Building resilient access to talent

How embracing open source can help organisations overcome tech skills challenges

Sponsored Feature Good news: the IT skills shortage is over. Bad news: it's been replaced by an IT skills crisis – a humongous human resource deficit that's causing hydra-scale headaches for businesses across all sectors.

These headaches are due – in part – to the steadfast reality that, despite trends toward outsourcing and managed services, a sizeable number of organisations – roughly about 50 percent in some verticals according to estimates – still need to run much of their IT requirements in-house.

Research firm IDC expects that in 2023 around 66 percent of global enterprises saw their revenue, quality and competitiveness drop as a result of unfilled vacancies in IT operations. By 2025, the company reckons that more than 90 percent of enterprises will be impacted, costing $6.5 trillion in product delays, quality issues, customer satisfaction and missed revenue.

The scale of the challenge is such that organisations are looking to make fundamental changes to their IT requirements on the basis that attracting and retaining the tech talent they need requires a reboot of their IT strategies, believes Paul Whiten, at Red Hat.

"They want an IT ethos that enables them to facilitate in-house development when required, but also allows for seamless integration with solutions developed for them by best-fit third-party partners," he says. "And they want a software development environment that will enable them to adopt critical emergent technologies such as AI and containers, while creating opportunities for in-house IT talent to apply their professional drives more freely and derive job satisfaction that will help retention."

Moreover, businesses want to avoid vendor dependencies that mean when one of their team leaves, IT chiefs are obliged to find someone with the same product-specific knowledge to replace them in order to keep the systems running, adds Whiten.

"The pace of innovation is accelerating, and technology moves at a faster rate with each successive shift," he observes, "and, in general terms, the IT skills pool cannot keep up with the speed of change."

The skills gap seems unbridgeable using traditional approaches, says Whiten, because "nowadays there's usually some new technology that promises to improve business performance – so there's a perpetual shortfall of technologists with up-to-date experience to develop and deploy [the new technologies] operationally." To an extent, the IT skills shortage actually comes down to a shortage of people skilled in the latest, most impactful technologies.

Coping strategies for a new reality

Organisations are realising that they will never have the full in-house complement of IT skills they need, so are switching to adopting coping strategies to deal with that reality, Whiten says: "In fact, it's a prime factor driving increased interest in open source, and how open source adoption can help remedy a range of IT skills-related pain-points."

One of those is that a software developer or IT practitioner needs to know much more about the prevailing tech than compared to five – or even three – years ago. Developers who might have had a career focused on a specific flavour of technology, like Java, for example, now have to become almost 'full stack' practitioners who need to be proficient in multiple technologies such as multicloud, containers and Kubernetes, AI/ML. And of course, open source, says Whiten: "And they need to know them pretty well, not just what they are for, but how to deploy them together to achieve business objectives."

The inability to keep up with fast moving, complex software landscape was identified as one of IT chiefs' biggest skills challenges in a survey of UK IT managers conducted by Red Hat at the end of 2023.

There's another option to provisioning IT that combines in-house and outsourcing, where a third-party enterprise-grade solutions specialist works closely with a business's own tech teams. It's an approach where open source scores highly in creating common environments where internal and external expertise can collaborate seamlessly in a software environment that has global transportability, true scalability – and coder appeal.

"With open source, you can start small and quickly with beginner-friendly community versions, and then migrate to a higher-grade commercially-supported solution as your business requirements drive you there," Whiten explains. "With open source adoption organisations can pursue both in-house and outsourced solutions development, and integrate them – if required – without having to work around any incompatibilities caused by vendor-specific products."

In-house, outsource – or both

So what are the prime factors that determine whether an enterprise should maintain the IT skillsets it wants with in-house expertise or outsource its requirement to third-party specialists?

"Go in-house or outsourced – or some of both? It's a conversation we have with customers regularly," reports Whiten. "The decision often starts with some educative prep – open source principles are not always well understood. Customers can be drawn into taking the path of a free open source project and think 'let's try this out' – and assume that once it's deployed they can support themselves 'cost-free'. But that's false economics."

This may be a feasible approach for a pilot project, small project or even a minimum viable product. But then getting that project into production at scale – where uptime, reliability and Service Level Objectives are critical – and there are regulations to comply with, can be hard to do with a DIY open source mentality.

In summary, organisations new to open source benefit from having a tech partner to help them understand the critical differences between an open source project and an enterprise product, Whiten explains. "Naturally, with general-purpose open source you could deploy it without paying anything. Red Hat experts might well recommend the same upstream source code," he adds. "The difference is that we 'harden it', make sure it's secure, do quality assurance on it – and then provide enterprise-grade support."

Sometimes basic budgetary constraints influence the in-house/outsource decision-making. Red Hat customer Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB), for example, aims to keep as many IT resources in-house as possible. While doing so means ongoing access to a skilled, trained skills-base, MCB also needs to balance personnel costs with the timely delivery of future projects as its needs evolve.

By introducing human-readable, reusable scripts through Red Hat's Ansible Automation Platform, MCB's IT department is credited with automating routine manual tasks for a range of processes – thus freeing-up its tech teams to focus on more value-added work.

 "If a software development project has a short delivery lead time, then outsourcing is the better option – unless a customer happens to have coders ready to engage with the project straightaway, which is rare in our experience," the company reports.

Another Red Hat customer, health insurer Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC), built its in-house IT environment on Red Hat OpenShift running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. By shifting to an in-house IT environment, Blue Cross NC reports that it makes data-driven decisions faster. And by using Red Hat Ansible Automation it has reduced the amount of time taken to provision a VM from 20-plus hours to 30 minutes, resulting in OPEX savings. In-house also allows Blue Cross NC to avoid vendor lock-in, and offer workload mobility, so its applications can run on a wider range of platforms.

Communities of open source support

Red Hat provides a portfolio of skills-based support programmes. Red Hat Learning Subscription, for instance, provides a training solution to address the skills gaps in its customers' in-house IT practice. It provides subscribers with one year of access to tiered, self-paced training courses.

The Red Hat Ascend Skills Network, meanwhile, provides the company's partners with learning and enablement that updates them on Red Hat product releases. By assessing a partner organisation's situation, the company offers a customised learning plan designed for specific business outcomes – including the ability to attract, train and retain IT talent.

"We've also initiated the Communities of Practice concept to help Red Hat staff cross-collaborate, especially on emergent technologies," says Whiten. "A CoP is a group of individuals – such as consultants, solution architects or business unit members – who come together to share ideas, content, experiences and best practices around a given tech topic, such as AI or automation."

At a more advanced level of skills attainment, Red Hat has DevSecOps with Red Hat, Whiten continues: "While many organisations focus only on the application pipeline when implementing DevSecOps, there are other areas to consider. DevSecOps with Red Hat solutions is about helping organisations with their application pipeline in a containerised environment, and also about enabling them to build, deploy and run applications using DevSecOps practices in containerised and non-containerised environments. So it gives them a way to address security issues early in the development lifecycle."

Today's cloud-native world represents a significant acceleration in both how companies deliver software and how quickly software itself changes, making it more important that developers spend time on high value work, rather than wrestling with incompatible platforms or doing routine tasks manually.

Developer experience – for those inside and outside a company – can be an important determinant for business success, but providing a new technology, developers need time to get it set up and to upskill. Having a consistent platform for an IT team, such as Red Hat OpenShift, RedHat Enterprise Linux or Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform however, often requires less upskilling and can help lower the 'cognitive workload' for staff.

That's a natural fit for an enterprise software company with an open source development model, says Whiten: "We have done it multiple times – our experience has proved a durable competitive advantage."

You can learn more about using Red Hat OpenShift to balance the developer workload by attending this Discovery Session.

Sponsored by Red Hat.

More about

More about

More about


Send us news