Artificial intelligence, cybersecurity talent top list of hard-to-find skills

A majority of IT managers say they are expected to deliver more applications than a year ago. In most cases, they are working with the same number of developers.

Application development workloads keep growing, but developer teams are not. If anything, development skills are increasingly in precious short supply.

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Photo: Michael Krigsman

That's the word from the latest survey of 3,300 IT leaders, conducted by OutSystems. The development skills shortage has been a crisis raging for a number of years now, and this latest survey shows no sign of abating. 

Fueling the demand is the rising tide of digital transformation, and with it, the reliance of business leaders on technology to amp up the customer experience and compete on data analytics. The number of applications respondents have slated for delivery in 2019 is 60% higher than in last year's survey. A majority, 65%, said they had plans to deliver 10 or more applications, 38% plan to deliver 25 or more apps, and 15% said they plan to deliver 100 or more apps in 2019. 

While demand for applications is up, development teams are not growing to meet the demand. Only 36% of the organizations in the survey have larger application development teams than a year ago.   

Still, development teams are getting better at getting applications designed, built, tested and out the door. A majority of IT managers, 61%, report that it takes four months or less to deliver an application -- up from 54% a year ago. However, backlogs remain stubbornly long. Close to two-thirds of IT professionals, 64%, say they have an app dev backlog, and for 19% of these respondents, the backlog was more than 10 apps. Only 39% said their app dev backlog had improved in the last year, and 50% say it's about the same.. 

Finding enough people to cut through these backlogs to build and deliver these applications has grown even more difficult. Only 15% of IT managers describe such recruitment as easy, and for many specialties, recruitment was described as hard or very hard. A majority of IT managers report that it is difficult or "very difficult" to find or train for the following skills:

  • Artificial Intelligence/machine learning specialist     72% 
  • Cybersecurity specialist     64%
  • IoT Specialist     56%
  • Full-Stack Developer    56%
  • BI/Analytics data scientist specialist     52%
  • API/Integration/backend developer     45% 

When it comes to training priorities in the year ahead, web development, mobile development, and API/integration/backend topped the list.

The report recommends low-code platform adoption as a means to shift more application development to users themselves. (The survey's sponsor, OutSystems, is a low-code provider). This is part of a movement to greater self-service, not only in app development, but also in analytics and reporting. 

The increased use of methodologies and associated technologies to achieve greater efficiency in the work of IT staffs also can help keep application delivery on track. DevOps, for one, can help focus developer resources on the immediate requirements of the business and maintain a  cadence of code delivery. AIOps is also an example of how parts of these processes can be automated. 

Cloud, API and open source resources also can provide access to pre-built components and even processes that can be brought into enterprises.  

Importantly, employers need to step up training and educational opportunities to keep their IT staff trained in the latest techniques and technologies to enable greater productivity.