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IT leaders are increasingly becoming a valued part of the C-suite. The role of a Chief Information Officer (CIO) has become a key strategic position, focused on using technology to drive value and revenue for organizations.

But times are tough. Economic downturns coupled with rising costs could tempt companies to pull back and cut budgets, even though studies show the benefits of investment during periods of negative growth.

A third of survey respondents to Randstad’s digital transformation report: CIO priorities in a dynamic market said they lack confidence in their organization’s ability to successfully deliver on key initiatives and modernize technology over the next five years. Over 40 percent said that, to date, they have had low success in modernizing their technology to meet business needs.

So how can CIOs navigate budget constraints while addressing skills shortages, given the low success rates of so many organizations?

know where to go

The first step is to focus on the company’s goals, says Steve MacKinnon, President of IT Solutions at Randstad. CIOs need to align their own priorities with those of the business, and ensure that technology is enabling the company strategy.

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If I could give one piece of advice to CIOs, I’d say understand where you want to go. Use data-driven insights to see where the business is going, and then consider how you can get it done with the right talent.

Steve MacKinnon
President of IT Solutions at Randstad

CIOs should avoid planning in a vacuum though; visibility across the whole business is required in order to be able to launch cohesive roadmaps that consider all opportunities.

using data to identify skill deficits

Making use of in-house data to inform decision making on anything from investment to strategy is becoming more common. Three-quarters of organizations named it as the top technological priority over the next five years, according to the report.

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Companies need to treat data as a strategic asset.

Bill Bickford
Principal, Data Management and Business Intelligence, Randstad

In-house data on employees’ skills, experience and performance can help identify a company’s strengths and weaknesses, contributing to solving the skills shortage by providing insights into skills gaps.

By assessing existing skills and having a codified company-wide strategy, decision makers can identify both current and future skills gaps.

upskilling in-house talent

The success of digital transformation initiatives rests on making sure staff are able to harness the benefits. CIOs are aware of this, and cite a lack of skills as the biggest barrier to reaching their goals.

It might be tempting to seek external solutions, but upskilling and reskilling existing staff has an added benefit, according to MacKinnon.

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Skilling people is one of the biggest retention drivers. People want to work with modern, new technology and projects. And so by bringing in new technology and upskilling existing staff you are taking care of two issues at once.

Steve MacKinnon
President of IT Solutions at Randstad

Companies should seek to understand what skill sets they already have, and what they need to acquire; in-house data can help here and inform an approach to reaching the required staffing levels.

the hybrid approach

It is not unusual for companies to take a hybrid approach to solving their skills shortages, combining in-house upskilling with external services that fill any gaps.

Skills shortages have led to 42 percent of surveyed organizations seeking external help. And this is not a temporary solution either — over half of respondents are interested in working with partners on a long-term basis.

Having a hybrid ecosystem of in-house and external partnerships can create control and visibility complications for CIOs, but there are advantages that should not be overlooked.

Building a partner ecosystem can cover skills gaps, while reducing risk. It can also improve resource and technology redundancy, and lower support costs while improving business continuity.

If CIOs can tolerate the associated complications, then a lower-cost option like offshore or nearshore delivery models is worth considering.

non-tech initiatives

Not every solution needs to be technological. Some are human.

Businesses should make sure they are not missing out on untapped in-house or external talent pools. Creating a workplace culture that is diverse and inclusive, can help them attract a wider range of talent and improve retention rates.

Talent development programs, working with educational entities, graduate schemes and internships are all useful initiatives that can have a positive impact on a company’s performance.

leverage technology and data to drive business results

CIOs can prepare for digital transformation by focusing on using data to inform decision making, developing existing teams, using external partners, and encouraging diversity and inclusivity while partnering with educational institutions.

With the right strategies in place, IT leaders can overcome skills shortages and achieve their business objectives in today's fast-paced and competitive business landscape.

To find out more, read the full report.