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Business enthusiasm over emerging tech tempered by workforce concerns

by Brian Sims

Organisations in the UK identify innovation as a top business priority and are intrigued by the potential of emerging technologies. That’s according to a new report entitled ‘International Trends in Technology and Workforce’ produced by CompTIA, the Trade Association for the global IT industry. At the same time, concerns about cyber security readiness and the struggle to find enough workers with the right skills to meet their workforce needs add a measure of caution to expectations and plans for 2020.

More than 1,500 business and technology professionals from 14 countries shared information on their business priorities for 2020, as well as perceptions of emerging technologies, cyber security, workforce skills, professional development strategies and the future of work.

“The ingredients for innovation have never been more accessible, and tech hubs can now be found in nearly every corner of the globe,” said Tim Herbert, executive vice-president for research and market intelligence at CompTIA. “While the research points to momentum on many fronts, there remains much work to be done in helping businesses and workers navigate the path ahead.” 

Business of technology

With UK spending on hardware, software, services and telecom projected to reach nearly $187.6 billion this year, it’s evident that technology has a growing and integral role in business operations. A full 98% of companies rate technology as a primary or secondary factor in reaching their business objectives.

The large majority of companies in the UK (86%) turn to outside providers to assist with their technology requirements. Repair and maintenance, software development, consulting, cyber security and data/analytics are among the most common outsourced services.

A majority of companies (69%) also report that they receive an excellent or good return on investment from their technology spending.

“These findings are in line with the feedback we received from our member communities around the world,” said Nancy Hammervik, executive vice-president for industry relations at CompTIA. “Organisations can focus more effectively on their core business knowing that their technology needs are being handled by a trusted provider. The financial and operational benefits of this outsourcing arrangement are likely to become even more evident as new technologies take hold.” 

Emerging tech momentum builds

Almost half of UK businesses (46%) have a positive view of emerging technology, while another 25% take a middle ground position, expressing equal parts excitement and trepidation. At the other end of the spectrum, 29% report mostly feelings of trepidation about emerging tech.

Budget constraints, risk aversion and a feeling of being overwhelmed with the options are among the primary factors that are causing some organisations to take a go-slow approach.

Although still far from mainstream adoption, the emerging technologies with the highest rates of implementation are the Internet of Things and Big Data.

Cyber security disconnects

Nearly seven in every ten UK firms describe their cyber security as completely or mostly satisfactory. This indicates much room for improvement, and especially so with the 31% of executives describing their firm’s approach as simply adequate or unsatisfactory.

For many companies in the UK, the perception that current cyber security efforts are “good enough” is the top challenge to devoting more attention and resources to the issue. A lack of budget dedicated to cyber security and a low understanding of new threats are other challenges for companies.

Given the projected high growth rates for emerging technologies expected over the next several years, the need for businesses to re-evaluate their approach to cyber security is even more apparent. That’s the case even though a full 84% of firms reported only recently changing their security approach.

Workforce challenges

Skills gaps remain an ongoing challenge at most organisations, with 47% of UK firms reporting that situation has grown more challenging over the past two years.

The research confirms the distinction between the generic use of the phrase “skills gap” and the more nuanced discussion of “workforce gaps” that encompass location, pay, soft skills, perceptions, innovation and more.

Interestingly, almost a quarter (23%) of UK employers acknowledge that unrealistic expectations with skills and experience contribute towards exaggerated perceptions of the skills gap. Another 61% acknowledge that it’s somewhat of a factor.

*CompTIA’s report is the result of an online survey of 1,554 business and technology professionals in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Ireland, Japan, the Middle East (Oman, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates), the Netherlands, Thailand, the UK and the US. The complete report, including country specific data, is available at https://www.comptia.org/content/research/international-trends-workforce-cybersecurity-emerging-tech

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