A majority of companies are reporting skills shortages in IT and resorting to external help to close the gap. In order to survive, companies must change their skills and staff orientation toward an external technology (eT) focus and become people powerhouses. In a new Report, Forrester Research B.V. (Nasdaq: FORR) identifies three key elements needed to achieve eT delivery: the key skill sets necessary for in-house processes; recruitment and retention plans for people delivering these skills; and efficiency gains from eT-led outsourcing and internal reviews. The companywide energy and activity marshaled to do this will turn businesses into people powerhouses.

The people powerhouse needs solid planning, a clear implementation strategy, and high energy. To sell the scheme upward, IT leaders should prepare plans for IT delivery and innovation tied to new business priorities, and map out the benefits in performance and cost arising from the eT skills strategy. To gain involvement across the business, the CIO and IT group will need to enlist the help of colleagues in human resources and marketing.

“Too frequently companies are forced to turn to outsourcing and offshore IT development partners,” explained Senior Analyst Andrew Parker at Forrester Research B.V., in Amsterdam. “Companies experience cost control and efficiency benefits by doing this, but ad hoc solutions are not enough. The crucial issue is the structural shortage of IT people — Europe’s CIOs must create a strategy for eT delivery.”

Two-thirds of the companies Forrester interviewed experience project delays or problems as a result of staffing struggles, 27% of which are experiencing delays lasting a year or more. Precious time and money are spent recruiting, and even then significant numbers of vacancies remain unfilled. In response, companies are resorting to different initiatives, including employee referral bonuses, building the company brand in the IT job market, and using the Internet and mailing campaigns.

“Companies like Cap Gemini and Cisco have made lucrative job offers to the most sought-after IT personnel in Europe by learning to listen to employee aspirations, delivering more of the rewards and benefits they seek, and empowering individuals to develop skills and meet their own professional goals,” Parker explained. “Companies need to develop a businesswide people focus and create skills-oriented plans and projections which are regularly reviewed.”

For the report “Peopling Europe’s eT Strategies,” Forrester interviewed IT leaders and human resources specialists from 36 major companies across Europe about their perceptions of the skills question. Forrester also spoke with 29 IT vendors, recruitment, and training organizations for a broader picture. Ninety percent of companies interviewed suffer from various skills shortages while their eCommerce and ERP projects suffer delays.