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Skills shortage still main problem for ME CIOs

Research from IDC shows slow uptake of third platform, lack of skills hindering new projects

Skills shortage still main problem for ME CIOs
Skills, security, and how to drive innovative use of technology are the top three concerns for CIOs in the Middle East, says Lalchandani.

Skills shortages are still the number one concern for CIOs in the Middle East, according to new research from IDC.

The analyst company conducted a survey of over one hundred CIOs in the Gulf and Levant, that found that 59% of respondents said that hiring, developing and retaining the right staff and skills was their main concern.

Lack of skilled staff is impacting organisations in the region, with 66% of CIOs saying it caused project delays, 60% reporting it increased dependence on external providers, and 46% saying it inhibits adoption of new technologies.

Jyoti Lalchandani, managing director of IDC Middle East, Africa, and Turkey, commented: “The reality today for CIOs is still very much operational, in terms of some of the challenges they face. The big concern still remains talent; how do I attract the right level of skills, what should my sourcing strategy be, how do I nurture those skills and how do I rekindle those skills. This skills gap is causing much wider issues for CIOs.”

Other concerns for regional CIOs are security, which 43% said was an issue; driving innovative use of technology (37%); measuring return on investment (36%); and managing governance, risk and compliance issues (33%).

IT investment in the region is expected to reach $32 billion in 2013, with the largest markets being Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt. Seventy percent of CIOs expect budgets to increase by 10-15%.

The survey results were released ahead of the IDC Middle East CIO Summit, which takes place on 18th and 19th of February in Dubai. The company expects around 250 CIOs and CTOs to attend the event, which will discuss issues including new technologies in Social, Mobility, Analysis of Big Data and Cloud Computing (SMAC), referred to by IDC as the ‘Third Platform’.

Lalchandani said that there are varying degrees of uptake and interest in the Third Platform technologies from organisations in the Middle East. Public and private cloud were ranked as top among priorities for respondents, with 57% of CIOs rating cloud among top priorities. Mobile enterprise applications, big data, and business continuity/disaster recovery were all rated among top priorities by 41% of respondents; while advanced security was a priority for 40% of respondents. Only 37% said that social media was a priority.

He noted that interest was in social media rather than social business: “The reality in terms of integration between social and business is that it is not happening to the extent that we would like.”

In terms of investment priorities, private cloud was already a part of budgets and plans for 2013 for 27% of respondents, while only 14% were working on public cloud in the next six months. In the region, IDC sees three main areas of focus on cloud, with CIOs focusing on developing migration paths, architectures and service management process for cloud; vertical cloud platforms and examining the efficiency and agility of cloud models. Security and location of data, reliability and cost of the communications infrastructure, and lack of internal preparedness to migrate to cloud were all given as barriers to cloud adoption.

In mobility, IDC reports a massive shift in CIO priorities, going beyond mobile email to mobilisation of enterprise applications. Forty-one percent of CIOs stated this as a priority. User demand for mobility is also showing a massive rise, with 78% of CIOs reporting requests from employees to use their own mobile devices, (BYOD), although security concerns around BYOD are still a concern for half of all CIOs.

For big data, IDC sees volumes of data increasing rapidly, which will be turned into game-changing projects, but for at present there are a number of challenges, including the cost of big data technology, the quality of data, and that challenge of integrating data sources, and most of all, a “significant shortage of skills” according to Lalchandani.

Projects to ‘social’ tools in business are also slow to take off in the region, he said, in large part because CIOs find it hard to prove ROI from such projects.

“One of the key areas is around social media, less around integration of social and business, and more around creating awareness about organisations. Sixty percent of CIOs we spoke to believe that social media will form a part of their strategy, but primarily to create awareness of the organisation. We have seen some select cases of ‘socialytics’, which is integration of web, customer and social, playing a key role in tracking customers to drive more business, but most of the investment is still very much around creating awareness,” Lalchandani said.

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