The UK and mainland Europe should brace itself for the biggest "war of talent" since the 1990s over the next 12 months, a leading research group warned this week.
IT departments will face increasing difficulty recruiting staff with key skills as companies begin to work through project backlogs that have accumulated over the past three years, said Forrester Research.
Project managers, IT professionals with legacy skills, and the skills to manage and integrate open source code will be in short supply as IT department spending starts to increase.
Skills shortages and a lack of in-house expertise will force companies to adopt standardised, off-the-shelf products, rather than the customised solutions they need to make the most of their IT systems, the research group said.
"It is impeding their move towards a service-oriented architecture and being able to flex their processes in the future," said analyst George Lawrie.
In particular, companies will find it difficult to recruit staff with the skills to migrate data held on legacy systems into the next generation of IT systems.
There will be shortages of IT professionals with the ability to integrate and manage open source code and experienced project managers will also be in short supply.
"You need people who are capable of getting into service applications. You need 'hybrid' people who are capable of understanding legacy applications and plug-and-play," said Lawrie.
Forrester is advising IT departments to invest in project management and staff scheduling software to make the most of the IT staff they have and lessen the impact of shortages.
Many large businesses are "sunsetting" their legacy systems - handing them over to third-party suppliers - while they gradually migrate to more up to date systems. This eliminates the need to recruit people with legacy skills, and allows the business to train its IT staff in the skills needed for the future, said Lawrie.
IT chiefs report difficulties in recruiting key skills
David Tidey, head of information systems, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
"Recruitment is getting more difficult but it is not impossible at the momentÉ The skills that are difficult to find are project managers and technical specialists."
Adam Burstow, IS director, Telereal
"I find it very difficult to get business-oriented project resourcesÉ people that are credible and communicate well and quickly form good working relationships with external and internal customersÉ It is difficult to find people that can do this well."
Nick Leake, controller technology and systems, ITV
"We find there is no shortage of desktop support staff as companies have moved to XP and reduced their need for support. However, in newer and more specialist areas, such as IP telephony, storage, datacomms and Oracle applications, we find there are shortages.
"We have entered into a substantial training programme with a major training company so we can train our staff to have the skills we need, but that is not a quick fix."
David Clayden, director of strategic information, Salvation Army (UK)
"Within project management, the shortage is of technically competent project managers. IT is a fast-growing profession and it is difficult to keep up both technically and project management-wise."