A recent survey of IT professionals in the 451 Alliance reveals interesting IT trends related to top challenges, staffing plans, age demographics and skills shortages.


Report Highlights


Staffing Changes. Half of the IT organizations plan to keep their headcount steady over the next 12 months, while 38% plan to increase staff and only 12% expect to decrease staff.

Women Make Inroads. Women are making their way into the IT rank and file, although not so much at the senior management level.

Age Demographics. Baby Boomers and Generation Xers make up 89% of the IT workforce, while Millennials account for only 10%.


Where Does IT Hurt?


When you ask IT managers what their primary challenge is, the common response is usually ‘budget constraints.’ However, in the recent survey of 451 Alliance professionals, that complaint was (slightly) bested by the difficulty of implementing and managing many, often conflicting, IT projects and priorities.

IT's Top Challenges

The most pressing problems spring from the rapid proliferation of major initiatives (e.g., digital transformation) and the difficulty of deploying the new technologies to facilitate those initiatives (e.g., big data and advanced analytics, AI and machine learning, IoT/edge computing, containers, serverless, blockchain, and many more).

451 Alliance members are split evenly between those that think that IT is a tactical unit focused on maintaining day-to-day IT operations and those that believe that IT is a strategic resource with a key role in driving business outcomes. As a result, the latter are more acutely affected by the need to juggle multiple, sometimes conflicting, priorities.

Despite all the technologies and services designed to alleviate IT’s burden (e.g., public clouds, outsourcing, IT automation, hyperconverged infrastructure and software-defined everything), 80% of the professionals in the 451 Alliance say that IT challenges are becoming more acute and that IT is getting harder to manage.

Only 20% of the IT professionals think that things are getting easier.


Digital Transformation and Public Clouds


Two of the high-level trends driving change in organizations are digital transformation and migration to public clouds, both of which place the brunt of the burden squarely on IT’s shoulders.

For example, the CIO or CTO is responsible for leading the digital transformation at 52% of the 451 Alliance companies, while the CEO is the primary driver at only 13% of the companies and the COO is in charge of digital transformation at only 7% of the companies.

In about half (47%) of companies, the IT group is primarily responsible for delivering/executing on digital transformation, while at 21% of the companies C-level executives are primarily responsible. Only 12% of the companies say that non-IT lines of business are responsible for digital transformation.

Although migrating IT functions to public clouds promises to alleviate the IT burden, this migration is far from complete. Only 17% of the 451 Alliance companies have put all or ‘most’ of their IT operations in public clouds, while 65% have migrated only ‘some’ and 18% have yet to put any of their IT operations in public clouds.

Portion of IT in Public Clouds

IT Staffing Changes


Although half of the 451 Alliance companies plan to keep their IT staffing levels steady over the next 12 months, 38% plan to increase staff and only 12% expect to decrease staffing.

IT managers cite overall business growth and new IT projects/initiatives as the primary drivers behind staff increases, but the need to obtain new skills and capabilities is also high on the list.

Reasons for Planned Increase in IT Staff

It’s interesting to note that despite recent buzz about ‘repatriating’ workloads from public clouds (i.e., back to on-premises infrastructure), a mere 7% of the companies cited this factor as a reason for increasing IT staff levels. This suggests that cloud repatriation may not be as strong a trend as expected or that on-premises IT is becoming increasingly automated – meaning that additional workloads do not necessarily mean additional staff.

Conversely, moving workloads from on-premises infrastructure to public clouds is one of the top reasons for IT staff decreases, indicating that this motion may be a part of a larger IT automation effort.

Reasons for Planned Decrease in IT Staff

Other top reasons for decreasing IT staff include offloading IT functions to managed service providers, as well as increased IT automation.


Women Making Inroads Into IT


The 451 Alliance survey showed that women are (slowly) making their way into the historically male-dominated IT industry. For example, at almost half (42%) of the companies, females account for 26-50% of the IT workforce.

(According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, women represent about 25% of the workforce in ‘computer systems design and related services.’)

Percentage of Women in IT

However, female presence in the senior IT management ranks is somewhat lower, suggesting that although the glass ceiling may be cracking, it’s far from shattered.

Percentage of Women in Senior IT

Age Demographics


If you’re 74 or older, you’re in an elite minority (1%) of IT workers. The vast majority (89%) of IT professionals are in the 41-73 age range, and millennials (19-40 years old) make up 10% of the IT workforce.

IT Shifts from Gray to Green

Skills Shortages


Despite the experience of the old-timers and the new skills coming from millennials, most IT organizations report a serious shortage of skills. The most acute skills shortages are in the following areas (in decreasing order):

  • Public cloud platform expertise (i.e., skill specific to AWS, Azure, Google, etc.).
  • Information security.
  • AI and machine learning.
  • Data science and analytics.
  • Cloud-native functions (e.g., containers, microservices).

451 Alliance members also cite the following areas of skills shortages: business intelligence and data visualization, data compliance and governance, application development, IoT, and open source expertise.

To address the skills shortages, IT managers are pursuing a number of remedies, including (in decreasing order):

  • Retraining existing staff.
  • Hiring new staff.
  • Leveraging contractors, consultants and managed service providers.
  • Expanding IT automation.
  • Migrating to new consumption models (e.g., IaaS, SaaS).

Only 13% of the 451 Alliance companies currently rely heavily on outsourcing or managed services firms for their IT operations, but that percentage is expected to steadily increase in large part due to the skills shortages in internal IT staff.