SolarWinds (NYSE: SWI), a leading provider of powerful and affordable IT management software, released the findings of the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2019: Skills for Tech Pros of Tomorrow. This year’s annual report studies the state of skills and career development for technology professionals—meaning anyone who manages on-premises or public/private cloud infrastructures, hybrid IT environments, or SaaS-based applications, as well as managed service/ managed security service providers (MSP/MSSP)—revealing they have one foot grounded in today’s hybrid IT realities while also setting their sights on emerging technology.
Specifically, tech pros have prioritized systems and infrastructure, security management, and hybrid IT skills development in the past 12 months. When it comes to the next three to five years, they are looking to develop skills in areas like artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics, while eyeing career paths such as data science and coding. However, without improvement in time and budget constraints, the majority of tech pros (75 percent) say they will be unable to confidently manage future innovations. This reality ultimately puts businesses at risk of performance and competitive advantage losses, making the prioritization of skills and career development for tech pros paramount.
“Recent history has proven that there is a direct correlation between technology and business performance,” said Joe Kim, executive vice president and global chief technology officer, SolarWinds. “The results of this year’s IT Trends Report highlight that businesses need to focus even more on developing these professionals charged with running and pioneering technologies for the businesses. By removing day-to-day barriers, arming technology pros with the right technology and management tools, and prioritizing skills and career development in the IT budget, tech pros can be better equipped for the future and help with business growth.”
“The findings are also in line with our view that the most critical problem we need to help tech pros solve today is the reality of the hybrid IT landscape—this applies to all tech pros whether on-premises, managing hybrid infrastructures, SaaS-based, or MSPs,” added Kim. “The way SolarWinds has always addressed and will continue to address these realities is through our deep connection to tech pros across the IT infrastructure. We are committed to understanding the needs of our customers and making their jobs easier as business technology continues to evolve.”
2019 Key Findings
The SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2019: Skills for Tech Pros of Tomorrow explores confidence, current and future skillsets, career development, and barriers to career success to provide a clear understanding of how tech pros and the businesses they serve can improve to better manage future technology realities. Key findings show that:
The majority of technology professionals are not fully confident they have all the skills needed to manage their environments into the near future, especially when it comes to emerging tech.
- 75 percent of all tech pros surveyed are not “completely confident” in having all the necessary skills to successfully manage their IT environments over the next three to five years—even though 99 percent of tech pros have worked to develop a skill over the past 12 months.
- This is also consistent with a recent study SolarWinds MSP conducted with The 2112 Group, 2018 Trends in Managed Services, which found that only about one in four partners feel their managed service skills are expert-level. Two-thirds of respondents surveyed (65 percent) claim only basic managed service skills, with room to improve, while 5 percent admit they lack basic skills or capabilities altogether. Just one in four surveyed partners considers itself a managed service expert.
- As business size increases, so does confidence:
- Half (49 percent) of small business tech pros are somewhat to completely unconfident in their ability to manage environments into the near future with current skillsets, compared to 31 percent of medium-size tech pros and 27 percent of enterprise tech pros who share this sentiment.
- An August 2018 Deloitte survey of SMB executives revealed that 57 percent of the respondents surveyed are planning to spend more on IT this year than they did in the past year. These findings are echoed in a recent Tech Pro Research study, which found that nearly half (44 percent) of participating technology professionals ranked internal employee training and development as a critical priority for 2019 IT budgets.
- When it comes to the idea of implementing or managing specific technologies, emerging tech is a pain point (despite how much mind share these buzzworthy technologies get in headlines). The top three technologies tech pros feel unequipped to manage with their current skillsets are:
- 1. Artificial intelligence (53 percent)
- 2. Quantum computing (43 percent)
- 3. Machine and/or deep learning (43 percent)
- According to the Gartner list of strategic technology trends that have the potential to disrupt and are on the verge of becoming more widely used in the next five years, AI, and quantum computing both rank in the top 10.
- There is a great opportunity for tech pros to increase their knowledge of these technologies and to have productive conversations with businesses on the reality of implementation in the near future.
Tech pros will continue building skills in daily operations with an eye toward areas like data science.
- In the past 12 months, tech pros have prioritized skills in systems and infrastructure management (47 percent), security management (SIEM, policies, compliance, 41 percent), and hybrid IT deployment/management (41 percent).
- Along with the top three overall, small business tech pros also worked to develop coding and scripting skills (46 percent) and mid-size tech pros worked to develop network management skills (40 percent).
- In the next three to five years, the top two skills tech pros plan to develop skills are hybrid IT deployment monitoring and management (47 percent) and security management (46 percent).
- This is in line with what tech pros say will be most important to their organizations’ transformation over the next three to five years (by weighted rank): cloud and/or hybrid IT, and SIEM and/or threat intelligence.
- It’s also in line with findings from the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2018: The Intersection of Hype and Performance. Last year, 81 percent of surveyed tech pros worldwide said cloud and hybrid IT are among the top five most important technologies that will drive their organizations’ digital transformation over the next three to five years.
- Tech pros’ instincts are correct when it comes to their top two skillset areas as they are expected to see continued growth, according to Gartner:
- The firm predicts that the Worldwide Public Cloud Services market will grow by 17.33 percent in 2019, going from US $175.8 billion in 2018 to US $206.2 billion this year.
- Gartner research analysts also estimate that global revenue for the information security market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.8 percent between 2017 and 2022, reaching US $143 billion in constant currency terms.
- Data science and analytics round out the top three skillsets tech pros plan to develop in the next three to five years.
- Data science and analytics will be an important skillset to watch for tech pros, as it has steadily emerged as a field of practice over the past several years. According to the Indeed Hiring Lab, data science postings in the U.S. have increased 344 percent since December 2013. This rise signifies a growth of data science in IT environments and a need for tech pros to build their skills accordingly to provide support.
- The desire to build skills in data science also hints at tech pros’ preparation for emerging tech like AI.
Tech pros say hybrid IT, security, and software-defined everything are the key technologies for career development, which will help achieve higher goals like innovation.
- Tech pros say the most important technologies for their career development are (by weighted rank) aligned with the top three technologies for organizations’ transformation over the next three to five years):
- 1. Cloud and/or hybrid IT (72 percent)
- 2. SIEM and/or threat intelligence (54 percent)
- 3. Software-defined networking, security, data center (46 percent)
- Numbers four and five on the list are AI and big data analytics, respectively, suggesting that tech pros are thinking about the impact of emerging tech on their careers.
- When it comes to career development goals over the next three to five years, tech pros will look to prioritize (by weighted rank):
- 1. Technology innovation (57 percent)
- 2. IT security protocol and/or processes (44 percent)
- 3. Strategic planning (31 percent)
- Data analytics and/or data and programming, coding, and/or scripting round out the top five career development goals for the next three to five years.
- Small businesses rank IT security protocol and/or processes as number one, and technology innovation as number two, while the third career development goal is management/leadership skills (people management).
Tech pros have an appetite to prioritize career development on a weekly basis but are hindered by factors like time and cost.
- More than eight in 10 tech pros (83 percent) say their day-to-day IT tasks extend into time earmarked for career development, with 28 percent saying this always happens.
- As business size increases, the percentage of tech pros who said “always” decreases, suggesting small business tech pros are even more strapped for time than their enterprise counterparts.
- This is alarming, considering tech pros enjoy technology skills training, with 49 percent finding it informative, 31 percent saying it’s engaging and interactive, and 26 percent reporting it’s not long enough.
- However, training should be customized according to business size, as 34 percent of small business tech pros report training programs often assume knowledge they don’t have. This is potentially due to the amount of vendor-led training SMBs engage in to get past adoption hurdles. To solve this, vendors should consider customizing learnings according to business size.
- Currently, tech pros engage in IT skills training and/or career development programs ranging from a few times a year (28 percent) to monthly (22 percent) and weekly (20 percent); however, if there were no schedule or workload restrictions, most (42 percent) would prefer weekly training.
- Tech pros cite time and availability (48 percent) and cost (29 percent) as the biggest barriers affecting their current ability to participate in IT skills training and career development programs at the frequency they would like.
- When it comes to their primary sources for training, tech pros turn to:
- 1. Vendor training (20 percent)
- 2. Online communities/forums (18 percent)
- 3. Industry events (18 percent)
- Small businesses turn to online communities/forums (36 percent) and industry publications (21 percent).
- Mid-size businesses turn to vendor training (26 percent) and industry pubs (22 percent).
- Enterprise businesses turn to vendor training (20 percent), events (20 percent), and organization and coworkers (18 percent).
- However, the ideal delivery format for IT skills training according to tech pros is (by weighted rank):
- 1. In-person workshop/user conference (full-day)
- 2. Self-guided online course
- 3. Webinar
To explore and interact with all of the 2019 findings, please visit the SolarWinds IT Trends Index, a dynamic web experience that presents the study’s findings by region and additional insights into the data, as well as charts, graphs, and socially shareable elements.
The findings of this year’s North American report are based on a survey fielded in December 2018, which yielded responses from 307 technology practitioners, managers, and directors in the United States and Canada from public-and private-sector small, mid-size, and enterprise companies. All regions studied in 2019, as reported on the SolarWinds IT Trends Index, were North America, Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the United Kingdom, with 966 respondents across all geographies combined.