SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2019 suggests that public sector technology professionals have a growing desire to utilise their expertise and focus on their career-based learning in order to play a bigger role in their organisation
This is supported by the fact that 95% of tech pros surveyed have worked to develop a skill over the past 12 months.
Tech for transformation aligns with current skills development
If you ask tech pros, they will tell you that the most important technologies for their career development are actually aligned with the top three technologies for organisations’ transformation over the next three to five years. These are: cloud and/or hybrid IT (66%), automation and/or orchestration (52%) and SIEM and/or threat intelligence (56%). That said, the most recent and commonly-deployed technologies are still, rightly, top-of-mind for tech pros. There’s a desire and willingness to work on hybrid IT, security management, and software-defined skills for current implementation.
Skills to administer emerging tech are falling short
However, technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics, as well as careers in data science and coding, are starting to attract the attention of many in the sector. Looking in more detail, blockchain (56%), AI (51%), and quantum computing (49%) were the top three technologies tech pros felt unequipped to manage with their current skillsets. This is a worrying revelation, given that each of these technologies places in Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends of 2019.
With an understanding of the skillset and career development landscape, it’s important to note that not only is more training in these emerging areas needed—it’s desired. In addition to lacking full confidence in their ability to manage some environments, time- and budget-constrained technology leaders have been unable to meet the demands of tech pros who crave weekly training sessions. The urgency of day-to-day tasks often impedes the ability of tech pros to participate in the kinds of learning sessions they find most valuable—such as full-day courses, self-guided training sessions, or webinars.
Taking a measured approach
The SolarWinds report findings show that, in the past 12 months, tech pros have prioritised skills in systems and infrastructure management (51%), security management (48%), and hybrid IT deployment, management, and monitoring (46%). Looking further ahead, the top two skills tech pros plan to continue developing over the next three to five years are security management (57%), as well as data science and analytics (39%).
It’s important to note, however, that while data science, in particular, is becoming more prevalent within the country’s public sector IT environments, today’s tech pros shouldn’t expect (or necessarily desire) to become data scientists overnight. Instead, it may be worth taking a measured approach to data science: the idea being the more calculated an IT department is in the move towards an unfamiliar technology with different challenges, the more likely any potential issues will be resolved before the organisation considers implementation.
Going forward, it will be beneficial for tech pros to develop a sense of data science techniques and how to think about them as more vendors contribute to industry-wide standards, but they should avoid feeling as if it’s necessary to mandate a platform, strategy, or framework for their organisation this year. Instead, tech pros should spend time familiarising themselves with the key tenets of data analytics as part of their awareness of data science principles; learn how to use Excel spreadsheets and pivot tables, and how to ask questions of the available data. In this way, tech pros will be more empowered in the years ahead. They will also gain an understanding of how data science will impact or benefit their organisation and ultimately allow the business as a whole to be more strategic.
Adopting a new business language
As well as engaging with new technology, the country’s public sector tech pros are starting to speak a new organisational language—the language of business—as they grow bolder in seeking a seat at the executive table.
As technology becomes increasingly inseparable from business success, the IT department is more important than ever. There’s often a misperception amongst tech pros that more work can be accomplished on a command line rather than in PowerPoint, but the opposite is actually true: tech pros who can learn the language of business (and it is a language) will be able to successfully influence technology decisions and enhance their resumes.
Tech pros would also do well to find ways to better understand what the organisation cares about—typically growing revenue, reducing cost, and removing risk—and how technology can positively affect those three performance indicators. A new monitoring solution, for example, will have helped the business increase revenue by reducing downtime. Alternatively, if a tech professional feels their organisation is making decisions based on risk aversion, understanding the language of business can empower them to quantify the other side of that coin: risk of failure. What is the potential impact of a poor or postponed technology decision to daily operations—downtime, poor user experience, greater vulnerabilities (and risk)?
The ability to translate the technological impact of a decision to business objectives will positively influence future innovation and decision-making. As in past years, it’s important for tech pros to pursue upskilling in these types of soft skills that will round out the necessary skillset of tomorrow.
 The statistics quoted in this article are taken from SolarWind’s UK Tech Pro Survey, A Look at the IT Upskilling Needs of Tech Pros Today that Will Help Transition Them into the Tech Pros of Tomorrow. The survey was conducted in December 2018 by C White Consulting. It yielded responses from 61 technology practitioners, managers, and directors in the United Kingdom from public sector small, mid-size, and enterprise companies.
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