How to Take Advantage of the Looming IT Worker Shortage

By Geoffrey James

The past few years have been difficult for software sales, but with the economy turning around new opportunities are opening up all the time. A stronger economy doesn’t always play out 100% to the advantage of software vendors, however. One of the byproducts of the weak economy was a glut of IT professionals, which meant your customers could easily locate the expertise they needed to implement and support new software installations. Software might have been harder to sell, but once sold, personnel shortages didn’t hold up the deal.

While companies currently have an abundance of skilled IT workers to choose from, the market research firm Gartner is predicting economic growth will produce 21 million new jobs with only 17 million new entrants to the workforce over the next few years. This means companies soon will be unable to hire and retain the skilled personnel they will need at customers’ sites for their software to become part of a successful project.

Gartner is strongly recommending that IT leaders take steps today to avoid making mistakes similar to those made during the technology boom in the late 1990s. During that period the big culprit was overstaffing, which resulted in painful layoffs and the downsizing experienced during the recent economic downturn. In the future, the culprit is likely to be understaffing, which results in employee burnout, low morale and low productivity.

The solution to these problems is workforce planning, a process that prepares IT groups to adapt more quickly to new conditions and ensures the right people are on staff at the right time. Rather than encouraging your IT customers to do workforce planning, however, why not use your firm’s technical expertise and industry contacts to help them with the planning process? There are four primary areas of workforce planning where you and your firm can add value.

1. Strategic direction. An IT organization’s strategic vision, mission and objectives ultimately determine current and future human capital requirements. By helping your customers clarify their strategic direction, you’re helping to lock in future sales of your products and services.

2. Workforce analysis. This identifies discrepancies between the supply and demand of trained IT personnel and helps IT leaders pinpoint the skills and competencies that are at risk (shortage) or surplus. It also proactively addresses each situation as appropriate. Participating in these analyses helps ensure that the skill sets to support your firm’s software will be in place when needed.

3. Workforce planning. This identifies methods of recruiting, succession planning, training and development, and other related HR matters. This offers the opportunity to provide your customers with additional training and access to your contacts (for recruiting purposes), both of which can help build a strong and more strategic customer relationship.

4. Outsource planning. It’s highly likely that your customers will want to do more outsourcing to handle personnel shortages. If your firm is involved in outsourcing or hosted applications, this is an excellent time to get those services plugged into your customers’ strategic plans.

Getting involved in your customers’ workforce planning will not only earn their gratitude, but it will give you the opportunity to become a more integral part of their strategic planning process. That’s the kind of customer relationship that pays dividends over a decade.

Additional information on the impending IT workforce glut can be found in the report, “The Incredible Shrinking Workforce: Addressing Tomorrow’s Issues Today,” available from Gartner at www.peoplecubed.com/web.3.c.aspx.