IT Talent Crunch Forces CIOs to Make Tough Decisions 

Pat Phelan
3 min read

*By Pat Phelan, vice president of market research at Rimini Street 

2022 is shaping up to be a year of increased technology investment. Still, as business leaders move to accelerate the pace of innovation, the IT skills shortage has forced many CIOs into a seemingly unwinnable balancing act. On one hand, they need to carefully prioritize their investments in tech talent based on the needs of the business. On the other, they need flexibility that allows them to pivot when those needs change. 

As enterprises come to terms with this new reality, CIOs who don’t plan accordingly could be forced into decisions that stifle innovation and ultimately hinder the business over the long term. 

Priority on cybersecurity 

Forty-nine percent of tech professionals say their CIO plans to hire for cybersecurity over the next year, No. 1 among all categories and just ahead of cloud/multicloud hires (47%). That’s according to new research from CIO, in a report sponsored by Rimini Street that surveyed 255 respondents in IT positions at enterprises with annual revenues of $250 million or more. 

On the surface, this makes perfect sense. Cybersecurity should be top of mind for all enterprises because attacks or data breaches can lead to far-reaching consequences and can have a negative impact for years on end. That said, the enterprise shouldn’t invest so heavily in security that it drains budgets and impacts innovation, which is another major concern as enterprises of all sizes and types embark on digital transformation journeys. 

The bottom line is that CIOs need to find a balance that makes the most business sense. This includes supporting both legacy and newer technology; if not, the IT infrastructure may not be able to evolve rapidly enough to meet emerging demands from the business. 

The Drivers Behind Recruiting for Tech Talent 

The first step to overcoming the IT skills shortage is to understand the underlying drivers. According to the survey, the primary reason it’s difficult to recruit and retain older tech skills is that candidates want to work on more advanced technologies — think more cloud-based IT systems and infrastructures, as opposed to legacy ERP systems. The problem here is that a significant number of enterprises rely on older tech — 50% of Oracle customers and 43% of SAP customers say they use older versions of their respective apps. At the same time, 24% of survey respondents said they have been unable to locate talent with legacy technology expertise. 

So, what are CIOs to do? It seems there is no one-size-fits-all solution. 

For example, when asked about their top business challenges, tech professionals were all over the board. Increasing operational efficiency/automation was the top challenge cited, with 43% saying so, followed by keeping up with evolving customer behaviors and preferences (38%), aligning tech strategy with business goals (33%), introducing new digital revenue streams (32%), and increased competitive pressure (30%). 

These varied responses reinforce the fact that there is an extreme need for balance; organizations that over-prioritize one area, particularly amid the talent crunch, risk being unable to keep daily IT operations running at a high level. 

Answer these three questions when creating a tech talent plan:

As CIOs adjust their IT strategy to accommodate the tech talent challenge, three questions must be answered. The answers may not be easy or come quickly, and they may require a bit of deep digging. In the end, however, answering them as fully as possible will give CIOs a clearer view as they plan to address the talent shortage. The questions: 

  1. Is/How is your enterprise balancing business needs against the risks of not addressing the IT skills/talent shortage?
  1. Does the enterprise have a strategy that weighs the need for both legacy and emerging IT skills?
  1. Does the enterprise have the resources — time, funds, and staff — to train internal teams on emerging tech as well as existing legacy apps, all while marching toward a modern IT infrastructure.

Yes, answering these questions will take some time and research. It could require performing a full cost-benefit analysis, including (but not limited to) the costs of hiring, training, and staff retention and determining whether staff have the skills necessary to support and run daily operations, launch new tech initiatives, and support the growth of both areas. 

The overarching challenge can be daunting. Downtime can be crippling and expensive, and both security and compliance are musts. Taking a hard internal look at your organization’s current capabilities as they relate to where the business wants to go will put you in the best position to succeed in building an IT team that will be able to consistently accommodate evolving business demands. 

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