Published 26 Jun 2015

"Our ability to hire enough talented staff is our biggest obstacle to growth in Asia": This was the statement from the informed CEO of a very large International IT company I caught-up with over a beer in Singapore recently. But on reflection and 'noodling' on the point further, I found myself looking at this statement in two ways. The first and most obvious assumption is that the hiring of talented people is a problem given the difficulty of identifying the right people: the process is painfully slow, usually expensive, and fraught with time-thieving inefficiencies. The second perspective however is to pose the question: what are IT companies doing to train existing staff in the skills needed to support the growth of the company, while backfilling junior staff to fill those positions vacated by people now moving "up the stack"? Many IT companies have competent staff 'crying out' to be "developed". This applies to both sales/operations positions and the staff with technical skills needed in emerging technologies -- "skating the where the puck's (read - profit) going to be".

There are several very 'hot' areas of the IT market at the moment, requiring Sales, Marketing, Product Management, and Technical positions. These areas include Security, Mobility, SDN, Virtualisation, SAN, and Virtual Datacenters. All of these areas (but not limited to) have a notable shortage of skilled people available to hire in the marketplace. This is tough for Vendors, and even more so for their Channel Partners.


So back to the CEO's point above -- is it quicker and easier to try and cross-train existing staff to pick-up new technology, or spend time trying to hire these skills in the open market? Taking this point one step further, is it even apparent to see what skills lend themselves to an easy migration to these new technologies? For example if I'm a Cisco Certified Network Engineer (CCNE) today what are the logical technical training paths open to me? In fairness to Cisco they have a "Job Matrix" tool on their portal which attempts to show how a CCNE would follow a technical training migration path, and by looking at "Datacentre and Storage", the training track would flow to a "CCIE Data Center" certification. Well done Cisco! But how many IT Vendors offer such a career advisory service? More to the point though, Cisco's Job Matrix tools is very admirable but it still only really encompasses Cisco technology, so what about these other 'cool' technologies complimentary to Cisco but not offered by Cisco?


Vendors aside, how many Channel Partners or Enterprises' IT Departments actually have a structured HR system and Personnel Development tool designed to support the structured development of their staff? With technical skills it's 'relatively' simple -- you're either Certified in a given technology - or not, but it becomes much harder for sales, marketing and professions with a less tangible certifiable level of competence.


But we believe we can solve this, and to attempt to solve such a problem requires a huge amount of data. Firstly to even begin to understand what skills are in demand and what skills there is a glut of, it's necessary to have a holistic vendor- independent view of the IT industry -- detailed, but preferably over a reasonably larger geographic area (talent is at least partially mobile). Secondly, is the ability to correlate existing skills available and then to map these to future desired skills, again not vendor specific but ideally "solution" specific, and more importantly how these skills 'blend' to provide real domain expertise of value to customers (including the IT departments "internal customers" -- users).


This was exactly the concept behind the HydRa Platform Given enough standardised data on the skills of the IT community, we can not only see where there is a dearth of some skills and a glut of others, but with further analysis actually predict the demands of the IT industry for given skill/profile sets. And this is where it gets VERY cool -- recommend to IT professionals the training that not only makes them more desirable hires, but advances their worth in the industry (better pay). So this applies to both staff within an organisation, and staff looking to advance their careers by changing employer.


With Check Point we recently tried to hire technical Security specialist's in a particularly competitive employment market. It was a struggle to catch the appropriately skilled people however, but by advertising for Network specialist where Check Point would then offer training on Security we were inundated with applicants.


So back to my beery conversation with my CEO pal -- should he fear hiring skilled staff challenges as an "obstacle to growth", or is this an opportunity to rethink the method of hiring, and moreover developing Talent already with his organisation, so as to map skills development to where staff are most lucratively deployed --and so generating oodles of lovely high-margin revenue growth?


Gary Kinsley is head of Channels for AMA for Check Point, and the founder of, and a impatient sufferer of quickly trying to hire good people in a market where technology advances faster than skills development.