The Littlefish Digital Transformation Survey: The trouble with talent

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Written March 2018

CIOs need a talented team for an organisation to be successful. While the role of CIO has changed enormously, finding the right IT skills to support the business remains a constant.

It’s no easy task in today’s economy. The IT skills shortage continues to bite as 6 out of 10 global CIOs report recruiting problems, and a lack of skills and resources is now the top barrier to achieving objectives. The situation isn’t likely to improve in the short term. While more students took Computing A Level in 2017 than in previous years, this number was still only 8,000. It needs to be more than four times that to fill the growing number of vacancies.

So it’s a job seekers market. With so many opportunities and a shortage of candidates, the top talent can take their pick, leaving many employers struggling to recruit.

Talent: hard to find and hard to keep?

The trouble with talent is that it’s hard to find. But even if you find the right talent and convince them to work with you, it doesn’t stop there. You have to keep them challenged and satisfied in their roles.

This is something we’re keenly aware of at Littlefish. We’ve introduced our own Academy program for staff to develop technical and business skills as they work. Not only does this improve customer service but it keeps employees happy and engaged, and helps them maximise their earning potential with official accreditations. It definitely helps us retain talent. Our turnover rate is only 8%, compared to the UK average of 21% and the frightening offshore rate of 55%.

With skills at a premium, there’s always the risk that you’ll invest in training for millennials who will take that knowledge elsewhere, or even leave the industry altogether. Job hopping is commonplace in IT: up to 45% of UK developers say they’re looking for a new job, and a further 22% would consider an opportunity if approached. And If they leave, you’re right back to square one – trying to find talent.

We recently asked over a hundred CIOs and IT decision makers to tell us about their experiences with digital transformation. We received some fascinating insights into the latest industry trends when it comes to IT staffing:

Budget and lack of talent hold back recruitment
The biggest impact on recruitment plans at the moment is budget. 41% said that they were struggling to recruit the right skills because of cost. You get what you pay for and talent doesn’t come cheap. The shortage of candidates in the market has pushed up salaries, but in markets where margins are tight it can be almost impossible to get finance to sign-off on higher salaries.

But that’s not the whole story. 16% said that the availability of talent was stopping recruitment, while the same number said it was the skills and experience required. So even if money isn’t an issue, almost a third of employers are being stymied by the sheer lack of options available.

CIOs are accessing IT skills through outsourcing
Organisations recognise the need for expertise and talent. Less than 5% said they felt totally prepared to deal with IT issues, which is worrying when you consider the growing significance of cyber threats, business continuity and compliance. So, what’s the answer?

70% of our survey respondents have outsourced IT services and nearly half reported that the most satisfying aspect of outsourcing is the skills and resource capability. When asked to identify the most significant issue with their outsourcing partners, only 10% said lack of skills. Outsourcing is giving businesses an effective means of accessing the skills they need without recruiting themselves.

Problem solved! The answer is outsourcing, right?

It’s not quite that simple. The survey also revealed that the biggest issue with outsourcing IT is cost. A third felt their service was too expensive and only one in five were able to say that they get great service and value for money from their outsourcing partner. So there are clearly some issues with the expectations and reality of IT outsourcing.

That’s why it’s so important to understand exactly what you’ll be getting as part of your IT outsourcing service. What skills and talent does your IT partner have? How do those skills relate to your needs? How much time will they invest in understanding your business? How much will it cost? Will support be available 24/7?

These are just some of the questions you need to ask potential partners in order to assess how effectively they can support your business. Maybe the trouble with talent is finding the right outsourcing partner who can deliver on all these fronts.


  • The IT skills shortage is not going away and the competition for top talent is tough.
  • Once you’ve found your IT talent, you have to work hard to keep them interested and engaged or they could be tempted to move on.
  • The talent crisis has pushed up salaries and most employers find that budget is the biggest barrier to recruitment.
  • Even if they do have budget, employers are struggling to find suitable candidates.
  • Outsourcing offers an alternative solution to access skills and resources.
  • However, you need to choose your IT outsourcing partner carefully. Do they have the skills you need, can they give you the service you want and how much will it cost?

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