Technology is becoming more important in terms of brand promotion and customer experience, but despite their efforts, many businesses lack the proper training and skills needed to succeed in the industry.

This overarching conclusion stems from a new study, the "2012 IBM Tech Trends Report" collected by the IBM Centre for Applied Insights and IBM developerWorks. Data was compiled from responses from 1200 IT managers, IT practitioners and business professionals, along with 700 teachers and students to get a view on current and projected future trends in the technology sector. With this data, IBM has determined that there is a great need to improve how businesses approach this industry.

In the study, four key areas were looked at: mobile technology, cloud computing, social business and business analytics, but despite any individual problems businesses may have with these areas, there are two central concerns: security and an IT shortage.

The Security Concern

In each of the aforementioned fields, there are different security problems. Mobile businesses have to be aware of data loss and security breaches, as well as device management problems, while with cloud computing orgs have to always be up to date on how data is spread over their collaborative platforms. Analytics-based companies face problems surrounding data privacy and user control, while within social business, companies need to always be aware of how polices and guidelines, like employee confidentiality guidelines can affect their company.

Despite individual challenges, the report says keeping information safe is a recurring problem throughout all areas.

In terms of security, it’s not the computers. It’s not the network,” said one educator who was polled as part of the survey. "It’s the information. It’s the ‘I’ part of IT. That’s where the value is, and that’s where the danger is.”

The IT Skills Gap

The second problem that companies run into is an IT shortage, while the report says that this issue is less of a problem for larger companies, it’s still an issue. Only one in ten organizations have across all four areas the skills they need, half reported having “major gaps” in their IT workforce, while 60 percent said that they have “moderate to major shortfalls.”

Although this may seem like an issue that can be easily fixed through education, those surveyed as part of the report say that it will continue to get worse.


Technology is changing so rapidly–not just upgrades, but dramatic changes in the discipline itself,” said Dr. Wullianallur Raghupathi, Professor of Information Systems at Fordham University.“Keeping pace is a challenge, not only teaching current technologies, but also forecasting and trying to guess what is coming down the pipeline.”

There's Always a Solution

Despite these misgivings, IBM has a way that companies can develop their skills. The report categorizes industry professionals in three different categories: Dabblers, Followers and Pacesetters. Dabblers are individuals who have a little skill or knowledge, while Followers have some knowledge, but aren't at the level they should be. Companies and professionals who fall into these categories should follow an example set by Pacesetters or people who “believe emerging technologies are critical to their business success and are using them to enable new operating/business models. They’re also adopting ahead of their competition.”

In order for companies to become Pacesetters and improve more than just their technology skills there are three things they have to be: market driven, experimental and analytical.

Pacesetting organizations in these rapidly growing economies are not only adopting emerging technologies faster than their competitors, they also place greater weight on their strategic importance,” says the report.

In order to use the technology market to their advantage companies have a more internal structure, such as adopting a mobile as a workplace efficiency tool. Pacesetters also tend to be more successful as they are more connected to their customers. They use technology as a tool to engage customers through mobile devices, monitor customer trends through analytics and are more connected to other employees and customers through cloud computing and social collaboration.

In analytics, businesses have to monitor customer trends, but they also have to to understand what these statistics are telling them so they can interact properly with their customer base. IBM found that in order to be successful in the analytics field, businesses have to have a team who not only understand mathematical data, but can combine this with business knowledge.

The historical crop of analytics reporting isn't cutting it anymore,” says one individual quoted in the report. “We need to apply mathematical models in real time – and focus on ‘executable analytics.’”

Being experimental might be considered a careless endeavor, since security is an overarching concern, but those who are at the Pacesetter level have strong security features and policies. When a company reaches the Pacesetter level, they can choose how they experiment. For example, the report suggests that in the cloud computing field pacesetter companies experiment by using private cloud and software-as-a service approaches, while trying newer concepts, such as a community cloud server.

With all in this mind, organizations have to be aware of their downfalls and work at improving themselves and their team or they will be left behind when technology becomes too far advanced for them to catch up.