Filling IT jobs is top concern, federal chiefs says

Filling IT jobs is top concern, federal chiefs says

The IT worker shortage hinders agencies in solving other problems, USDA deputy CIO Ira Hobbs says.

In surprising results of annual AFFIRM survey, 65 executives relegate security to second place

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff


Although many a systems chief has identified security as the big post-year 2000 issue, a new survey indicates federal information technology executives are more concerned about finding and keeping IT workers.

Filling IT jobs was the No. 1 concern identified by respondents to the Association for Federal IRM's annual IT executive survey. In 1998, the IT work force issue came in 22nd'nearly last place.


This go-round, it leaped to the top, beating systems security'the No. 2 concern''by a respectable margin,' an AFFIRM report detailing the survey findings said.

'Clearly, with Y2K issues and initiatives seemingly put to rest at the federal level, retaining and finding enough IT human resources to accomplish agency missions has become a top priority,' said the report, which AFFIRM released last month.

'We were shocked' by the survey results, said Michael Lisagor, chairman of AFFIRM's Emerging Issues Forum Committee and president of Celerity Works of Fairfax, Va.

Ira Hobbs, the Agriculture Department's deputy chief information officer, said he suspects that the issue has been slowly gaining the attention of IT shop chiefs. The problem of finding systems workers has become more important because it prevents agencies from solving other problems, said Hobbs, co-chairman of the CIO Council's IT Work Force Committee.

The security issue is still important, he said, but a worker shortage limits agencies' ability to deal with security, too. In fact, the Commerce Department's Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office is working to get more students trained in security, Hobbs said.

Here's a problem

AFFIRM uses the year-end survey to assess the top issues facing federal systems officials in the coming year. Sixty-five senior IT executives responded to the most recent survey. The work force issue received 27 votes as the top concern, compared with 23 for security.

The new survey results contrasted with the results of the past two years, when respondents mainly identified the same set of concerns but in varied rankings. 'This year saw a whole new top five, including two new survey entries,' the report said.

The top entries in the past couple of surveys were associated with management challenges and the requirements of the IT Management Reform Act of 1996.

'This year, one could conclude that the top five challenges are more closely aligned with matters of an operational nature'what the CIO needs to do to most securely and cost-effectively get the job done,' the report said.

Besides security and work force concerns, systems executives hit on a range of topics in filling out the rest of AFFIRM's top 10 list:

' Implementing electronic commerce

' Integrating or consolidating program and administrative systems

' Using IT to improve service to customers

' Obtaining adequate funding

' Implementing IT capital planning and investment management

' Identifying specific measures and outcomes as requred by the Government Performance and Results Act

' Formulating or implementing an IT architecture

' Assessing and developing IT competence through training and education.

For a copy of the survey report, e-mail your request to ENC Marketing Inc. of Alexandria, Va., at affirm@encmkt.com. The association also plans to post the report on its Web site, at www.affirm.org.

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