Saturday, 4th July 2020

IT Professionals: The Hidden Heroes of the Public Sector

Each year September rolls around, bringing with it the annual IT Professionals Day—a day dedicated to appreciating IT professionals, and the critical role they play in end users’ lives and in operating successful organisations across every sector. IT professionals are the hidden heroes regardless of where they work, but for those in the public sector, keeping technology up and running can be the difference between life and death in an operating theatre, or between a law being passed and a law being put on hold in government.

To better understand the day-to-day experiences of an IT pro and learn where IT leaders could improve these, SolarWinds recently conducted its annual survey, IT Pro Day 2019: Building Confidence for Tech Pros of Tomorrow,to discover what makes these key employees tick and what they feel could be improved about their job. The survey results reveal tech pros primarily need to build confidence in managing both today’s hybrid, distributed tech environments and the complex environments of tomorrow, with the findings predominantly highlighting a lack of the skills development required to do so.

What Do the Results Say?


Despite the lack of confidence in managing current and future environments revealed in the March SolarWinds® IT Trends Report 2019: Skills for Tech Pros of Tomorrow, skills development is still on the back burner. This earlier report found, when considering the next three to five years, public sector IT pros were looking to develop skills in areas like security management and data science and analytics, while understanding to keep up with technology innovation and garnering management, leadership and strategic planning skills will be key to their career path.

However, without improvement in the current time and budget constraints, most tech pros (71%) said they’ll be unable to confidently manage future innovations. This reality ultimately puts public sector organisations’ performance and ability to serve constituents at risk, making the prioritisation of skills and career development for tech pros paramount.


The latest report for IT Pro Day 2019 highlights how this development is yet to be improved across all sectors, not the just the public sector. This broader survey found nearly 60% of respondents haven’t actively pursued a new skill or completed a certification in the last six months, while nearly half (47%) cited lack of time to commit to completing the course as the reason they stopped before completion. Without the time and the budget to develop existing skills and train in new areas, IT pros will likely struggle to meet the demands of the technology of the future.

The survey also explored what skills tech pros feel would be most crucial for their career development and growth, and the results show soft skills rank highly. Just under half of respondents (46%) cited interpersonal communications skills as most critical for their continued career growth, along with project management (56%) and public speaking/presentations (52%). Though some people outside of the IT team may expect key technology-related skills to be more beneficial, this survey highlights how skills like communication are lacking amongst IT professionals—the skills they believe will provide them with the most opportunities to advance their careers. And given how vital these employees are in every organisation, IT leaders should therefore consider how best to support IT pros in these areas.

Supporting Public Sector Professionals

Technology professionals may know where they want to go, but the road to career confidence can be challenging. This is where the expertise and experience from the senior management teams needs to come to the fore. But mapping out the necessary skills and understanding how best to gain those competencies can be difficult, as shown through the IT Trends Report 2019: Skills for Tech Pros of Tomorrow from earlier this year. Now more than ever, public sector tech pros work alongside the heads within their organisations to meet overarching goals. At the same time, they must keep up with the tremendous amount of work and responsibility needed to manage modern complex tech environments.

Leadership teams should aim to address this skills gap and empower tech pros to future-proof their careers. The technology available in the public sector is advancing rapidly and it’s unlikely to slow down anytime soon, if ever. Within the NHS, there’s a wealth of innovative technologies capable of supporting the NHS IT networks and systems on which staff and patients rely. In central government, every department must stay up and running 24/7 by using IT solutions to stay fully connected to each other.

The public sector is the backbone of the U.K., and the technology supporting it is crucial to keeping every department and organisation running. And arguably even more important than the technology are the IT pros who maintain and manage it, determining what new additions and upgrades are needed to keep systems connected, productive, and ready for what comes next.

By Steve Miller-Jones, VP edge strategy and solution architecture at Limelight Networks.
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