Saturday, July 20, 2024

IT leaders challenged to close industry skills gap — Human talent shortage leads to more automation and MSP outsourcing


Information technology leaders have long struggled to close a persistent skills gap, especially since the largescale shift to hybrid workforces and remote employees during the pandemic. To address the growing talent shortfall, many IT leaders are taking a strategic automation approach to outsource more IT functions. The use of automation can lighten the load to free up technicians for other pursuits such as streamlining network operations or learning new skills.

Auvik’s recent IT Trends 2024: Industry Report found that managed service providers (MSPs) and internal IT departments are deploying more automated systems today to address their staff shortages and resource constraints. Despite making some progress, nearly one-third of network and SaaS-related management tasks are still being done manually (29 percent), and 11 percent of IT professionals still perform their network documentation tasks completely manually.

Auvik’s report surveyed 2,100 internal IT professionals to examine the state of IT organizations and their most pressing priorities. It found that nearly two-thirds of internal IT departments spend up to half of their working hours just resolving end user requests (64 percent). At the same time, nearly half of IT executives cite the shortage of skilled IT professionals as their biggest obstacle (49 percent).

C-Suite Underestimates Demands on IT

While digital transformation and remote work continue to reshape the IT department, a troubling disparity has emerged between the views of management and IT over the capabilities of current toolsets. More than half of all C-suite executives expressed high confidence in the capabilities of their organizational toolsets to successfully support the remote workforce (58 percent), yet just over one-third of IT pros reported the same assurances (35 percent).   

Another disparity between C-suite executives and IT practitioners involves how each group prioritizes different business objectives. Nearly half of C-suite executives named customer satisfaction as the most important metric for IT (46 percent), compared to only 26 percent of technicians who considered customer satisfaction to be the top priority. IT professionals ranked their top three priorities for 2024 roadmaps as being cloud security, network security and cloud management.

These numbers tell us there is likely a significant gap in business managers understanding just how overwhelmed IT teams have become, and how this problem impacts their ability to focus on prioritizing the business metrics that most heavily impact the company’s bottom line.  

Tool Sprawl Becomes Less Manageable

Tool sprawl has exploded as nearly half of IT professionals now work with at least 10 or more network-related tools in their organizations (44 percent). At the same time, many larger organizations must manage up to 20-plus network related applications, along with 50-plus SaaS applications in inventory.

Shadow IT presents another problem by creating a lack of visibility into applications on the network when employees download unauthorized applications and tools that can weaken security and compliance. Automation can help drives IT efficiencies while reducing organizational risks.

IT Investments in the Cloud

The large majority of IT teams expected budget increases in 2024 (86 percent), with nearly half of them projecting budget increases of 20 percent or more. The top three priorities for IT roadmaps in 2024 included cloud security, network security, and cloud management.

IT teams reported a 24 percent increase in investments in network automation, making it the most significant growth area for 2024. Yet even with more financial resources, the IT sector struggles to retain the necessary talent to manage expanding responsibilities, including the surging use of SaaS applications. With the overall increase in IT budgets, staffing has overtaken funding as the primary challenge.

For all these reasons, the top spending priorities involved investments in SaaS monitoring and management tools (48 percent), along with Wi-Fi management to improve connectivity for remote end users (46 percent), and cloud monitoring and management (46 percent). Only 4 percent of IT teams experienced budget decreases, mostly at smaller organizations.

Strategic Automation to the Rescue

When asked about the metrics that are used to measure the job performance of IT professionals, end-user satisfaction ranked as the most important metric (38 percent), followed by the severity of incidents resolved (28 percent), and the overall cost of IT (27 percent). Yet achieving end-user satisfaction becomes more difficult when skilled talent is hard to find. This is especially true when IT staff don’t have enough time to research new technologies or upskill themselves because they are simply too busy responding to user requests.

New tools for artificial intelligence and machine learning can provide a big advantage for strategic automation. As a result, nearly all IT professionals use one or more AI or ML tools to do their jobs today.

In addition, all network automation programs should incorporate mandatory configuration backups. Yet in too many cases, backing up network devices remains a manual process. Network automation should be leveraged to automate configuration backups on a regular basis, or whenever a system change gets made.

The logical way to create more time in the day for IT involves the adoption of strategic automation, which allows IT teams to become more productive in support of the end users who really drive organizational growth.

Image Credit: Paradee Paradee /

Doug Murray is Chief Executive Officer, Auvik

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