Gartner: Talent shortages are behind lagging adoption of new technologies

Most businesses want to adopt new tech to help their post-pandemic recoveries, says Gartner, but talent shortages are getting in the way of adopting 64% of emerging technologies.

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A new survey of IT executives from Gartner found that the biggest barrier to adopting new technologies is a shortage of people qualified to work with them. The situation is more grim than it may sound at first: In one of the six tech domains included in the survey (IT automation), only 20% of newly adopted tech moved ahead in the adoption cycle since last year.

The talent shortage greatly outweighs similar issues often considered major implementation hurdles: talent was the largest barrier to 64% of emerging technologies, while implementation cost and security risk were only top concerns for 29% and 7% of emerging technologies, respectively. 

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Don't assume that a talent shortage means there aren't enough workers, or at least that talent shortages are the only reason. A hiring boom is exacerbating an existing scarcity, said Gartner research VP Yinuo Geng.

"The ongoing push toward remote work and the acceleration of hiring plans in 2021 has exacerbated IT talent scarcity, especially for sourcing skills that enable cloud and edge, automation and continuous delivery," Geng said. 

Those hiring plans and new projects fall into one of six areas that Gartner asked IT executives about: Compute infrastructure and platform services, network, security, digital workplace, IT automation and storage/database. 

Pandemic recovery is leading to investment across the board in IT, as 58% said they plan to increase emerging technology investment in 2021, compared with only 29% in 2020. A good portion of that growth, Gartner said, is being driven by the technology shortcomings exposed by COVID-19, with resilience and improving critical infrastructure coming in as top priorities. 

Resilience was the key investment driver for 63% of emerging cloud technology investments, including software and tools like cloud access security brokers, enterprise resource planning, multicloud and hybrid configurations, Gartner said. Sixty-four percent of respondents reported that they plan to increase security investments in 2021 (up from just 31% in 2020).

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Geng said that the trends indicate a growing comfort with leaders' willingness to jump into new technologies to accelerate growth rather than waiting, and plans to adopt new emerging technologies is exciting, but the manpower shortage still lingers. Geng also said, however, that responses to the survey also indicate a growing recognition by business leaders of manpower shortages that have existed for some time, and are unlikely to get better in the near term. 

"We've been tracking both IT skills trends and emerging technology adoption patterns for a few years, and skills scarcity has been a constant topic that's really become exacerbated in its potential impact for technology adoption within the past year," Geng said.

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