Thomas Coles, managing director of MSM Software explains why he thinks staff shortages and a lack of skilled technical staff are moving the IT industry towards a new flexible approach to staffing.

A survey by Harvey Nash of more than 2,000 IT leaders recently revealed that 42 per cent of CIOs think a technology skills shortage will prevent their organisation from keeping up with the pace of change, and 73 per cent are concerned about their IT department's innovation potential.

The same survey also saw sixty-one per cent of CIOs state that IT is fundamental to the future success of the business. The results show a clear disconnect between the desire to drive organisational innovation through technology and the ability of the IT department to provide it.

Businesses place great value on the importance of IT to the organisation's long-term success, particularly in ensuring the business excels in the complex and fast-moving post-recession environment.

However, many fail to supply the critical in-house skills which are necessary to support IT in responding to organisational change and delivering growth strategies. This has the potential to threaten the long-term position of UK businesses on the international stage.

In my firm opinion, businesses must carefully consider their IT needs and what resources are required to remain competitive – or they could find themselves being left behind.

IT staffing gaps are causing business problems

While it is imperative that organisations act fast to overcome resourcing issues, it is not always a simple task. Technical expertise can be hard to come by and businesses face challenges not only in finding this expertise, but also in retaining skilled, experienced and well-trained professionals that can effectively deliver IT operations.

Furthermore, many organisations struggle with the high training costs and other overhead expenses of recruiting specialist IT professionals. These issues are central to why so many businesses find themselves suffering from a technology skills shortage. Consequently many lack the solid foundation of operational excellence to succeed in delivering business change and technology innovation. This ultimately leads to IT departments facing almost constant resource problems – often placing unhealthy pressure on existing teams to deliver day-to-day operations.

While these staffing pressures can place a daily burden on the IT department, there are many additional resource issues waiting in the wings, which can cause a crisis for IT and place a severe strain on the wider organisation. These factors include sickness or holidays which introduce staff shortages.

To keep pace with the ever-changing face of technology, the IT department may also find itself at times lacking the expertise or specialist skills required to implement and maintain new technologies effectively. IT projects, especially those performed during peak activity, may also create the need for additional resource.

These problems can be time consuming to resolve and potentially leave the organisation vulnerable. I believe a fresh approach to resourcing is needed to enable organisations to resolve resourcing issues and stay ahead of the rapid rate of technological change.

The new body shopping solution to IT skill shortages

The better a business can deliver day-to-day IT operations, the more successful it will be in reacting to change and supporting wider business growth strategies. In my experience, this has seen a rapid increase in flexible resourcing, and in particular a solution I refer to as 'body shopping'.

Within the ever-changing dynamics of the business world, body shopping provides a fresh strategic approach to resourcing, which can enable organisations to meet their staffing requirements, but also keep costs to a minimum.

Body shopping is the practice of sub-contracting; where a business loans the technical expertise of an organisation's employee. It enables companies to access skilled individuals or a team of professionals to work remotely or on the business's premises, in conjunction with its existing team. Body shopping can help an organisation deal with the pressures of staff shortages on a short or longer-term basis, or to plug critical technology skills gaps within the company.