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It is most certainly a challenging time for CIOs and CTOs. The pressure from the business to drive forward with digitalization has never been greater while at the same time, economic and political uncertainty is making it difficult to deliver business-as-usual activities, let alone major transformation programs and innovations.

The recent Randstad digital transformation report surveyed more than 750 IT decision makers on their priorities and challenges, and this report highlighted some common trends across a wide range of industry sectors.

Many of these challenges and obstacles standing in the way of digitalization are derived from a single theme: talent. In some cases, this is simply the lack of capacity — not enough digital talent in the organization to resource change programs. In other cases, it is a digital skills gap for internal resources — IT employees lack the new digital skills required to operationalize the organization’s digital vision.

confidence in the ability to drive change is low

Most organizations now have a digital vision, driven by the CIO or CTO, however, confidence seems to be lacking in turning this vision into successful change. To deliver the desired outcomes, IT departments need both confidence and ability. The research revealed that half of CIOs are either not satisfied with the direction their technology is taking the business or they have doubts that their key initiatives will be successful in the next five years.

The existing baseline technology infrastructure appears to be underpinning this lack of confidence. Amongst those who flagged this lack of confidence, 75 percent associated this doubt with poor system performance, outdated technology, or missing technology.

CIOs are justified in their lack of confidence as the research also showed that almost half of the organizations surveyed (41%) revealed they have had low success in modernizing their technology thus far. In a world of digitalization and modernization, organizations still have a huge gap between their vision, their requirements, and reality.

lower budgets, increased scrutiny

Although some businesses seem to be investing heavily in their digitalization programs, there remains the perennial concern around IT funding with 44 percent of those surveyed flagging that pressures on budgets are likely to become more acute given the current economic climate.

The combination of economic uncertainty and increased pressure from the business to accelerate digitalization is resulting in increased scrutiny on IT to justify the return on investment and to accelerate time to value of initiatives. The faster an innovation program is delivered, the better, in the eyes of the business, but is that the right way to look at it? Lasting modernization and long-term technological improvement should be the focus — and to achieve that, businesses need to look toward a larger, more diverse, and skilled IT department to carry out digital operations.

the top concerns of CIOs

The top concerns of IT professionals broadly fall into three categories: cybersecurity, economic challenges, and talent.

top concerns for IT professionals
top concerns for IT professionals

What is interesting about this list of concerns is that many of the external factors are not just impacting IT, but the wider business, and it is increased business agility delivered through digitalization and modernization of infrastructure that will enable organizations to better navigate these challenges. For example, the ongoing pandemic impact is directly related to work from home culture and return to office mandates, which can all be navigated more effectively by improving workforce connectivity and accessibility.

talent is a critical concern

CIOs cite lack of talent as the greatest hindrance to digital transformation. Whereas a lack of budget (5%) or enthusiasm for new systems (17%) still featured as factors holding back change, these were perceived as far less of a challenge than skills and knowledge-related matters such as the need to reskill/upskill (44%), lack of training materials (34%), difficulty onboarding employees (33%) and a lack of internal expertise to drive initiatives forward (21%). In essence, CIOs don’t have the resources they need to achieve their vision. Even though the business wants to digitalize, IT remains underfunded and understaffed.

The biggest knowledge gaps are seen to be in relation to cloud migration, where nearly half (46%) of organizations perceive they don’t have the requisite level of knowledge internally. Other skill shortages affecting companies’ ability to drive forward transformation initiatives are in relation to managed services, migration, automation, software-as-a-service and cybersecurity — which were each called out by more than a third of surveyed professionals.

talent-first digital enablement

There are two primary factors this research shows are certain — the need and drive for digital change is only set to increase and IT teams will need to deliver on these programs amid a raft of economic and geopolitical uncertainty.

In short, CIOs will be under increased pressure to accelerate digital enablement, however, they are unlikely to receive the levels of investment required to scale their teams and to address the skills gap.

As such, CIOs will need to be more inventive and look at new and different approaches to augment their teams and inject the right talent, at the right time, in the right areas. This elastic approach of leveraging digital talent at the time it is most needed on each digitization program will require lower IT spend on employee onboarding and training, but still allow for more rapid and agile implementation.

Finding the right talent solutions to help them augment their existing team with either permanent or contingent workers will be essential. Additionally, exploring global delivery models and leveraging the right external skills in the most economical way will be key. This modern approach will finally blend the ideal digital enablement pathway. If businesses can find a digital enablement partner that can provide both holistic and technical guidance around each element of digitalization, they will be set up for success.

For more insight about talent demand and more read the full Randstad digital transformation report.