Innovation is a top business priority cited by global organizations, which are intrigued by the potential of emerging technologies, according to a new report from global IT industry trade association CompTIA.

At the same time, concerns about cybersecurity readiness and the struggle to find enough workers with the right skills to meet their workforce needs add a measure of caution to expectations and plans for 2020, CompTIA’s “International Trends in Technology and Workforce” report finds.

SEE: Cybersecurity: Let’s get tactical (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature) | Download the free PDF version (TechRepublic)

More than 1,500 business and technology professionals from 14 countries shared information on their business priorities for 2020, as well as perceptions of emerging technologies, cybersecurity, workforce skills, professional development strategies and the future of work.

“The ingredients for innovation have never been more accessible, and tech hubs can now be found in nearly every corner of the globe,” said Tim Herbert, executive vice president for research and market intelligence at CompTIA, in a statement.

“While the research points to momentum on many fronts, there remains much work to be done in helping businesses and workers navigate the path ahead,” Herbert said.

The Business of Technology

With global spending on hardware, software, services and telecom projected by IDC to reach nearly $5.2 trillion this year, it is evident that technology has a growing and integral role in business operations, CompTIA noted. Ninety-five percent of executives rate technology as a primary or secondary factor in reaching their business objectives.

Nearly nine in 10 companies (87%) turn to outside providers to assist with their technology requirements, according to the report.

Repair and maintenance, consulting, deployment and integration, cybersecurity and software development are among the most common outsourced services.

A majority (66%) also report that they get excellent or good return on investment from their technology spending.

Firms that regularly or frequently outsource some of their technology needs are significantly more likely to report excellent or good ROI (72%) compared to those who occasionally outsource or rarely or never do so, CompTIA said.

These findings are in line with the feedback the association receives from its member communities around the world, said Nancy Hammervik, executive vice president for industry relations at CompTIA.

“Organizations can focus more effectively on their core business knowing that their technology needs are being handled by a trusted provider,” Hammervik said in a statement.

“The financial and operational benefits of this outsourcing arrangement are likely to become even more evident as new technologies take hold,” Hammervik said.

Emerging tech momentum builds

A majority of executives (54%) have a positive view of emerging technology, while another 21% taking a middle-ground position, expressing equal parts excitement and trepidation.

At the other end of the spectrum, one in four respondents said there are feelings of trepidation about emerging tech.

Budget constraints, risk aversion, and a lack of a clear business case are among the primary factors that are causing some organizations to take a go-slow approach, according to the report.

Although still far from mainstream adoption, the emerging technologies with the highest rates of implementation are the internet of things and big data, CompTIA said.

Cybersecurity disconnects

Nearly seven in 10 executives describe their organization’s cybersecurity as completely or mostly satisfactory.
This indicates room for improvement, especially with the remainder labeling their firm’s approach as simply adequate (25%) or inadequate (6%), the association said.

A low understanding of new cybersecurity threats is a top challenge for companies. Given the projected high growth rates for emerging technologies expected over the next several years, the need for businesses to re-evaluate approaches to cybersecurity is apparent, CompTIA said.

This is the case even with 88% of firms reporting they recently changed their security approach.

The top five challenges to improving cybersecurity from the report are:

  1. Belief that current efforts are ‘good enough’
  2. Low understanding of new threats
  3. Lack of budget dedicated to cybersecurity
  4. Prioritization of other technology investments
  5. Lack of metrics to demonstrate effectiveness

Workforce challenges

Skills gaps remain a challenge for most organizations, with 46% of executives reporting that the situation has grown more challenging over the past two years.

The research confirms the distinction between the generic use of the phrase “skills gap” and the more nuanced discussion of “workforce gaps” that encompass location, pay, soft skills, perceptions, innovation, and more, CompTIA said.

Interestingly, one-third of executives acknowledge that unrealistic expectations with skills and experience contribute to exaggerated perceptions of the skills gap, according to CompTIA. Another 53% acknowledge it is somewhat of a factor, the report said.

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