A skills chasm has emerged in European enterprises between the business requirement to roll out converged IP networks and existing in-house expertise. Almost three quarters of enterprises suffer a shortfall in IP skills according to an IP Skills Study, a pan-European research project conducted by NextiraOne.
IP enjoys healthy popularity in the UK, but the growing skills gap could hinder the development of IP technology without further investment.
Managing security is the most challenging aspect of implementing and maintaining an IP infrastructure identified by 23 per cent of respondents to the NextiraOne IP Skills Study. This issue is compounded by that the fact that it is also one of the areas where European enterprises reported the weakest skill set with under one in ten (9.3 per cent) of organisations reporting security skills as a principal area of professional skill.
Second after security, measuring and managing the quality of service to business critical applications (18 per cent) and the related issue of network infrastructure design and engineering (13 per cent) complete the top three challenges facing respondents in rolling out IP networks.
The skills mismatch is also reflected in these areas with respondents reporting that application deployment was a critical weakness with only 8.4 per cent of organisations reporting it as a principle area of professional skill.
By contrast, the majority of respondents to the NextiraOne IP Skills Study report that the expertise of internal skills lay in the areas of local network infrastructure (19 per cent), data communications (16 per cent) and computing infrastructure (18 per cent).
“The presence of IP in modern corporate networks is now commonplace, the challenge going forward is how firms manage the emerging skills chasm surrounding IP applications,” said Neil Moss, marketing director, NextiraOne. “IP telephony has moved on in 2005, it is no longer simply about keeping costs down but also how organisations, especially those with multinational locations, can get the full business value from applications in a secure manner. Integration and measuring quality of service will remain high priorities in 2006.”
Analyst house Yankee Group recently found that 95 per cent of multinational corporations currently have plans in place to converge their network with IP, and the leading priority for them (51 per cent) was making the most of IP applications. This featured above cost as a key driver behind the migration to IP.
The NextiraOne IP Skills Study found that European enterprises are addressing the IP skills chasm through the use of service providers and recruiting skills internally. Three out of five respondents reported that they would be most likely to use a network or systems integrator to handle the installation or upgrade of an IP network and applications. Investment in internal skills is being targeted at integrating and supporting new applications, including mobile applications, managing security and network infrastructure design and engineering.
“The NextiraOne skills survey has firmly spotlighted a shortfall in IP skill amongst European enterprises. Systems integrators are currently the best sources for IP skills and training,” Moss continued. “Firms investing in IP technologies stand to gain from efficiency and productivity improvements so public and private sector organisations alike should be looking very closely at IP telephony.”
One fifth of UK firms currently manage IP in-house and the signs are good for vendors and service providers in the UK market – over half (52 per cent) will spend over €50,000 on IP telephony equipment and services next year. 54 per cent of companies already have IP telephony systems in place, with 44 per cent of firms believing that UK IT staff have “competent” IP skills, above the European average of 32 per cent.
However, training remains an issue in the UK, with only 35 per cent offering even basic IP skills training, lower than the levels typical across Europe, insinuating that skills investment will need to be raised to keep up with the rapidly growing popularity of IP in the UK.