Access to IT Talent Defines Channel Prospects for 2015

By Michael Vizard
IT skills and channel growth

For solution providers across the channel, the vagaries of demand for IT services can be nothing short of maddening. When demand in one class of IT services begins to spike, it takes time for solution providers to develop expertise in that area.

Once they begin moving to acquire the necessary IT talent, the number of IT professionals with the skills needed to service that demand is invariably in short supply. By that measure, 2015 is shaping up to be a potentially frustrating year for solution providers.

After years of banging the proverbial drum about the cloud, mobile computing and analytics, demand for these technologies is set to go mainstream in 2015. A new survey of 500 IT leaders conducted by TEKsystems, a provider of IT staffing solutions and talent management services, finds that while overall IT spending may be flat-to-down in 2015, security (65 percent), mobility (54 percent), cloud (53 percent), business intelligence/big data (49 percent) and storage (46 percent) are all areas where those IT leaders report they will increase spending.

The challenge facing solution providers and their customers these days is that in any one of these areas the IT skill sets required to succeed are difficult to come by. As a result, the length of time it takes to execute an IT project is usually extended because it takes more time than initially assumed to acquire the necessary expertise.

"In terms of demand, we're seeing a lot of consistency," said Jason Hayman, research manager for TEKsystems. "The real problem is that there is not enough planning."

A recent study conducted by Technology Councils of North America in collaboration with CompTIA found that nearly three-quarters of tech and business execs in the IT industry said they're dealing with a "moderate" or "significant" shortage in quality tech talent.

The issue isn't that there is a shortage of IT personnel, but rather that most of them don't have the skill sets required to meet demand for IT services in specific areas. Solution providers may not need to directly own that talent, but they definitely need to find ways to access it by relying more on vendors, distributors and even each other.

Demand remains high for the Java programming language and platform, which is important for companies hiring cloud talent and is the basis for many technologies, according to executives at IT hiring and careers site Dice. "Cloud-specific skills like SaaS, Virtualization, vCloud and Salesforce all rank on hiring managers' wish lists for candidates," Shravan Goli, Dice president, said in a statement. "Open-source technologies like Linux, Python and Hadoop create value to companies looking for cloud professionals. Tech professionals with Hadoop experience doubly benefit as other movements like big data continue."

Dice sees a generally rosy hiring picture overall. "Heading into the new year, 75 percent of recruiters anticipate hiring more tech professionals in the first six months of 2015 than the last six months of 2014, an all-time high for Dice's semi-annual hiring survey. That's five points greater than mid-year and two points greater than December 2013," Dice reported.

Just as demand for mobile, cloud and analytic expertise may be heading for the proverbial pinnacle in 2015, emerging technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN), containers, and the Internet of things (IoT) are already starting to make their presence felt.

For example, a recent survey of 570 partners conducted by Brocade found that 80 percent said that they and their customers are already deploying, or will be evaluating, SDN and network-functions virtualization (NFV) software within the next 12 months.

Also gathering momentum are container technologies that are widely viewed as an alternative to virtual machines. Most are still confined to application development projects, but it's only a matter of time before containers make their way into production environments in very large numbers.

"Containers are red hot going into 2015," said Andi Mann, vice president of business unit strategy for CA Technologies. "But they're not ready just yet for enterprise prime time."

Finally, IoT is expected to drive demand for all kinds of new IT services. IoT will clearly still be a nascent market in 2015. But anything that is expected to drive anywhere from $10 trillion to $15 trillion in economic value in the years ahead is clearly going to be on the radar for most organizations in 2015.

The primary goal for solution providers should be to maneuver themselves into position to take advantage of these opportunities in 2015 and beyond.

Judith Hurwitz, principal analyst for Hurwitz & Associates, makes the case that some form of hybrid cloud computing will, to one degree or another, fuel demand for all the other services.

"IT organizations are now looking to the cloud to deliver differentiated private services," said Hurwitz. "That creates a whole range of data integration and security issues."

As such, having an understanding of all the nuances associated with hybrid cloud computing could put solution providers in a better position to take advantage of other opportunities down the road.

Whatever 2015 brings, the ability find the talent to address those opportunities is clearly going to affect the size of the market opportunity for any solution provider. Addressing that issue will mean making major investments in both training and recruitment of IT talent in 2015. After all, the spring from which all good things flow across the channel almost always begins at the IT expertise source.

Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.

This article was originally published on 2014-12-29