Examining the fallout of APAC tech skills shortages

Recent research from IDC report Enterprise Automation to Mitigate the Digital Skills Shortage found that up to 80% of organizations in the APAC region, excluding Japan, find it difficult or extremely difficult to fill vacancies in IT roles. Some of the hardest roles to fill include security, and development and data professionals. The report also shows that when organizations are able to fill these roles, it’s taking them three to four months longer than it did a year ago.

And the consequences of these shortages include an increase in security risks, reduced customer satisfaction, slower project completion times, decreased quality of work, larger workloads for remaining employees, and an inability to access critical knowledge.

For Naren Gangavarapu, chief information and digital officer at the Northern Beaches Council in Australia, this lack of access to critical knowledge is mainly related to cybersecurity. “We’ve had challenges in recruiting security roles as they’re short in supply,” he says. “Some private sector agencies are offering them salaries that are up to three times higher than the public sector, which makes it difficult for us to source and retain these roles.”

Naren Gangavarapu, chief information and digital officer, Northern Beaches Council

Northern Beaches Council

Security resources, he adds, are in the driving seat and they can pick and choose where they want to go. In terms of retention, he outlines that some are interested in the monetary aspects, while others are more into the type and diversity of security work, since fatigue sets in if projects don’t move quickly enough. This can cause people to jump ship every few months, resulting in major headaches for businesses having to start from scratch to replace them.

For Gangavarapu, technology procurement specialists and modern software product experts are also hard to find.

“Where tech is moving from on premise to software as a service, the licensing, procurement and contractual models have changed and keep evolving, which requires expert procurement professionals who are hard to come by,” he says. “A lack of tech procurement expertise in the world of SaaS means organizations are signing up to models they don’t have a full understanding and appreciation of.”

This often leads to non-compliance and millions of dollars in penalties, or people getting stuck in contracts with no exit. Similarly, if cutting-edge products are rolled out in the hope they’ll benefit the organization, you have to ensure there are enough people with the skills needed to maintain these products, adds Gangavarapu. “We’ve found this to be a challenge with SAP SuccessFactors and UKG Dimensions products where we struggle to find resources,” he says. 

Sharing insights from PageGroup’s talent intelligence platform, Page Insights Data Centre, Nicolas Dumoulin, senior MD at Page India and Thailand, explains that software development talent is currently the toughest to find, with IT leadership roles like CIO and CTO also relatively difficult to fill. This trend, he says, can cause increased competition for talent, as is the case with any shortage in the market. As Gangavarapu highlighted, this can mean having to pay higher salaries and offer better benefit packages in order to attract and retain talent. More often, says Dumoulin, businesses are being forced to pay premiums for outsourcing just so they can fill temporary gaps in resources. “But this can be expensive and result in decreased control over projects and outcomes,” he says.

Finding ways to stand out

In order for organizations in APAC to minimize the effects of this tech skills crunch, Dumoulin says it comes down to company culture, providing a good employee experience, building the business brand, and prioritizing diversity and inclusion. Company culture must be at the center of any talent strategy, particularly when employees are spoiled for choice. “Creating a positive employee experience is critical to retain IT professionals,” he says. “This includes providing a supportive work environment, offering clear opportunities for growth and development and recognizing accomplishments.”

Nicolas Dumoulin, senior MD at PageGroup India and Thailand


Northern Beaches Council is looking to address skills gaps through reskilling and upskilling, says Gangavarapu. For example, by training broader IT staff in cybersecurity and getting them involved in incident management, they can increase awareness around cyber risks. From a procurement perspective, the Council is also looking to train and upskill IT staff by getting them more involved in procurement processes. Using a buddy system, where they pair people up with a senior manager, they can teach employees and make sure they get the experience needed.

And their training efforts extend beyond internal staff. Northern Beaches Council acknowledges that if it wants to address future talent shortages, it needs to look at the tech talent pipeline. As such, it’s actively discussing supply with high schools and universities so it can tap into the student talent pipeline and hopefully interest young people to pursue careers in areas where skills are most needed.

In addition, Gangavarapu and his team are heavily investing in artificial intelligence and automation to help them better manage skills shortages. For example, they’ve already rolled out AI tools and machine learning to protect their internal systems from cyber threats, and deployed AI engagement, wellbeing, and productivity nudging tools to uplift capabilities of employees across different departments. Globally, demand for technology talent still significantly exceeds supply. Until this issue rights itself, all CIOs can do is build capability and capacity from the inside, says Gangavarapu. In doing so, they can make the most of the skills they already have.

IT Jobs, IT Leadership, IT Skills