Government IT projects struggle due to skills shortages

I’ve written before about the challenges faced by many organizations in capturing the right skills to do the things they wish to do.  Nowhere is this more so than in data science, with a recent report from Crowd Flower revealing the ongoing shortage in people with data skills.  It revealed that a staggering 83% of respondents were struggling to find people to fill vacancies in data science related roles.

Of course, this is not a new trend, with Gartner highlighting the issue way back in 2012, but the Crowd Flower data suggests things are getting worse, not better.

Such shortages are not just hampering the ambitions of private sector firms.  A recent report from Accenture reveals the difficulties the public sector is having in developing emerging tech based solutions, due in no small part to a lack of skills within the civil service.

Interest but not application

It revealed a stark disparity between interest levels and adoption levels in the public sector of nine different countries.  For instance, whilst 70% of IT officials revealed that they were evaluating the potential of emerging technology, just 25% had progressed things beyond a pilot stage.

Many of these pilots have been in areas surrounding data, such as advanced analytics and predictive modeling schemes.  There has also been considerable interest in areas such as biometrics and even identity analytics.

A major challenge in implementing some of these initial pilots more widely however is addressing the talent gap so inherent across the public sector.  Respondents revealed the key need for suitable talent in-house to take the lessons learned from any pilot scheme and scale things up more widely.

This lack of talent was regarded as the biggest barrier to implementation, ahead of traditional hurdles such as lack of leadership support and buy-in.

The report argues that a key aspect of overcoming this talent gap is providing employees, especially of the younger variety, with an engaging and challenging work environment.

“More often than not, what I hear inspires them is being able to work on the most difficult problem or work in an agency that continues to inspire them,” the authors say.

Aside from creating a more dynamic workplace, the report also suggests public agencies need to forge stronger links with industry, both for partnering with companies who can empower the changes they require, but also to look for talented people.  Indeed, over half of respondents revealed that industry connections were crucial when recruiting the skills required to deliver the high-tech projects they were undertaking.

“I think to close that talent gap, the public service needs to find innovative ways to attract the millennials,” the report concludes. “In some ways, they are going to have to look into the private sector and beyond to do that.”

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