With competition for skilled IT workers getting tighter, it\u2019s more important than ever for enterprises to be sure they\u2019re spending on recruiting and retaining the right talent.\n\nIT executives see talent shortage as the most significant adoption barrier to 64% of emerging technologies, ahead of implementation cost (29%) or security risk (7%), according to a September 2021 Gartner survey.\n\nIdentifying which emerging technologies will prove most useful is a challenge, though. The pace of technology has evolved so rapidly over the last few years, multiplied by the pandemic, that it\u2019s hard to keep track \u2014 and what\u2019s most in demand today may be obsolete tomorrow. With the accelerated pace of technology adoption, how are CIOs to identify the skillsets they need in their team?\n\nCIO.com India asked IT leaders from different industries about the strategies they use to forecast which skills they will need.\n\nFor Giridhar Yasa, chief technology officer at Indian online financing company Lendingkart, it starts with reading. \u201cWe follow industry developments quite closely and do our own research. This happens through reports like those published by the Reserve Bank of India, industry consulting majors, and technology papers among others,\u201d he told CIO.com.\n\nRohit Kaila, vice president of Walmart Global Tech India, develops IT systems for the US supermarket chain. He identifies current skill needs by evaluating his IT inventory. \u201cThere might be 10 or 20 or 100 systems out there. What are the key technologies in those systems? That is what drives the people that I'm going to hire.\u201d\n\nCustomer needs\n\nHowever, for the future, Kaila suggests identifying customers\u2019 needs and requirements, and then working backwards. \u201cYou know the direction in which the industry is going and what the customer wants. You then work backwards \u2014 what do you build, what do you build next? Which systems are going to see the maximum amount of change in the next X number of years, or what is it that is going to create maximum disruption in the industry in the next X years? Then, to make these systems, what are the kind of skills I will need?\u201d\n\nArchie Jackson, senior director of IT and cybersecurity at technology services firm Incedo, encourages IT leaders to look outside the IT department to predict what skills they need within it. \u201cThe simplest way to predict the future needs is to be well connected with the surroundings: What is happening in the different businesses around? It's not about technology, it's about the businesses that are being innovative and transforming and maybe leading to disruption.\u201d\n\nConsider the constants\n\nIn a world obsessed with change, though, some are taking a different approach.\n\nThoughtworks\u2019 Chief Digital Officer Swapnil Deshpande says he determines the skills that will be in demand based on things that are unlikely to change in the coming years. However, he also considers the possibility of new technologies emerging. \u201cWe have seen examples of this with the emergence of new technologies like Web3, decentralization, Metaverse and the rise of robots (technology disruption) on one side and the ever-lowering shelf life of Fortune 500 companies (business disruption) on the other side.\u201d\n\nAnother take on the importance of stability comes from the IT head of a renewable energy company who prefers to go unnamed. The technology skills that will remain relevant in the future, they say, are the ones that have a direct impact on the business processes in three ways: first, technology that increases efficiency or optimises processes; second, technology that is going to impact top line and bottom line; and third, technology that will automate processes. Any technology that doesn't contribute in these three ways will no longer be relevant, and therefore its skills will not be required by the industry.\n\nSaurabh Saxena, vice president of product development at Intuit India, sees another constant in demand for transferrable, non-technical skills that can be applied to any technology: business acumen, problem solving capabilities, soft skills, and a passion to innovate that will translate into success. If those non-technical qualities seem in short supply in the IT department and the current pool of candidates from engineering schools, he encourages CIOs to look elsewhere: \u201cLeaders should rethink their talent acquisition and development strategies to adapt for the changing world of work, searching beyond conventional talent pools to address skills gaps.\u201d\n\nThe skills for the future are also about being curious, driving breakthrough innovations in constrained environments and aiming for simplicity in products, and that will require aspiring techies to possess strong technical skills such as programming and an understanding of analytical tools to leverage AI and ML, he says.\n\nMindset over skillset\n\nKiran Marri, chief scientist at CSS Corp., looks for these transferrable skills too, and says the mindset is more important than the skillset. Marri believes it\u2019s important to inculcate a culture to own a client problem and be part of the solution. \u201cIt is rare to see clients say, \u2018we need machine learning or AI,\u2019 but we often hear \u2018we have a problem with our operations,\u2019 \u2018let us know where we are going wrong,\u2019 \u2018how do we serve customers better,\u2019 or \u2018we want to enhance our user experience.\u2019 It\u2019s important to have a mindset that is open to problem solving, abstraction techniques, research, creativity, decision making, analytical skills, and communication.\u201d\n\nThoughtworks\u2019 Deshpande says creativity, critical thinking, complex problem solving, strategic thinking and being action oriented are the skills that will be most sought out after. \u201cIt will become a valuable asset if one is able to smartly work with both people and machines, be able to develop and intuitively use new technology,\u201d he adds. \u201cAt Thoughtworks, to bridge skill gaps, we focus on actively building and supporting capability development programmes through training, self-learning, coaching and mentoring while also creating opportunities for experiential learning.\u201d\n\nShifts in consumer behaviour, new delivery models, and the remote workforce influence the industry and form the crux of reimagining businesses in the future, says Anand Patil, senior director, systems engineering at Cisco. Patil says shortage of talent that can implement and support these emerging technologies is concerning and skill-based education can fulfill the industry's demand and combat the challenge of digital-skill shortage.\n\nWhat skills are needed?\n\nLet\u2019s take a look at where the reasoning of some of these CIOs leads them.\n\nCSS Corp\u2019s Marri says the technical skills that will continue to drive the IT industry are AI, analytics, ML, open-source, languages such as Python, full-stack development, and niche areas such as augmented reality and virtual reality.\n\nThe IT leader at the renewable energy company says there will be most demand for data scientists who can translate data into more meaningful business language, cybersecurity experts, cloud architects and business analysts who can bridge between the business and the technology team.\n\nIntuits\u2019 Saxena highlights the steadily increasing jobs in cloud computing as enterprises in India and globally are moving workloads and applications from traditional data centres to the cloud. The most in-demand and highest-paying talents in this group, he says, are experience with AWS, AI\/ML, cloud-native technologies such as Kubernetes and containers, open telemetry, Kafka, GraphQL, and React. \u201cDevelopers are in massive demand, thanks to rising demand for software and apps as the globe gets more digitally linked. Knowledge of Python, Java, R, and natural language processing tops the list of the in-demanded skills\u2026 Other than these, we\u2019re also on the lookout for top talent skilled in big data; data scientists; development managers; product managers, and designers.\u201d\n\nCisco\u2019s Patil says it's all about 'superskilling' as we go deeper into the digital-first world: \u201cOrganizations should implement a culture of continuous learning and upskill existing teams on critical IT skills such as cybersecurity, cloud computing, devops, AI\/machine learning, data analytics, blockchain, and software\/mobile development.\u201d\n\nAs you can see, while the core forecasting methods (looking at the constants, at the business environment, at customer needs) can lead CIOs to different, yet equally valid, conclusions about the skills their enterprise needs, there are still some overlaps. Short-term competition for candidates with these skills will continue to drive up costs, making it all the more important that CIOs look at the business, analytical and soft skills that will remain relevant when the current technology fads have passed.