NBN to push demand for specialised IT skills

When it comes to the NBN and the skills shortage most of the attention has been on the construction side of things, however a recent survey has highlighted the need for strategic planning in the IT sector.

According to the SolarWinds Future of the IT Pro study released today, the super-fast broadband delivered by the NBN will mean greater network complexity and a higher demand for specialised IT workers.

The survey, which involved more than 200 Australian-based IT professionals, found that 52 per cent of IT managers anticipate a skills shortage to be a key challenge for IT environments in the NBN era, while 56 per cent saw network complexity as the other core challenge of the NBN.

The focus on the impact of ubiquitous broadband on IT management is a welcome relief from the obvious skills constraints that are hampering the fibre rollout. Getting the fibre to premises is a critical challenge but for many businesses learning how to navigate in an NBN–enabled environment is crucial.

Increased network complexity and the need to for IT managers to develop more specialised skills sets go hand in hand. As higher broadband boosts the service delivery imperative, the new infrastructure also poses technically complex challenges.

SolarWinds VP and market leader, Sanjay Castelino, says that the challenge in terms of network complexity is driven by the types of services that will be delivered over the NBN.

“The services that will evolve once the NBN is fully deployed are really what’s going to drive the network complexity and it will be different for different businesses,” Castelino told Technology Spectator.

Of course, the current bandwidth constraints already create plenty of complexities, but Castelino says that the NBN will add fresh impetus to trends that are already becoming part of the new IT environment – video services, data storage and cloud computing.

“So the things that you are starting to see now are going to get a boost. For example, cloud service adoption really relies on high quality ubiquitous broadband,” Castelino says.

He adds that the things that will really impact network complexity conversation will be the applications that haven’t been dreamt of yet.

Moving from complexity to the skills, as the technology enables a business to do more, the need to find the skills required to maximise that potential also increases.  

According to Castelino, the NBN enabled environment will increase the focus for IT managers to increase staff specialisation and ensuring they have access to the correct tools.

“The survey shows that IT managers are wary of the fact that the skills ramp always lags behind demand and that’s why they believe that skill will be an issue.”

Their concern is understandable because many have probably seen this scenario in the past. As new services emerge, the demand dynamic changes, and skills shortage becomes an issue.

The study also highlights how IT managers – savvy to the fact that the skills base needs to change – are also recalibrating their thinking about outsourcing; asking: ‘how much should I outsource and how much should I bring back home?’

It found that almost two-thirds (59 per cent) of respondents expect to increase levels of outsourcing in the next three to five years. However, that's not the whole picture.

“Many IT managers are realising that outsourcing may not be the best solution for every technical issue and the survey suggests that in-house personnel will play an increasingly critical role in safeguarding sensitive technical functions within the business,” Castelino says.

According to the study, 61 per cent of IT managers plan to reintroduce data storage and access as internally-managed functions, with the figure rising to almost 75 per cent for organisations with more than 100 employees.

When it comes to cyber-security, 56 per cent plan to return IT functions to within the organisation, with 62 per cent citing security maintenance as a major challenge in the next three to five years.