ICT managers must plan for digital skills shortage - and their own future - as consumer IT permeates the workplace


ICT managers should be planning for a shortage of digital skills as the workforce, empowered by ‘consumer IT’, demand better facilities at work. 

They should also be developing their own place in the digital landscape says  IT Trends 2012/13: Riding the wave of change, a report full of advice on how IT managers can use the power of the wave to get ahead – while avoiding being wiped out in the process. 

Now in its 26th year, and with increased numbers of contributors, IT Trends is the preeminent source of facts about local public sector ICT.  

According to estimates based on the survey, the UK local authority ICT market - ie the total budget - is now worth £3.3bn, and provides employment for about 27,100 people.  

The central ICT unit directly employs a growing share of staff – some 62% – whilst service departments now only count for 8%. A mere 2% work for shared ICT services, but 28% are outsourced. 

Austerity is driving the shift away from devolving any responsibility for ICT to service departments. Of the total budget, central ICT spends 69% of revenue and 16% on capital, whilst departments have just 13% of the revenue spend, and a tiny 3% of the capital. 

Staff costs absorb almost half the budget (46%), leaving a potential market of some £1.8bn for commercial suppliers to compete for. 

Survey respondents’ top concerns for their organisation in the coming year were:  

•      making savings

•      technology refresh (hardware and software)

•      service development and improvement

•      responding to the changing shape of services (transformation and reorganisation)

•      mobile and flexible working 

The top issue for changing public services is increasing digital service delivery and channel shift to increase customer self-service - although nearly a quarter of public sector organisations have yet to adopt channel shift, either for customers or for employees.  

Shared services comes a close second, with universal credit, increased transparency and open public services taking the next three places as top issues with little difference between them.

Providing strong governance for technology is the top issue for ICT leadership, followed by leading shared services in ICT, and then  providing strong governance for information. 

Information management features as the top issue for service improvement and is also top of the list of important activities for the ICT function.  

Social networking has appeared on ICT managers’ agendas for the first time as commercial organisations start exploiting this important channel to communities. More than 40% of respondents expect their organisations to increase use of the channel. 

Use of smartphones, tablets and BYOD have come from nowhere in the survey last year, to beat cloud computing, broadband and PSN and environmental and sustainability issues in 2012. Pressure from users and the possibility of using ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) schemes to reduce costs are twin drivers. 

Familiarity with easy to use home ICTs and smartphones is developing a

much greater understanding of the potential of information and technology among ICT service users, but there is a danger this opportunity will not be exploited by ICT managers, says IT Trends. 

The report suggests that by remaining passive against a background of profound change in the operating environment, ICT managers risk being excluded from key decisions affecting themselves and colleagues, especially those about service redesign and ICT provisioning to support revised, or wholly new, business processes. 

Report author Chris Head says the survey team ‘were surprised that ICT managers still see only a minor role for themselves in service modernisation. They report that, while respected for technical competence and advice, they lack credibility within their organisations in advocating and driving business process change outside their own departments. Our advice is that they work on developing the personal power exerted by politically astute individuals who can communicate effectively.’ 

IT Trends 2012/13 is available as a report only, or in a package with data. The report contains charts and tables summarising the main findings and provides a commentary on the results and trends. The data is supplied in a series of Excel spreadsheets containing the individual responses to all questions (excluding text comments).  The report is available at £495 (£295 for Insight subscriber discount). With the data the price is £595 (£395 for Insight subscriber discount).  Those who supplied data receive the report free of charge. 

Each year the report is sponsored by a number of organisations that share Socitm’s objectives of delivering better public services through the exploitation of ICT. This year’s sponsors are BT and Capita. Sponsors help determine the scope of the survey and assist with interpretation of the results.