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.
This type of flexible resourcing differs from outsourcing, which also presents one of the key ways of introducing change into business culture through outside innovation. Outsourcing is often defined by external firms being contracted to deliver ongoing management and delivery of a defined set of services to a prescribed level of performance.
Body shopping offers businesses the option to source specialist skills to meet staff shortages, emergency IT projects and stay ahead of its competitors.
It also presents considerable HR benefits. Hiring additional professionals on a temporary basis is a painful process – it can take a long time to find and train the right professional, and the liabilities, training costs and other overhead expenses of recruiting new employees is very high.
This proactive resourcing solution offers organisations the option to access a wider talent pool and utilise individuals tailored to their needs, as and when required. It also enables the employment of specialist resourcing solutions, which in the IT sector can often be difficult to find.
In my experience, the greatest upside to body shopping is that a business does not need to worry about recruitment costs or employee liabilities, which can deliver significant cost benefits to an organisation.
One of the major reasons I see it becoming an increasingly popular recruitment strategy is the benefits it provides in terms of output while allowing companies to retain control and focus on their core business.
Today, organisations are seeking better ways of recruitment and resourcing to meet their changing needs. They want an innovative resourcing solution to meet the peaks and troughs of demand. Flexible IT resources open new opportunities to support the evolution of a business.
I believe that as long as a company has the confidence in the quality standards and capabilities of the business supplying a body shopping service, it is a cost effective remedy for any technical resource issue, and can prove to be a vital tool to prevent a negative impact on productivity and operations.
The future for IT staff recruitment
There is an exciting IT horizon out there, but the ability to deliver it rests with the business committing itself to an innovation-led future. As competition increases daily, organisations cannot afford to be burdened with technology skills shortages that prevent them from keeping up with the pace of change.
Delegating IT technical tasks to a 'body shopper' can add business value, help fulfil the potential of technology innovation, and enable IT to function as it should; in a central role within an organisation, driving its competitive future.
In the coming months I believe that a band of companies will emerge to take advantage of flexible resourcing approaches, such as body shopping, and it is these businesses that will lead their organisations into a new era of growth and innovation.