Australia escapes the Asia-Pacific IT skills shortage: IDC

The Asia-Pacific region is being hit hard by an IT skills shortage, but Australia may have escaped the full force of the epidemic, thanks to its sunny beaches and carefree lifestyle.
Written by Michael Lee, Contributor

A shortage in skilled IT workers is hitting the Asia-Pacific region hard, but Australia is the luckiest in the region when it comes to finding and retaining staff, according to IDC Vice President Sandra Ng.

Ng, who spoke at a Verizon media day in Singapore last week, said that globally, the IT industry was experiencing a talent shortage and that the Asia-Pacific region was being hit particularly hard.

"It's around the world, but in Asia-Pacific, especially the Asia context, it's the number one challenge for the majority of enterprises in our region," she said.

But Australia may be the exception to the rule, due to the way that its culture and opportunities tend to attract and retain workers for more than just their jobs.

"Australia certainly has a good pool of expertise and talent, but I always say that, because when I talk to these people, they're not necessarily mobile. You don't want to give up your great standard of living/quality of life to move to China, India, Vietnam, or maybe even Singapore."

It might explain Commonwealth Bank CIO Michael Harte's surprise claim last month that there is no IT skills shortage in Australia, in contrast to competing Westpac CIO Clive Whincup, who believes that a misconception about the lack of opportunities in Australia is perpetuating the IT skills shortage.

The two banks' opinions on whether there is a shortage has also led each to differ on their approach to outsourcing; Westpac is adopting a "best sourcing" program, while CBA has opted to avoid outsourcing where possible.

However, IDC's analysts believe that the outsourcing debate runs deeper than a simple "dollars for skills" argument. Ng said that from her conversations with several C-level executives, more CIOs in the Asia-Pacific region are beginning to appreciate resources that are located physically close to their point of operations, and that there is less influence on culture, time zone, or cost.

"It's always important to see your top one, two or three suppliers regularly [in] face-to-face engagements, and ensure you get the kind of support, the kind of quality of service, and the kind of time that these suppliers can actually offer you. That seems to be very important in the Asia-Pacific context."

Ng also had several suggestions for organisations to help ease a shortage in skills. She advised companies to avoid unnecessarily customising their software where possible, and to maximise the use of off-the-shelf products and services where support was easy to obtain.

She also highlighted her experiences with graduates in India, where only 30 percent of university graduates were actually business-ready, with that number expected to be lower in other countries in the region. To combat the problem, Ng suggested leveraging the company's strategic partners as a means to increase IT skills.

"More and more companies, when they hire new IT people, they actually send them straight to their strategic IT partners and say, 'you train them'."

Michael Lee travelled to Singapore as a guest of Verizon Enterprise Solutions

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