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The seven step IT skills gap strategy

Skills gap

When it comes to enterprise digitalisation, demand overwhelmingly outweighs supply. According to recruitment consultant Explore, 94% of employers believe the UK is facing a technology skills gap that is near crisis point. This means that Digital Transformation – and the benefits that come with it – seems out of reach for many companies. The lack of IT talent also means many organisations are vulnerable to network downtime, cyberattacks and other IT ongoing risks requiring expertise.

Upskilling current IT staff using specialist training and development programmes can plug internal skills gaps and ensures the necessary support is in place to deliver constant availability. Training and development programmes also have the added benefit of improving employee retention and satisfaction, as these programmes are often considered a workplace perk.

A successful training programme for IT professionals should be online and on demand. IT professionals need to learn as they go, dealing with problems as they come up. For example, G Data found that new ransomware pops up almost everyday. IT professionals need to to be aware of new malware strains and know how to deal with them before they present an issue. Also, well-trained IT staff not only have the skills to support an organisation’s entire infrastructure, they can also bring fresh ideas to projects, pre-empt potential issues and make systems more efficient.

No matter the size of the business, there are fundamental skills all IT teams should possess. These help keep any business’s day-to-day operations flowing smoothly and prevent lost data or downtime. If an organisation lacks these seven skills, they should prioritise them in a tailored training programme.

1) Data storage and integrity 

Data storage has changed quite dramatically in the last decade. The typical data server in many companies has evolved from a single physical server into arrays of virtual servers and cloud-based storage. It’s important that any IT team has a broad understanding of new storage technologies to know how best to leverage the features each type can offer.

The integrity of data could also be compromised if backups are not organised well or if there are no staff available who understand disaster recovery. Choosing a training route that provides in-depth understanding of storage configuration, disaster recovery solutions and resilience will ensure the skills are in place to keep data safe, secure, available and recoverable.

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2) Software development

If an organisation is using bespoke software, server database solutions, or software that has been developed in-house, it’s important to have the means to support it. Many such systems are either customer facing or drive operations essential to productivity. Software vendors will always attempt to push their off-the-shelf software when all that’s really needed is a cost-effective strategic solution suitable for the current IT infrastructure.

In-house software development skills are a huge asset. Many software companies charge extortionate day and consultancy rates in addition to annual support costs to develop software, so empowering and developing IT teams to handle software development needs internally gives total control over software design and spend. 

3) ITIL knowledge

If a recent project has failed or it’s becoming harder to keep track of configuration changes, ITIL training will help to address and avoid these issues, along with the associated risks. ITIL ensures robust project and change management measures are put in place and is the most widely accepted method of IT service management worldwide. 

4) Security

Denial of service attacks, company-wide virus outbreaks, and compromised business data are all risks that modern organisations face. Data needs to be safe and secure at all times. It’s also essential that end-users are aware of potential security risks through security awareness training and the introduction of a user security policy. Whether there is a dedicated security team or one team handling all IT issues, organisations must ensure technical experts have the necessary skills to configure, support and troubleshoot security systems 24 hours a day. 

5) Database design and management

Database design and management skills can significantly increase productivity and ensure that business functions are supported quickly and cost-effectively.  Oracle is the second largest software company in the world and the world leader in database management and administration. Arranging Oracle training for key IT team members can ensure an organisation can tap into sophisticated database design and have the skills available to support issues and manage change.

There are also many problems that arise from bad database management, such as data corruption or unsupported database versions causing issues. Having individuals in-house who understand the complexities of database management and how to support the data they store will ensure databases are accessible, operate efficiently, are backed up and proactively supported.

6) Networks

Connectivity issues can mean huge problems for business and just a few moments of network downtime can result in lost transactions, customers and revenue. A trained network team will have the skills and expertise to ensure high availability of key business systems and to configure, support and deliver a wide range of networked services including VoIP, mobile networking, and networked collaborative applications such as SharePoint. In today’s connected world, it pays to protect business interests around the clock.  

7) Modern and emerging technology

For many organisations, the reliance on applications and hardware has decreased since virtualisation and cloud computing swept the world. However, without adequate knowledge and skills, many businesses cannot take advantage of the many benefits these technologies bring.

Trying to recruit a ready-to-go candidate when demand for IT staff is so high can be an uphill struggle. Businesses should instead consider upskilling the IT staff they already have. Doing this can pay back dividends, in the form of increased productivity and better enterprise agility. This list of seven key skills offers a foundation for IT training programmes. They are essential skills for businesses of all sizes, and will ensure the organisation performs at optimum levels as it moves towards Digital Transformation. 

Steve Wainwright, Managing Director EMEA, at Skillsoft

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