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Embracing open-source to fill the IT skills gap

(Image credit: Image Credit: MK photograp55 / Shutterstock)

It’s not difficult to conclude that, in the world that places the greatest importance on speed, efficiency and user-friendliness, IT has become the backbone of business in the 21st century. Despite the vast benefits and reliance on technology in today’s business, both employees and leaders in the field are familiar with the skills gap, and need to address it.

IT staff must be able to implement, operate and manage new technologies effectively to procure business benefits, yet a recent study found that 65 per cent of CIOs report IT skills shortages in their organisation. As well as this, the European Commission has conjectured there will be 756,000 unfilled jobs in the region's information communications technology (ICT) sector by 2020.

As more businesses move online and data continues to underpin the modernisation of every industry, businesses lacking in IT professionals are at a major competitive disadvantage. But why is it so difficult to find tech talent?

In short, it’s expensive

How much does great talent cost? A key consideration when recruiting new talent is striking a balance between a competitive salary and the true value of a candidate in terms of experience and skill set. The World Economic Forum estimated that on average the cost of hiring a new employee is $4,425.

As such, in order to fill these skills gaps, companies must pay a premium to acquire talent with skills in demand. But even if they can find people with the right skills and are happy to bear the cost, it will not help in a few years’ time when those new skills are no longer needed.

This is not the only difficulty, though, because even if you find the right talent you are faced with another challenge – technical debt.

Technical debt

Research last year by Stripe and Harris Poll estimated that organisations were wasting up to $300 billion a year addressing "technical debt" as developers were forced to maintain legacy systems and bad code, rather than transforming and modernising IT infrastructures.

This rings particularly true in the database sector where traditional proprietary commercial database management systems like Oracle have ruled the roost. At a time when budgets are already constrained, enterprises can ill-afford to be hiring in expensive, precious new talent simply to have them wasted on keeping the lights on.

Ageing population

People are living longer than ever before, but as the world faces an ever-increasing ageing population, businesses are at risk of losing their accumulated intellectual property (IP). As experienced engineers retire, with little chance of a younger generation eager to replace them, IP is gradually slipping out of the workforce.

There is a worldwide concern that Millennials – and those that follow them – are increasingly disdainful of traditional roles in corporate IT infrastructures. Add to this data from the World Economic Forum, which suggests due to increased adoption of automation and artificial intelligence 54 per cent of all employees will need significant reskilling by 2022, then the skills challenge becomes even more complicated.

Such data does seem to paint a dire picture for the IT industry and if the database sector is a microcosm of these trends, then there are significant business and technical challenges ahead. However, the future for the database market does look positive, particularly open source technologies such as Postgres. Key commentators, like Merv Adrian of Gartner, have already said that by 2022, 70 per cent of new applications will be run on open source databases.

Could open-source be the answer?

More and more enterprises are embracing open source to meet the need for greater agility and innovation, without the costs associated with closed source software. Having seen their digital-only competitors leverage open source to support their IT infrastructures, even more traditional enterprises recognise open source enables them to move faster. It also has the benefit of making IT roles within their organisations more attractive, because there is clear evidence that open source is far more attractive to developers than traditional closed source technologies.

Attracting new talent with Postgres

For IT organisations worrying about attracting new talent, skills gaps and reskilling staff, Postgres could be the answer.

Postgres is a fork of the original relational language that Ted Codd at IBM developed, which went on to become the foundation of Oracle's database technology. This compatibility means significantly less training for DBAs to understand how to implement and manage Postgres.

So not only do businesses have a route to escape the clutches of Oracle, they can go a long way to reskilling their existing workforce without incurring a huge retraining bill. What’s more, Postgres is supported by an active community, which is constantly innovating – exactly the type of technology that will attract talent to an organisation.

The digital skills gap may be widening, but the growing presence of open source alternatives may be able to bridge the gap. Not only does open-source software give customers in the database sector more choice, it also offers an attractive solution to attracting, retaining and reskilling staff.

Matt Peachey, Vice President & General Manager, EMEA, EDB