Move over, business alignment. CIOs’ biggest worries are now centered on IT labour.
According to an annual study of members of the US Society for Information Management, IT recruitment and related issues have eclipsed business alignment as the top management concern among IT executives.
The survey of IT leaders at 112 companies was conducted in June and the results reflect the growing anxiety that IT executives are experiencing in their efforts to attract and retain highly skilled IT workers. A combination of factors is affecting the supply of and demand for IT workers, including a dramatic reduction in the number of Computer Science majors at US universities as a result of offshore outsourcing worries, says Jerry Luftman, vice president for academic community affairs for the SIM and the author of the study.
Those issues, combined with an uptick in retirement among baby boomer IT workers at a time when project work is surging, have escalated concerns among IT managers about finding and keeping valued workers, Luftman says.
“We’ve got a problem,” says Luftman. He says many IT organisations are struggling to find mid-career IT workers who have polished business skills, and adds that the entry-level IT workers who are available lack so-called soft skills, such as written and verbal communications panache.
“Too frequently, [university] Computer Science programmes don’t want to focus on the soft skills” and are reticent about relinquishing an emphasis they’ve historically placed on developing students’ technical acumen, Luftman says.
The need for IT workers who can speak to business managers and end-users in terms they can understand “is a hot button” for CIOs, he says.
Five of the top concerns cited by senior IT managers cracked the top 100 in the study for the first time. Three of those are focused on business-related demands, including the need to build better business skills among IT workers (see chart).
One of the problems fuelling these concerns, Luftman says, is that the onus of IT-business alignment has historically been placed on the shoulders of IT executives — not on business leaders — and that situation has to change.
“Too many people, including researchers, are defining [IT-business alignment] as a one-way street,” Luftman says. That’s a fundamental reason why alignment “is such an elusive problem”, he says.
Also high on the list of CIO worries is a desire among IT leaders to improve the quality and integrity of information.
Luftman, who is also executive director of graduate information systems programmes at Stevens Institute of Technology, says this concern is primarily related to the information disclosure requirements in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other regulations, which are placing a greater emphasis on the quality and accuracy of data.