Tech professionals need to develop new skills, but lack the time to train

In this context, a technology professional is anyone who manages on-premise or public/private cloud infrastructures, hybrid IT environments, or SaaS-based applications, as well as managed service/managed security service providers (MSP/MSSP).

But, the skills required are changing, as emerging technologies gain ground on today’s hybrid IT realities.

The UK tech professional

In the UK, Solarwinds’ research suggests that tech professionals have prioritised systems and infrastructure, security management and hybrid IT skills development in the past 12 months.

When it comes to the next three to five years, they are looking to develop skills in areas like artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics, while eyeing career paths in data science and coding.

However, the research says that without improvement in time and budget constraints, the majority of tech professionals (70%) will be unable to confidently manage future innovations.

This stark reality puts businesses at risk of performance and competitive advantage losses, making the prioritisation of skills and career development for tech professionals paramount.

“Recent history has proven that there is a direct correlation between technology and business performance,” said Joe Kim, executive vice president and global chief technology officer, SolarWinds.

“The results of this year’s IT Trends Report highlight that businesses need to focus even more on developing these professionals charged with running and pioneering technologies for the businesses. By removing day-to-day barriers, arming technology pros with the right technology and management tools, and prioritising skills and career development in the IT budget, tech pros can be better equipped for the future and help with business growth.”

“The findings are also in line with our view that the most critical problem we need to help tech pros solve today is the reality of the hybrid IT landscape—this applies to all tech pros whether on-premises, managing hybrid infrastructures, SaaS-based, or MSPs,” added Kim. “The way SolarWinds has always addressed and will continue to address these realities is through our deep connection to tech pros across the IT infrastructure. We are committed to understanding the needs of our customers and making their jobs easier as business technology continues to evolve.”

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The findings (in detail)

The SolarWinds report aims to provide a clear understanding of how tech professionals and the businesses they serve can improve to better manage future technology realities.

The key findings show that:

The majority of technology professionals are not fully confident they have all the skills needed to manage their environments into the near future, especially when it comes to emerging tech.

According to the research, 70% of all tech pros surveyed are not “completely confident” in having all the necessary skills to successfully manage their IT environments over the next three to five years — even though 97% of tech professionals have worked to develop a skill over the past 12 months.

This is also consistent with a recent study SolarWinds MSP conducted with The 2112 Group, 2018 Trends in Managed Services, which found that only about one in four partners feel their managed service skills are expert-level. Two-thirds of respondents surveyed (65%) claimed only basic managed service skills, with room to improve, while 5% admitted they lack basic skills or capabilities altogether. Just one in four surveyed partners considers itself a managed service expert.

When it comes to the idea of implementing or managing specific technologies, emerging tech is a pain point. The top three technologies tech professionals feel unequipped to manage with their current skillsets are:

1. AI;
2. Blockchain; and
3. Machine and/or deep learning.

According to Gartner’s list of strategic technology trends, AI and quantum computing both rank in the top 10.

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Tech pros will continue building skills in daily operations with an eye toward areas like data science.

In the past 12 months, tech professionals have prioritised skills in hybrid IT deployment monitoring and management (48%), systems and infrastructure management (43%) and security management (41%).

In the next three to five years, the top two skills tech pros plan to develop are security management (55%) and data science and analytics (47%). This is in line with what tech professionals say will be most important to their organisations’ transformation over the next three to five years: SIEM and threat intelligence.

Gartner research analysts also estimate that global revenue for the information security market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.8% between 2017 and 2022, reaching $143 billion in constant currency terms.

Tech pros say hybrid IT, security and software-defined everything are the key technologies for career development, which will help achieve higher goals like innovation.

According to the research, the most important technologies for technology professionals’ career development are:

1. Cloud and/or hybrid IT;
2. Automation and/or orchestration; and
3. AI.

Numbers four and five on the list are Internet of Things (IoT) and SIEM and/or threat intelligence, respectively. This suggests that tech professionals are thinking about the impact of emerging tech on their careers.

When it comes to career development goals over the next three to five years, those in the industry will look to prioritise:

1. Technology innovation;
2. Strategic planning; and
3. Management/leadership skills (people management).

IT security protocol/processes and data analytics/science are the other career development goals in the top five.

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Tech pros have an appetite to prioritise career development on a weekly basis but are hindered by factors like time and cost.

Currently, tech professionals engage in IT skills training and/or career development programs ranging from a few times a year (32%) to monthly (23%), quarterly (13%) and annually (13%). However, if there were no schedule or workload restrictions, 36% would prefer weekly training.

The respondents cited time and availability (51%) and cost (23%) as the biggest barriers affecting their current ability to participate in IT skills training and career development programs at the frequency they would like.

When it comes to their primary sources for training, tech professionals turn to:
1. Industry events/trade shows;
2. Online communities/forums; and
3. Vendor training sessions;

However, the ideal delivery format for IT skills training according to tech professionals is:
1. In-person workshop/user conference (full-day);
2. Self-guided online course; and
3. Webinar.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...