Shortage of suitably skilled and qualified staff is a continuing and pervasive resource problem
across the Asia Pacific. According to ‘The Equinix 2022 Global Tech Trends Survey’ of
10th November 2022, 63% of IT decision makers across the region view a shortage of
personnel with IT skills as one of the main threats to their business.
The core of the shortage, according to Rachel Lew, is the continuing growth of I.T.: “As the saying goes: ‘software is eating the world’. Software supports almost 90% of operations in almost every organisation”.
The growth of I.T. across the Asia Pacific has been rapid. IDC predicts that spending on digital
technology will grow at 3.5 times the rate of the regional economy in 2023. To put this figure into context, economic growth rates for major established and emerging economies are estimated between 7% and 10% p.a.
Yet the provision of skills at a level needed to meet this increasing demand is unlikely – Korn Ferry estimates a shortage of 47 million tech workers across the region by 2030. This creates a “war for talent” across borders and between employers.
Lew defines the skills market as “highly, competitive and challenging ….. staff are leaving their jobs for small pay increases. More demands are being made to retain them with employers needing to implement attractive salary packages and retention strategies that have flexibility baked in”.
The problem of the shortage of numbers is compounded by the changing skill requirements
based on evolving technologies. The acceleration of digital transformation due to the pandemic
noted by Satya Nadella in April 2020 – “we saw 2 years of digital transformation in 2 months” –
According to Lew, this puts pressure on CIOs and IT managers not just to find new
people but to ensure that they have the skills to adapt to new tech trends. “There are new skills
and jobs required to manage this and it’s not easy. A lot of the new technology that underpins
applications today has become a bit disparate and complex. Companies can’t hire fast enough”.
A further mega-trends has emerged through the pandemic and like the other trends noted
above it is continuing to grow through the ‘recovery’ period. All forms of threat – malware,
phishing, malicious websites and files, ransomware – saw a three-fold increase in threats from
2019 to 2020 [according to Dragos] and while the rate of increase has dropped, the trend is still upwards.
The evolution and acceleration of security threats has created the need to review security
protocols across the IT ecosystem, in terms of both people and systems. Lew notes that many
organisations are “behind schedule” on recruiting cyber security talent.
Responsibility for security may be being passed around within companies. As security failure has greater financial and brand impact, so regulatory bodies are also responding to the increased threat landscape with changes to laws around cyber security and compliance. This is also impacting skills
“For many IT teams and security teams, the challenge is maintaining strict rules and regulatory
requirements for everything from credit card data to health information privacy. Again, it’s hard
to hire and/or retrain talent fast enough to meet this need as technology shifts and changes”.
So, is automation the answer to skills shortages? Yes and no – the reality is more complex. As
automation has been applied, for example, to data centre operations, so the trend is to shift the
skills issue rather than eliminating it. The physical activity of on-site engineers is replaced to
some degree by automation so the skills requirement and perhaps ironically the shortage as
well falls into the range of IT skills required to set up and manage the process of automation.
Lew describes the process of automation as “working smarter not harder” and goes on to
describe the change as “not [being] about taking away jobs which are highly manual, task
orientated and benign, it’s about using IT tools to drive automation of these tasks then
re-purpose and refocus the tech talent in other areas where it’s needed”.
Automation is often directed to counteracting the inefficiencies and idiosyncrasies of people.
The key reasons for moving into automation and the automation methodology adopted vary
according to the specific operational drivers of the system in question. Infrastructure automation
is the use of technology to perform tasks with less human assistance in order to control the
hardware, software, networking components, operating system, and data storage components
used to deliver information technology services and solutions. AI is an automated means of
simulating and processing human based decisions or processes through replication of the
human brain’s abilities using algorithms.
● In hybrid environments where process efficiency and flexibility are key. IT leaders that
incorporate continuous compliance policies into their infrastructure (whether on-prem or
in the cloud) can reduce many hours of work that needs to be carried out by scarce tech
resources on complex performance audits. Infrastructure as code is becoming a key
solution in such environments.
● To overcome the ‘silo’ culture common in security and IT_Ops teams still working in silos
despite disparate tools and priorities, automation allows teams to manage compliance
proactively without disrupting or duplicating workflow.
● The reason for implementing infrastructure automation should be to remove interruptions
and adopt a well-scheduled work cycle where interruptions are the exception, not the
In this context, Lew explains the basis on which Puppet software tools for infrastructure
automation have been developed – “They help by automating infrastructure-related tasks that
can’t be and (in an efficiency sense) shouldn’t be done en masse by any single individual. They
also offer the agility to deal proactively with cyber threats and to scale according to need ”.
She emphasizes the importance of fitting the automation technology to the context and the
need, not the other way round: “We have learnt a lot from our customers. When people resign
or when departments lose an engineer they are left with whatever staff or resources they have.
It’s less stressful using an IT tool like Puppet because Puppet automates infrastructure,
streamlines process and augments staff service”.