Business analyst skills shortage continues as IT job market grows

Business analysts are the IT staff most in demand for permanent and contract roles, according to KPMG.

Business analysts are the IT staff most in demand for permanent and contract roles, according to KPMG.

The latest figures by KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), compiled by Markit, showed demand for IT staff has increased since June 2010, with a continued shortage of business analysts in permanent and contract jobs since the start of the year.

Bernard Brown, partner and head of business services at KPMG, said there has been deterioration in the UK jobs market, with permanent placements growing at the weakest rate in two years. Despite this, demand for IT staff has surged.

"Of the eight broad types of permanent staff monitored by the survey, six registered higher levels of demand in June [2011]. The strongest rate of expansion was signalled for engineering and construction workers, followed by IT and computing employees," said the report.

High demand for technical skills

Other skills in short supply are Oracle, SAP, .Net and PHP programmers, the report showed.

Matt Gascoigne, operations director of IT at recruitment consultancy Badenoch & Clark, said demand for SAP and Oracle skills reflects a need for business intelligence and management information technology experience, from junior analysts up to director level.

"Having had a tough 18 months, many companies are implementing reporting tools to highlight profitability of different parts of their business so that senior management can make an informed decision on future investment," he said.

Gascoigne said such technology migrations and software implementations are propping up the IT recruitment market.

"This is because there is increased demand, especially in larger organisations with more than 2,000 users, for new functionality on the latest Microsoft releases, including Windows 7 and Office 2010," he said, adding desktop support experience was in demand within financial services organisations.

In May 2011, recruitment firm Robert Walters reported an increase since the start of 2011 in financial services firms hiring business analysts and project managers, as well as IT staff with front office development experience.

Jason Addicott, associate director of IT Recruitment at Robert Walters, said fewer new IT projects were being signed off within the financial services sector, compared with last year.

"However, a number of financial services firms started projects to change trading platforms and/or order management systems. We expect this to drive demand for IT people - and contractors in particular - throughout the rest of the year," he said.

IT staff need greater business knowledge

Beyond technical skills, Addicott says there is greater emphasis on softer skills.

"Technical staff are having to demonstrate that their personality attributes fit with the culture of the recruiting organisation," said Addicott.

A study in February 2011 by the Open University found 43% of employers reporting a lack of suitable candidates for IT and telecoms roles due to a lack of business knowledge surrounding relationship management, business process analysis and design, project and programme management.

As a result, the Open University recently introduced a new BSc in computing and IT, aimed at providing students with technical and business skills.

Andy Bristow, manager of information technology at recruitment firm Hays, believes the introduction of apprenticeships and internships will help plug future skills gaps.

"The rate of youth unemployment continues to soar, but employers are still complaining about the lack of talent on the market. It is crucial for organisations to communicate not only what skills they need now and in the future, but also really sell themselves as an employer of choice to secure their talent pipeline in years to come," said Bristow.

Large organisations such as Capgemini, British Gas, BT, IBM, Microsoft, Visa Europe, Co-operative Group and Sky have all recently launched apprenticeships.

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