IT staff need to develop more business skills to complement their technical expertise. That’s the view of British Computer Society’s chief executive, David Clarke, announcing the results of the BCS’s annual survey.

The survey revealed that IT employees were getting closer to the business and were more involved in companies’ strategy but this process was "not happening as quickly as we would like", Clarke said.

He added that it was important for businesses that IT people advised how best to apply IT skills to business problems: "Businesses tend to be limited by what’s possible."

The survey found that one of the main concerns of BCS members was how to quantify the value of IT. A significant 78 percent of those surveyed thought this was the key issue, although 42 percent also cited lack of IT representation at board level to be a problem.

Clarke pointed out that IT staff were also failing to develop their technical skills, citing the many companies who failed to train their staff, fearing that they’d be poached by other firms. He said that the trend of work being outsourced offshore was likely to continue as British staff failed to keep pace with competition from the likes of India and China.

Clarke had harsh words for the government which he accused of failing a generation of students. He said that current policies meant that India and China were getting their brightest students trained at British universities, thanks to various sponsorships, while fewer British students were being trained in technical subjects as more were finding it difficult to afford going to university. Clarke called for more sponsorship by companies.

He also pointed out that many universities were failing to prepare students for the real world. "At one university course, it’s possible to get a degree without any human contact, that’s not going to help students develop business skills."

Rather more worryingly, the BCS survey also suggested that investment in IT was about to take a downturn; only 37 percent of respondents expected their budgets to increase in the coming year, compared with 48 percent in the previous year.

The other main concern facing IT staff is security, 61 percent of respondents cited IT security as a key issue.