OK, boys and girls, it's that time of year.
No, not the time for Saint Nicholas to come shooting down your chimneys to deliver lots of tablets and smartphones for Christmas.
That time will come soon enough.
No, I'm referring to the results from IBM's third annual Tech Trends Report, where we talk to an extended sample of technology decision makers to find out what's on their minds.
Across the four technology areas covered in the 2012 IBM Tech Trends Report – mobile, business analytics, cloud and social business – only one in ten organizations has all the skills it needs. These shortages are not trivial or isolated. Within each area, roughly one-quarter report major skill gaps, and 60 percent or more report moderate to major shortfalls.
In 2010, I explained from the results that it was all about mobile and the cloud.
Last year, the headlines centered on IBM's Watson technology and business analytics.
This year... while we wait for the drum roll, let me first tell provide you with some background about this year's study.
About the 2012 IBM Tech Trends Report study
The 2012 Tech Trends Report is based on a survey of more than 1,200 professionalswho make technology decisions for their organizations (22 percent IT managers, 53 percent IT practitioners, and 25 percent business professionals), and who come from 16 different industries and 13 countries (which span both mature and growth markets).
IBM also surveyed more than 250 academics and 450 students across those same countries in order to better understand how tech trends are impacting future IT professionals.
The headlines this year: What's old is new, and what's new is an emerging skills gap
According to this year's survey, what's old is new. Mobile technology, business analytics, cloud computing, and social business continue to be emergent key themes. What's new is this: Though new and exciting business possibilities are emerging from these new capabilities, significant IT skills shortages, combined with lingering security concerns, are threatening adoption and business progress.
By way of example, the survey revealed that only one in ten organizations has all the skills it needs, and within each of the four areas previously mentioned, roughly one-quarter of respondents report major skills gaps, and 60 percent or more report moderate to major shortfalls.
The skills shortage is more acute in mature markets, with roughly two-thirds of respondents indicating moderate to major shortages versus roughly half in growth markets.
With respect to security concerns, they consistently rank as the most significant barrier to adoption across mobile, cloud computing, and social business.
The report observes that IT security is not just a technology concern, however. It's a broad business issue with far-reaching policy and process implications, and notes that moving into mobile means organizations must address the increased risk of data loss and security breach, device management challenges, and complications introduced by the growing trend toward "bring-your-own-device" (BYOD).
In cloud computing, it calls for policies on employee use of public cloud services, segregation of data within shared or hybrid cloud solutions, and ensuring the right data is in the right place subject to the right controls.
In social business, organizations need to consider customer privacy expectations, regulatory compliance, and employee guidelines on confidentiality, acceptable use, and protecting the corporate brand.
Pay attention to the pacesetters
So with all this in mind, which organizations are better positioned to create competitive advantage? Early adopters or late arrivers? Those focused on strategic impact or tactical implementations?
The data suggest it's those companies forging ahead faster (in spite of adoption hurdles) and using mobile, analytics, cloud, and social technologies in more strategic ways.
The so-called "pacesetters" believe emerging technologies are critical to their business success and are using them to enable new operating/business models.
They're also adoption ahead of their competition.
What sets them apart from the "followers" and "dabblers" are three key factors: They're more market driven, they're more analytical, and they're more willing to experiment.
And where they say they're headed next also provides a learning opportunity.
More than 75 percent of pacesetters are increasing investments in mobile and cloud computing over the next two years, and they're betting heavily on business analytics and social business (two to three times as many pacesetters are raising those investments by 10 percent or more).
With respect to skills, 70 percent of pacesetters are building capabilities in mobile integration, security, privacy, and mobile application architecture, design, and development.
Twenty-eight percent have already developed business analytics expertise in probability, statistics and mathematical modeling (and another 60 percent are eagerly developing those capabilities).
In cloud computing, more than 70 percent are developing skills in cloud security, administration, and architecture.
The 2012 IBM Tech Trends Report data suggests an opportunity for organizations everywhere to help close the large and expanding technology skills gap. Is your organization prepared to take these important and often necessary actions?
And nearly one-quarter of them have already built the expertise needed to extend social business solutions to mobile and to perform social analytics.
Their intent to combined technologies -- mobile and social, social and analytics, etc. -- is helping drive even greater business value for their organizations.
The 2012 IBM Tech Trends upshot?
CEOs understand the external factors affecting their organizations most: technology and skills.
But one without the other is a recipe for innovative decline, and to effectively address these interconnected imperatives, business and IT executives need new approaches for bridging skills gaps and helping their organizations capitalize on the strategic potential of emerging technologies.
The figure to the right demonstrates specific actions that can help you as a leader move your organization into a pacesetting position. And IBM is also stepping up and offering some new skills-building initiatives as well.
Bridging the skills gap
On the heels of this study, IBM has announced an array of programs and resources to help students and IT professionals develop new technology skills and prepare for jobs of the future.
The initiatives include new training courses and resources for IT professionals, technology and curriculum materials for educators and expanded programs to directly engage students with real-world business challenges. You can learn more about those here.