A simple equation could help ease IT staff shortages according to BT chief executive Peter Bonfield following research that reveals that companies are leaving their employees behind as they rush into e-business.
A study of 240 senior and middle managers and staff in 80 companies by research firm Frost & Sullivan for BT's consultancy subsidiary BT Syncordia Solutions found that 35% of managers say they will need more IT specialists - and 30% expect a reduction in administrative staff.
"The lesson is that admin people need to become IT people," says Bonfield.
This could start with basics and be built up gradually, he says. "In BT, for example, we have founded an Internet college for our people, to provide knowledge of the Internet and skills in using it.
"We can all help to a degree - government, employers and the education world."
Bonfield believes basic training is crucial. "This is not simply new technology: it's a whole new economy," he says.
Paul Domorski, head of BT Syncordia Solutions, adds, "Companies' admin employees are an untapped resource. It is more cost-effective to source the IT skills internally through retraining."
The findings lend support to other surveys that suggest employers believe the only way to fill vacancies in their e-commerce projects is to hire experienced people - and pay them as much as necessary.
A study earlier this year for training company NETg found that nearly 60% of managers see high pay as the key to keeping IT staff. Only only one in 10 thought training was an effective method of retaining people.
A separate survey for software company Infinium found that 66% of staff think their ideal job exists in their current organisation, perhaps in another area rather than higher up their current career ladder.
Domorski says employers could build on the generally positive attitude to new technologies that emerges from his company's study - and should pay closer attention to their staff. "More than 75% of junior employees felt there had been no discussion of the personnel issues emanating from e-business roll-out," he says.