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Challenges at the Edge: The IoT Skills Gap

Organizations dealing with an IoT skill gap can take proactive steps to prepare them for a future where IoT operations are essential to staying competitive.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming an integral part of how many organizations operate. Gartner estimates that in 2020, over half of all major new business systems and processes will employ IoT devices. However, the growth of IoT is happening so fast and on such a wide scale that there simply aren’t enough people with the skills and expertise to effectively manage and execute on IoT projects and implementations.

Numerous industries all over the world are being challenged by this IoT skills gap. A company may need IoT specialists with a variety of skills and expertise, including big data analytics, IT security, cloud software development, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), embedded software development, embedded electronics, and a number of other disciplines. Finding and retaining the personnel required to make the IoT work can be technically daunting and prohibitively expensive.  

The numbers speak for themselves. According to Inmarstat’s Future of IoT in Enterprise survey, 76% of those surveyed reported that they needed additional senior staff with the skills to set the objectives and priorities for IoT deployments. Additionally, 72% of respondents identified a shortage of staff with management-level experience of IoT deployments, and 80% lacked skills in the hands-on delivery of IoT solutions to ensure that the solutions work as intended. Analysts at Gartner estimate that three out of four IoT projects will take twice as long to implement as they should because of a lack of IoT talent. 

Needless to say, the IoT skills gap is a real problem for organizations. There are, however, some proactive steps organizations can take that will better prepare them for an inevitable future where robust IoT operations are essential to staying competitive.  

Upskilling 

The more people in your company that are knowledgeable about IoT, the more successful your IoT initiatives will be. Rather than spending the time and resources to continuously fill IoT-related roles from outside the organization, forward-looking companies implement internal training and upskilling programs.

Incorporating training and upskilling as a standard part of your IT budget allows you to continuously enable existing employees to undertake more senior or technical roles. With so many bootcamps and online resources available, businesses now have the option to cultivate an ongoing learning culture that can evolve with technological change. Companies such as Cognizant and AT&T already have these types of upskilling programs in place, and the investments they’re making in their employees result in more loyalty and higher employee retention.

Re-evaluating your recruitment plan

While an upskilling program can be very valuable and save you a lot of time and money trying to hire hard-to-find candidates with esoteric knowledge, you will still need to have a recruitment plan that is in step with your changing IT needs.

It is crucial that the people you are hiring get the big picture—do they understand the why behind the how? You need to find people who are excited to learn, grow and change. It is much more than simply hiring for hard IoT skills, because tomorrow’s technology will always be different from today’s. The people you recruit must possess the soft skills to excel today and tomorrow, enhanced by internal upskilling programs. 

Networking

A good relationship with industry professionals and educators in your given field will likely result in higher-quality candidates applying to openings in your company.

Higher education institutes with strong STEM programs and/or certification programs can be fertile ground for finding employees with IoT-related skills. They won’t be veteran IoT professionals, but they will bring energy and enthusiasm to your organization as they continually improve in-house, with the help of upskilling. Sending guest lecturers from the company or offering internships and business development opportunities will further cultivate these mutually beneficial relationships.

Managed services providers

Many companies choose to outsource some or all of their IoT tasks to third-party managed services providers (MSPs)

MSPs can deliver IT services and expertise that may not otherwise be available to an organization due to limited budgets, knowledge or resources. Some MSPs specialize in certain areas of IT, such as IoT, and will likely possess far more expertise than most of your in-house personnel. While using MSPs for IoT is cheaper, it also sometimes means a loss of control, so whether it’s right for your organization depends on your particular situation. MSPs are typically a good option for companies that don’t need IoT work done on a continual basis, or for companies that don’t have a robust HR team that can recruit for highly-skilled technical positions.

Hiring part-time or contract employees

The IoT skills gap is also driving significant demand for freelancers. Part-time or contract workers with skills such as programming, data management, visualization, and security can be hired on a contract basis, and may only need to be in the office on certain days or for the duration of certain projects.

IoT and Colocation

No matter how vibrant and modern your workforce may be, the success of IoT invariably depends on ultra-low latency, two-way connectivity between sensors and devices. Traditional cloud and legacy networks can’t adequately respond to and serve an ever-growing number of IoT devices. This means that interconnected data centers will be crucial to the success of any organization’s IoT architecture. By connecting at the edge – the periphery of the network as close to users and devices as possible – IoT devices can process data on-site and communicate with the speed and performance they require. 

Netrality’s interconnected colocation facilities – located in close proximity to end users – enable IoT operations at key edge locations in Philadelphia, Houston, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Chicago. Contact us for more information.