The Top 10 Challenges IT Teams Face This Year

May 7, 2024 | What's Hot | 11 min read

IT budgets have largely rebounded since the pandemic, yet resources and budget constraints remain the top challenges for teams globally. 

This has left many professionals feeling apathetic about the state of their departments, which are consistently asked to do more with the same or even less, according to Skillsoft’s annual IT Skills and Salary report.

Survey respondents describe the situation at work and the impact of limited resources: 

“The IT management did not invest in the IT department as a whole and instead ensured that the status quo was maintained.”

“Organizations lack awareness of the importance of IT strategy and view IT as a supporting function rather than a strategic tool. They may not have clear IT plans and goals, aligning IT with business goals.”

While strained resources are a key issue, there’s more to the story. Skillsoft’s survey asks thousands of professionals to rank their current workplace challenges. Here are the top 10:

1 Resource and budget constraints
2 Unclear job roles and responsibilities
3 Employee morale
4 Workload
5 Developing stronger teams
6 Lack of career development, growth opportunities (Training, mentorships, hands-on practice, etc.)
7 Communication
8 Executing with urgency and excellence
9 Hybrid or remote work practices and policies
10 Talent recruitment

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1. Resource and Budget Constraints

Resource and budget constraints were recognized as the top issue for both individual contributors and team leaders. Despite this, IT budgets have largely rebounded and stabilized since the pandemic, according to the report. 

In 2023, 56% of leaders who took the survey reported their budgets are likely to increase this year, while only 12% say they will decrease. One-third say their budgets will stay the same. 

Perhaps not ideal, but it’s a welcome trend to those who reported their budgets were under greater scrutiny from 2020 to 2022. Consider how budgets have changed over the past few years: 

2022 IT Skills and Salary Report

Gartner predicts that worldwide IT spending will reach roughly $5 trillion in 2024, a nearly 7% increase over the year prior. This is down slightly from the prediction for the previous quarter. 

Budgets are affected by many factors, internal and external. And when the budget takes a hit, it has downstream consequences for teams — which you’ll see later in this post — like an inability to recruit teammates, pay for training, and more. 

2. Unclear Job Roles and Responsibilities

When change happens at work — and in IT, there is always change — it can set some on edge, especially when their manager doesn’t communicate what’s happening. 

In today’s hybrid world, effective communication has risen to the top of a list of challenges teams are facing. The highest percentage of IT staff say team communication is their greatest challenge in hybrid scenarios, followed by interpersonal communication and communication with leadership.

It’s a must for team leaders to make time with their staff — together and individually — to check in and talk through any changes that might impact the team. Clear, honest communication can help quell fears that stem from speculation or rumor.

In the coming year, almost 63% in IT plan to work in a hybrid fashion. Still, 14% will stay remote full time. Almost one-quarter will go into the office regularly. What this means for team members and their managers is learning how to communicate to remain on the same page about roles, changes, and expectations.

3. Employee Morale

Developing stronger teams is a top challenge for one-quarter of IT decision-makers — more on this below — as they try to fortify their departments with the capabilities to transform their organizations. Employee morale is a large part of the effort.

2023 IT Skills and Salary Report

If feelings of apathy or dissatisfaction set in, it becomes harder to rally the team around strategic initiatives or even inspire workers to continue trudging through the daily grind.

For those in leadership, you must work within your means. Naturally, you can’t give out promotions and raises to everyone in order to increase employee morale. But smaller, sometimes overlooked, steps like these can help: 

  1. Recognize your employees’ efforts and praise their work.
  2. Validate their contributions, suggestions, and opinions.
  3. Grant them more opportunities to work on skills that matter to them.
  4. Encourage them to pursue a new certification. (47% of IT professionals say they felt more engaged at work after earning a certification.)
  5. Work on the team culture by listening, gathering feedback, and enacting change when it makes sense to do so.

Read next: What Do Great Leaders Have in Common, and How Do You Nurture More of Them?

4. Workload

Today, essentially every company is a tech company. The reliance and need for tech — whether it’s mobile devices or impressive new AI models — has increased demand for the skills IT and tech employees demonstrate.

Said differently, they have their work cut out for them. Workload is a leading barrier to training and has a compounding effect when factoring in employee turnover and skills gaps.

Whenever a teammate quits, it can cause disruption and increase the amount of work for others. Further, skill gaps often lead to a decreased ability to meet business objectives. This is where effective leadership, coaching, and project management can make a significant impact.

Check in with your team to have open, honest conversations about workloads, projects, and opportunities to go beyond surviving the day-to-day. A disciplined approach to project management may be the ticket to quelling a never-ending stream of requests, tickets, bugs, and more.

Further reading: The Value of Agile Methodology, Design Thinking and Visionary Application to Future-proof Your Organization

5. Developing Stronger Teams

Developing stronger teams is a top priority for leaders, in particular. The survey found that leaders plan to prioritize investments in artificial intelligence this year, but this is always where the most apparent skill gaps can be found. 

2023 IT Skills and Salary Report

To get projects off the ground, skilled staff must help usher in progress. But with clear gaps, there are some preliminary steps leaders must take. The lion’s share of leaders say they intend on training their teams to close skill gaps, with a keen focus on AI, cloud computing, data science, and cybersecurity. Although, more work is necessary to understand capabilities, take inventory of skills, and upskill or reskill as appropriate.

The focus on upskilling will help in more ways than one, too. Training leads to benefits including higher morale and retention rates among staff. Projects also tend to move more quickly and innovative ideas come more easily, according to survey findings. 

With this, other challenges are worth noting. The latest findings show two-thirds of leaders grapple with skill gaps on their teams. And the leading reason for these gaps has to do with how fast technology develops and changes, but also the level of investment in training programs. Often, leaders believe their training isn’t keeping up with the skills required of them. 

This adds to the dilemma of strained resources; if no action is taken to develop a team’s capabilities, the situation will only get worse. The impacts of skills gaps can lead to losses in revenue or business to competitors, increase security risks, and far more. All these consequences have price tags — some greater than others.

6. Lack of Career Development, Growth Opportunities

Tech workers are an ambitious group. They want to learn. They want to advance their careers. They want to apply their skills to complex problems. And they will, with or without their current employer.

2023 IT Skills and Salary Report

A lack of career development opportunities is a make-or-break benefit for IT professionals. In fact, it’s the top reason why a professional either quits their job or moves to a new role at work. Most workers (68%) say they would remain loyal to their employers and stay with them long-term if given training opportunities, according to reporting by SHRM.

The top three hurdles for IT professionals looking for more training opportunities are as follows: 

  • Workload
  • A lack of training budget
  • Personal obligations outside of work

Mentioned above, balancing the demands of the job with the desire (and need!) to learn new skills isn’t easy. Professionals need the time and space to complete training and know that it’s okay to do. That’s where their managers can encourage them and allocate space to do so. 

Leaders also need to make it known that training is both available and funded. The survey shows 86% of leaders authorized training for their staff in the past year, and more than three-quarters of organizations offer their employees some form of training. 

7. Communication

While technical skills remain in demand, soft skills — we call them “power skills” at Skillsoft — have an elevated importance in today’s workplace. Power skills make a big impact in team dynamics, especially when fusing teams or working cross-functionally.

However, communication can prove challenging, especially in hybrid work. It’s the greatest challenge affecting hybrid teams, as noted earlier. While effective communication can help solve the big, complex problems facing IT departments today, poor communication can have the opposite effect.

Evidently, many recognize this.

Of the 19.4 million digital badges learners earned by training with Skillsoft in 2023, the following ranked among the top 10:

What these courses have in common is they teach learners how to interact effectively and appropriately with others to reach a desired outcome. In business, working cross-functionally becomes paramount in completing large projects and achieving goals that carry far-reaching impacts for the organization.

2023 Lean Into Learning Report

8. Executing With Urgency and Excellence

At some point, employees will slow down and lose motivation if they’re constantly running at full speed. Addressed earlier, heavy workloads consistently weigh on leaders and staff, who are charged with keeping so much of the organization functioning. 

This underlying pressure, mixed with intermittent technological disruption (not to mention the lack of resources and time to train), makes it easier to understand why executing can be an issue. 

But addressing some of the other issues on this list will help your organization to address this one, too. Working on sharpening communication skills can help create a feedback loop between teammates and leaders to better plan for rollouts, potential risks or issues, and more. 

Further, adherence to a project management framework — whether that’s Agile or another — can help teams prioritize work and balance the workload, so no one person becomes stretched. 

Steps like these can help change the course of a department that’s constantly running from fire drill to fire drill, hoping for a break but never really getting one. Both individuals and team leads must be deliberate in managing their time and work to sustain the level of excellence they hope to deliver for the organization.

9. Hybrid or Remote Work Practices and Policies

More employees are returning to the office, according to our report. It showed that in 2022, 32% of IT professionals worked completely remotely. That percentage dropped by more than half to 14% in 2023. Almost two-thirds plan on working in a hybrid fashion, with a greater portion back in the office full-time. 

2023 IT Skills and Salary Report

Sixty-seven percent of professionals say their employers are encouraging workers to head back into the office at least part of the time. And for most, that’s okay with them. The overwhelming majority of professionals want to work in a hybrid environment, with some days at home (or wherever they choose) and other days or occasions working in person with their co-workers. 

But it’s still a time of transition. “The new normal” isn’t quite normalized for everyone, which means some policies, definitions, rules, and etiquette hasn’t set in yet. Like the year prior, communication is the main challenge of hybrid teams. Whether it’s among teammates, individuals, or the boss, communication has proven tricky. 

Other challenges that come with hybrid work include access, training opportunities, outdated policies, technical issues, and morale. To alleviate some of these challenges, leaders should take steps to engage their remote or hybrid teammates and foster a sense of community wherever people work

Consider these 6 actions

  1. Set clear expectations for remote workers
  2. Build a culture of communication
  3. Provide learning opportunities
  4. Recognize remote employees
  5. Use video chat for work and fun
  6. Ask employees what they need

10. Talent Recruitment

2023 IT Skills and Salary Report

Talent recruitment isn’t topping the charts like it was last year, but even still, it’s a key challenge for global teams. Hiring is likely to pick up in the coming year, according to the survey, but the need is great now. Two-thirds of IT leaders have three or more vacancies on their teams, which causes something of a chain reaction at work. 

Not enough workers ➡️ Higher workloads for existing workers ➡️ Existing workers feel more stress and burn out ➡️ Existing workers quit. 🔁 Then, the cycle repeats itself. 

Solving this complex issue requires a well-thought-out approach to talent development because, in many circumstances, recruiting “enough” workers isn’t a reality. 

“There’s not enough talent out there,” said Sara Ley, head of digital & tech practice at Johnson & Johnson Learn, in an interview with Skillsoft. “How do we elevate who we have?”

Learning and development leaders at organizations like Leidos, Peraton, Johnson & Johnson — among others — say the key to overcoming this challenge has been a holistic approach to talent development.

Read this blog next:  Can’t Hire Enough Tech Workers? Johnson & Johnson Found a Solution