure and operations (I&O) skills gaps, which is an increase from less than 20% in 2016.

When organizations adopt cloud and/or SaaS technologies, 63% use log analytics, 54% use network traffic analysis/network app analysis, and 53% use user experience monitoring as their top three approaches. When it comes to APM tools, 52% use a mix of native tools (provided by the cloud service provider) and third-party tools.

More complexity equals more APM: as business size increases, so does the percentage of technologists indicating they use network traffic analysis/network app analysis to gain visibility. A larger percentage of enterprise technologists use log analytics (80%) as an approach compared to their small and mid-size counterparts.

For 77% of technologists, at least 10% of their daily responsibilities include IT security management.

At the same time, the top three areas of security skills management tech pro organizations are prioritizing for development include (by weighted rank): Security information and event management (SIEM) (36%), Network security (33%) and Backup and recovery (25%).

Similar to the way the universal language of IT has affected IT departments, compliance policies
have resulted in 45% of tech pros adding additional IT staff. Compliance policies with the greatest effect on IT departments include: GDPR (61%), RMF (29%), and PCI DSS (18%).

The reports suggests technologists need to develop nontechnical skills to operate within the universal language of IT reality where cross-functional and business-level communication is necessary. The nontechnical skills tech pros feel are most critical to successfully manage today’s modern IT environments include: people management (58%), risk assessment (48%), and interpersonal communication (47%).

These results are echoed by CIO’s annual State of the CIO Survey, which revealed the top skills needed for digital transformation were strategy building (40%), project management (32%), and business relationship management (25%). These critical interpersonal skills become more important as technologists increasingly communicate and collaborate across previously siloed IT functions.

According to the LinkedIn 2020 Emerging Jobs Report, the demand for soft skills like communication, collaboration, and creativity will continue to rise across the SaaS industry.

Despite the budget and skills issues tech pros report, 89% of surveyed technologists say they’re  comfortable communicating with business leadership when requesting technology purchases, investing time/budget into team trainings, and the like.

(Ed. To access the full report, click here. The SolarWinds claims the findings of this report are based on a survey fielded in December 2019, which yielded responses from 112 technology practitioners, managers, and directors from public- and private-sector small, mid-size, and enterprise organizations in Singapore. All regions studied in 2020, as reported on the SolarWinds IT Trends Index, were North America, Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and the United Kingdom, with 983 respondents across all geographies combined.)

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