Socitm: research finds 'shocking' skills gaps in local government IT

There are “shocking” skills gaps in local government IT, Sir Michael Bichard has told the Society of IT Management (Socitm) conference in Belfast.

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There are “shocking” skills gaps in local government IT, Sir Michael Bichard has told the Society of IT Management (Socitm) conference in Belfast.

Bichard, a former local government chief executive and senior civil servant, revealed initial findings of a survey of chief executives and IT directors at around 80 local authorities, carried out by RSe Consulting, which he chairs.

“I was shocked when I saw that a quarter of chief execs don’t think their heads of IT have the skills they need and that almost 40% of you didn’t think have the skills you need,” he told Socitm members.

The missing skills seemed to be the same as those identified in a similar survey three years ago, he added. “Only 6% of chief execs and 2% of heads of IT said that their department had the communication or business skills they need to be effective.”

Communication skills were ranked by both the IT managers and the chief executives surveyed as the most important skills for IT employees “yet only 25% of respondents felt these skills were adequate, versus over 40% for technical skills”, Bichard said.

The survey also found there had “not been consistent progress on innovation”, Bichard said. “Getting the balance right between the day-to-day delivery and driving innovation is a key challenge. We need to be reducing the resource necessary to keep the show on the road and progress has been uneven.”

Bichard said 40% of authorities had put over 80% of their IT effort into “keeping the lights on”. Less than a quarter of the surveyed authorities were spending as little as 50% on basic functions “and were therefore able to spend more on service improvement innovation and transformation”, he noted.

Bichard warned: “IT continues to punch below its weight.”

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