While President Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget request points to potential better days for federal employees following years of pay freezes, budget cuts and sequestration, most federal IT leaders are not breathing easy – yet.
That’s according to a new report by Accenture Federal Services and the Association of Government Accountants, which found that federal IT leaders continue to face challenges in filling highly skilled technical positions, largely due to difficulties recruiting and retaining top employees, lack of funding and a lack of internal candidates with the appropriate skill sets.
Many of the more than 100 federal IT leaders surveyed are not expecting those circumstances to improve in the near future, either. Half of respondents said that continuing budget cuts are likely or highly likely to result in further reductions in key IT staff.
IT leaders also pointed to gaps between current skill levels of employees and the skills that are most valuable to agency missions. Business skills, creative thinking, project management and software skills like programming and troubleshooting were flagged by CIOs as being the most needed yet most lacking in their organizations. Hardware skills and IT procurement were the only two areas where IT leaders said they had adequate talent.
To address these skills gaps and potential workforce reductions, respondents said they would turn to cross-training of employees (60 percent), extending useful life of existing systems (48 percent) and shared services (38 percent).
“Failing to capture talent, some organizations see cross-training as an effective means to increase internal skill sets,” the report states. “However, employees have gaps in skill areas most commonly filled through practical experience. Without sufficient budget and offerings to attract higher-skilled workers, some agencies could soon experience greater impacts as a result of its aging workforce.”
Of good news is that the president’s fiscal 2013 IT budget priorities – namely those that aim to maximize IT return on investment, close the productivity gap and implement a 21st century government – have yielded positive results in the eyes of most IT leaders. Among those positive results are reduced operational costs (63 percent), more accurate and timely information (58 percent) and increased productivity (53 percent), the study found.
Still, federal IT leaders cited budget constraints (52 percent) and organizational buy-in (45 percent) as major obstacles to maintaining success in those areas and to the adoption of trends like shared services, according to the survey.