Despite the economic downturn, IT departments are still struggling with a "significant" skills gap, according to new research from accounting and consulting firm Deloitte.

It carried out a global survey of 306 IT decision-makers and executive business managers, and found that while IT bosses have an increasingly clear understanding of what they must do to effectively support their organisations' business strategies, their existing IT talent strategies and programs appear to be falling short, leaving IT departments without the talent necessary to do the job.

The research showed that the majority of survey respondents (51 percent) strongly believe talent issues have limited their organisation's productivity and efficiency. Half admitted that the talent shortage is limiting their ability to innovate.

In addition, a significant number of respondents indicated that IT talent issues are having a material impact on other key dimensions of business success - growth (58 percent), speed to market (54 percent), quality (53 percent) and customer relationships (53 percent).

The also showed that the vast majority of IT organisations expect to expand their workforces over the next three-to-five years. 47 percent said that they expect to see at least 5 percent annual growth in the IT workforce over that period - even as the pool of experienced and qualified IT workers in many countries gets smaller.

"Even in the midst of hiring freezes and layoffs, organisations continue to face talent shortages in critical areas such as IT," said Jeff Schwartz, principal at Deloitte Consulting in a statement.

"We believe differentiation is key when trying to attract, develop and retain top IT talent. This means organisations will need to revitalize their efforts and focus on areas such as company brand, workforce flexibility, multi-generation workforce strategies, job rotations, virtual management skills, improved on-boarding and accelerated development."

Deloitte recommends to avoid a shortfall in IT skills, enterprises should establish clear roles and responsibilities for CIOs to own and lead the IT talent challenge; improve workforce analysis and planning capabilities; refine global sourcing strategies; strengthen alignment between IT and business priorities; learn how to manage a multi-sourced, global workforce; and finally pay more attention to on-boarding (making processes more attractive for contractors and other non-traditional resources).

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