Organizations around the world face a shortage of IT security skills as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with cybersecurity now the most in-demand technology skill in the world.
A global survey of 4,200 IT leaders by tech recruiter Harvey Nash and KPMG found that four in 10 companies reported a rise in cybersecurity attacks, as workplaces moved from offices to the home.
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Of these, 83% reported a rise in phishing attempts during COVID-19, while 62% reported an uptick in malware attacks – demonstrating how the remote-working landscape has left businesses and their employees far more exposed to threats.
This has left IT security skills in record demand: according to the 2020 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey, 35% of organizations are now seeking cybersecurity professionals as their top priority. As a result, 2020 marks the first time in more than a decade that IT security skills have topped the list of global tech skills shortages.
Other in-demand technology skills are organizational change management (27%), enterprise architecture (23%) and technical architecture and advanced analytics, both at 22%
A shortage in tech skills sits amidst a backdrop of massive tech investment and acceleration in 2020, largely forced by the rapid shift to remote working caused by the pandemic.
According to the survey, companies spent an additional $15 billion a week on technology during the first wave of the pandemic, to ensure that employees could work from home safely.
Almost half (47%) of IT leaders have accelerated digital transformation and adoption of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, blockchain and automation. At the same time, “small-scale” implementations of AI and machine learning have jumped up from 21% before the pandemic to 24% in August 2020, the survey found.
Bev White, CEO of Harvey Nash Group said the “unexpected and unplanned” surge in technology investment had been accompanied by huge shifts in the way businesses operated, with global industries seeing “more organizational change in the last six months than we have seen in the last ten years.”
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Yet change has not been easy. Major shifts in working environments, coupled with ongoing anxieties about the COVID-19 pandemic, has had a significant impact on mental wellbeing.
Harvey Nash and KPMG’s survey found that eight in 10 IT leaders were concerned about the mental health of their teams, with in six in 10 IT leaders (58%) saying they had put programs in place to support staff as a result.
White suggested that such support would be crucial to ensuring prosperity in the months ahead: “Success will largely be about how organizations deal with their culture and engage with their people,” she said.
For now, remote working appears very much here to stay. Eighty-six percent of IT leaders reported they had made a significant portion of their workforce remote during COVID-19, while 43% said they expected more than half of their employees to continue working from home after the pandemic.
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This will require better integration between business and technology teams to create a culture of collaboration, the report found. Meanwhile, business leaders will need to rethink how they attract and retain employees without a physical office space to engage them in.
“In a world where location has dissolved, where the office now includes the kitchen table, and where over 80% of IT leaders are concerned about the mental health of their teams, organizations will need to reformulate their employee offer to attract and retain the talent they need to support them through the pandemic, and beyond,” said White.
Diversity also remains an issue for IT leaders. The gender diversity of technology leaders remained broadly unchanged from last year’s survey, with just 11% of CIOs surveyed by Harvey Nash/KPMG identifying as female.
Just under a quarter (24%) of IT leaders said they felt their organization was successful at promoting diversity, yet those who had said it had improved trust and collaboration with their tech teams (67%), improved access to the right skills (56%), and increased their ability to innovate (53%).