Skills and security are the biggest barriers to successful business

It’s a revolution in IT; but one that is happening so fast that the effects are staggering. “By the end of 2012, mobile devices are expected to outnumber people,” notes the report. New data is generated at 15 petabytes per day, or “roughly eight times the information housed in all the academic libraries in the United States,” every day. 

“Pundits now debate when – not if – the use of cloud computing will surpass traditional on-premise IT infrastructure. And nearly 1.5 billion people use social networks on a regular basis, with the most recent billion joining in since 2009.” All in all, this represents a completely new way for IT to support business. But, warns IBM, “As business demand for emerging technologies rises, enterprises are facing two substantial obstacles: IT skill shortages and security concerns.”

To put this in perspective, only one in ten companies currently considers it has all of the skills it needs to be successful. And to make this worse, three out of four academic institutions do not believe they are keeping pace with existing demand. “The skills situation, though already troubling, is poised to get much worse,” says IBM. It is, of course, a double-edged sword: an enormous opportunity for any company that solves the problem, and an enormous disadvantage for those who don’t.

Security concerns are an equal issue. In three of the four new technologies, security is the most significant barrier to adoption (in mobile, cloud computing and social business.) Even in the fourth technology, business analytics, where the data normally stays within the company defended by firewalls and other traditional barrier defenses, security still ranks as the second most significant barrier to increased adoption.

The solution is clearly more and improved education in the technologies in general and relevant security in particular; and IBM is responding. “A skilled workforce is essential to unlocking the value of advanced technologies – without the right skills, the ability to innovate, meet client demand and encourage business, growth will suffer,” said Jim Corgel, general manager, IBM Software. “In response to the growing IT skill gap, IBM is expanding its skill development programs in key areas such as cyber security, mobile computing and commerce.”

The two prime routes are increased support for faculty, and new courses and support for professionals. For the former, IBM is now providing no charge access to software for teaching and research purposes, and  new curriculum resources in topics such as cyber security, business analytics, mobile, social business and commerce. It has also launched an online Knowledge Exchange where professors can share knowledge and best practices with their peers around the world.

For the latter, the company has launched new training courses and resources, and new programs to engage students. One example of the latter is IBM’s online competitions. This year, 13,000 students have registered to compete in 13 competitions across 25 countries. The next competition, the IBM Mainframe Challenge, is open to UK students, with registration closing on December 31. “You'll develop mainframe knowledge that you can put on your CV and learn how businesses use these powerful machines.” And possibly win a Samsung Galaxy Tab.

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