The hurdles IT leaders will face in 2022 at first glance seem familiar: finding and retaining top talent, bolstering security, and creating friendly and robust remote work environments. But the ongoing pandemic has heightened these challenges.
The skills gap has been exacerbated by the Great Resignation. Support for distributed teams, once a business priority, is now a necessity. Securing employees’ personal mobile devices and other equipment for remote work has gained significance as the number of these devices skyrocketed as offices emptied.
Along with these concerns, new ones have appeared, including an abundance of pandemic-driven burnout and a shortage of the chips that drive IT and industry as a whole.
See how tech leaders plan to address their biggest concerns for 2022.
Facilitating hybrid working environments and ensuring a skills match for future success top the list of tough, ongoing issues IT leaders must navigate this year.
– Paul Heltzel, CIO
Competition for talent
The most frequent challenge tech leaders told us they’ll see in 2022 is finding great IT staff. Dan Zimmerman, CIO and chief product officer of TreviPay, says competition will be fierce for top talent in the next year. And while distributed workforces have enlarged the talent pool, there’s not enough people with the necessary skills available.
“The pandemic sparked many people to re-evaluate their career paths,” Zimmerman says. “While balancing the cost to attract top talent, we also recognize many workers want to be in-office or be offered a hybrid working solution. This means our offices have to accommodate multiple types of workers — for example, videoconferencing capabilities in every meeting room — and our job descriptions will showcase this type of flexibility. It will be important to listen and gather feedback on what is and isn’t working as we’re all learning as we go.”
Ginna Raahauge, CIO at Zayo, says those with technical skills to drive digital transformation are getting harder to land. Meanwhile, the need for those skills have grown during the pandemic.
“Very technically skilled workers who have experience with cloud environments, machine learning, data science, and software have always been in demand at tech companies, but now those skills are in demand at nearly every company, creating greater competition to land top-notch developers, software engineers, and data analysts,” she says. “Beyond that tech talent demand, there’s also just a general dearth of quality candidates across most industries at the moment tied to this Great Resignation trend that’s received a lot of media attention. Not having the right people in place puts pressure on how fast any company can move regardless of if you have the budget. If you don’t have the talent, you can’t do what you prioritize.”
Most business leaders see a gap in skills between their current employees’ capabilities and key areas necessary for success in the next three to five years, such as data science, digital transformation, and innovation, says Suneet Dua, US products and technology chief growth officer at PwC.
“This presents a unique challenge for all businesses, as we must work to ensure our workforce has the skill set needed to take our business where it needs to go,” Dua says. “In addition, flexible work options have increased the need for adopting digital transformation and attracting and retaining key talent, since workers need digital skills to excel in hybrid or remote working environments.”
Mark Schlesinger, senior technical fellow at Broadridge, says the talent shortage is highlighting the need to upskill current staff.
“With recent trends of higher attrition rates, most firms cannot afford to keep up with rising compensation,” Schlesinger says. “Many IT leaders will continue to struggle with filling key technology positions. This will lead to a two-pronged approach of external talent acquisition, where there are true knowledge gaps, as well as a focus on upskilling and reskilling existing top IT performers. This should help with reducing attrition, and if marketed appropriately, it will change the dynamics of attracting new talent.”
Maintaining hybrid environments
Zayo’s Raahauge says she’s talking with other CIOs to get a sense of what the hybrid work environment of the near future will look like. One pain point is the reliability of AV tools both in the office and in employee’s homes.
“Audiovisual tools are a constant conundrum for a CIO because they present a slate of cost-compatibility, latency, and network reliability issues,” she says. “There’s a big fear that these tools within the office have not been used in nearly two years and that there isn’t a standard for those connecting from home. If companies haven’t made investments in AV solutions that will provide a consistent, reliable conferencing environment that seamlessly connects workers from dispersed locations, the return to work won’t be very smooth.”
Raahauge says her organization is surveying the needs of in-office workers and those working remotely to develop a dependable AV infrastructure. That includes PC docking stations, lighting, and cameras that create a professional environment at home.
“When it comes to the videoconferencing tools themselves,” she says, “many are turning to [unified communications]-as-a-service to provide a more robust, all-in-one option to solve for many dispersed workforce needs: messaging, conferencing, business processes, calling, and more. That’s one option we’re looking at as well. Those only work well on solid architecture and infrastructure designs. That’ll be a big inspection area.”
Those companies that have invested in well-designed architecture for hybrid work environments will be better positioned than their competitors, Raahauge says.
“Companies that have been running lean during COVID will need to pick transformation efforts back up,” she says. “There will be a collision at some point when everything starts coming back online and they have to scale.”
Hazim Macky, vice president of engineering at Coinme, says his company is leaning into a remote-first approach, while offering a physical location for those employees who prefer that option, primarily in shared co-working spaces.
“This is shaping our culture, the way we do business, and how employees collaborate to perform their job functions,” Macky says. “From a technology perspective, establishing systems and software platforms to enable collaboration and effective communication has been the priority and will continue next year.
To support this shift, Coinme’s processes have been transformed to be mostly digital and cloud-enabled, Macky says. “While remote working offers some challenges, with the current technologies, widespread use of high-speed connectivity and cloud-based tools, the benefits outweigh the challenges.”