Cinching up the IT skills shortage

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Information technology (IT) is not an easy discipline to master, yet it’s an essential linchpin for business today. In trucking especially, IT is the critical pipeline for handling a growing volume of data encompassing everything from freight tracking to analyzing vehicle diagnostics on the fly – meaning that demand for skilled IT workers is only going to keep growing in the big rig world.

[On a more fundamental level, here are some “simple tech tips” compiled by one-time New York Times reporter David Pogue a few years ago. I am sure one or two of these may come in handy for truckers and non-truckers alike.]

From that perspective, the, the 16th annual global Harvey Nash CIO Survey provides some important insight for trucking operators. Even though it represents the views of 3,211 chief information officers (CIOs) and technology leaders from across more than 30 countries, they are facing the very same technical challenges as those in the business of hauling freight when it comes to IT needs.

[FYI: Of those 3,211 respondents, 34% identified themselves as CIOs, 8% as CTOs or chief technology officers, 36% as a director/VP in technology, with the remaining 22% spread across a broad range of other roles including CEOs and COOs.]

One big red flag in particular is concern over the growing shortage of IT-skilled workers, with the global average for this concern up 15% from last year, according to Harvey Nash:

  • Big jump in skills shortage: Faced with new projects and shifting priorities, 60% of technology leaders are experiencing a skills shortage within their teams preventing their company keeping up with its competitors – up from 45% percent last year – which represents the biggest increase since the survey started tracking this area in 2005.
  • In the U.S., 55% believe the skills shortage is impacting ability to deliver on IT needs, though that’s 5% lower than the global average.
  • Regional differences: Leaders in Asia are most worried about skills shortages (76%), followed by North Europe (61%), the U,K. (59%), Eastern Europe (57%) and North America (56). However, in every region at least half the leaders polled voiced a similar concern, noted Harvey Nash.
  • Retention of talent a concern as 90%of CIOs and technology leaders were concerned about retaining their best people, while 35% were “greatly” concerned. [Sounds similar to worries over the truck driver shortage, eh?]
  • Larger companies (250 technology staff or more) are 46% more likely than smaller companies (less than 50 technology staff) to be “greatly” concerned, suggesting that in the technology sector smaller, high growth companies are more attractive to talented technology professionals.
  • There’s a growing emphasis on IT “doing” skills, meaning that change management and project management skills are in greatest demand, followed by hands-on software development skills and IT strategy.

“After six years of sluggish activity, this report clearly shows that 2014 is a watershed year,” said Jonathan Mitchell, chairman of Harvey Nash’s global CIO practice.

[That includes issues such as IT security and the video below from RSA provides some interesting views on that subject.]

“CIOs and Technology leaders are seeing growing budgets and growing prominence in their organization as CEOs are turning to technology to drive growth,” Mitchell stressed. “However, significant challenges lie ahead. This year has seen a worrying increase in the number of leaders citing concerns about skills shortages. To be successful, organizations will not only need a clear technology strategy, but they will also need the right people to deliver it.”

Here are some U.S.-focused IT tidbits from Harvey Nash’s survey trucking firms should think about:

  • 46% plan to increase IT headcount, 4% higher than the global average
  • 11% of respondents are female IT leaders, 4% higher than the global average
  • 24% have faced a major IT security attack in the last year, 2% higher than the global average
  • 44% expect to increase outsourcing, 5% lower than the global average
  • 55% believe the skills shortage will prevent their organizations from keeping up with the pace of change, 5% lower than the global average
  • 64% see the role of the CIO becoming more strategic, 2% below the global average

IT security, of course is going to be a major focal point for the global business community in the years ahead – if it isn’t already right now – but that will be especially true for trucking since more and more freight shipment data is being sent electronically these days.

[RSA also provides some insight into what it calls “Big Data Security” that’s worth a viewing.]

One thing is for certain: the need for skilled IT workers in trucking is only going to rival that of truck drivers and vehicle technicians down the road. So carriers best start thinking now about how to recruit their share of IT experts into their ranks.

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