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A sneak peek of the latest Harvey Nash Technology Survey

Early results from a worldwide tech survey show no improvement in the developer shortage, and the same goes for increasing diversity. And we don't trust the websites we use.

Every year, London-based worldwide recruiting firm Harvey Nash does a comprehensive survey of technology career...

trends. This year, senior technology editor Valerie Silverthorne asked Robert Grimsey, director of Harvey Nash, to share an early preview of the results. From diversity to DevOps and distrust, it's a wide-ranging snapshot of today's software development trends.

I know the survey results are preliminary, but does anything surprise you?

Robert Grimsey: In the Harvey Nash Technology Survey 2017, we asked the question, 'To what extent do you trust third parties to use your data in an appropriate way?' Forty-one percent of the overall survey population said they simply didn't trust third parties. When you filter the response just down to security specialists -- the people who really do know about this stuff -- that figure goes up 63%.

Warning: These figures might change, especially the security specialist ones, because it's a relatively low sample size. But I think the overall sentiment will not change: Tech people don't trust websites.

Have the diversity and women numbers changed in any substantive way over the past five years? If so, are you all feeling optimistic?

Grimsey: In short, there doesn't appear to be a substantive change in the proportion of women in tech. In 2013, 13% of respondents were women; this year, it's looking like 12.4%. That figure will probably move upward as we get more respondents, so our expectation is that we will see a gentle upward trend. But it won't be significant. The pace of change is glacial, and -- at this rate -- it will take decades before we reach 50-50.

That said, there are a few causes of slight optimism. Firstly, our survey reports that around three in 10 organizations have some kind of diversity initiative in place -- many of which are relatively new. This increasing focus on diversity is good news, and will undoubtedly have an impact in the future.

Secondly, our sister survey, the Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey, reports that women in tech leadership roles are increasing. This year, 9% of the CIO [and] VP respondents were women, an all-time high and up from 6% last year. One of the most important things we've found in promoting gender diversity is having role models; having more female CIOs will undoubtedly bring more women into the industry.

So, what gives? Well, the challenge is with the number of women entering the industry. Women outside the sector just don't seem to find it attractive. As one [female] CIO said at a recent Harvey Nash technology event, 'The fact there are so few women might be a problem for the tech sector, but it isn't for the women themselves -- they are choosing to be successful elsewhere.'

It's a fair thing to say, but it shouldn't need to the case: Every bit of research we conduct tells us women are just as happy and successful as men when they are in a tech career, so the onus is on the sector to really get the positive message out there.

I can't think of a better-paid, more rewarding and creative career than technology. We need to amplify this message.

Follow up: Are women and diversity really linked, or is that something journalists create?

Grimsey: If you put aside the big problem of gender diversity, and look at diversity in other terms -- such as ethnicity, religion, sexual preferences, etc. -- our view is that tech teams are actually quite diverse places. The tech team is one of the few places in a company that tends to be very accepting of differences and diversity, often valuing the alternative view it provides. In tech startups, the desire for innovation drives a need for diversity. In the Harvey Nash Technology Survey, we asked the question, 'Agree or disagree? Immigration of skilled tech talent is critical to the competiveness of my country's technology sector.' Whilst this isn't quite the same as diversity, the 76.3% who said yes clearly have an open mind to new people with new ideas.

This needs more research. We did consider asking about ethnic background in on our tech survey, but different legislations, cultural norms and attitudes to the topic across countries made it difficult to create one set of questions that would work. Maybe one for next year.

Skills: DevOps is hot in the U.S. right now -- more as a buzzword than as reality -- but I'm wondering what you're seeing relative to that particular skill?

Grimsey: Yes, DevOps definitely is a hot skill, but you are also right to call it a buzzword, and the definition is sometimes hazy. In the Harvey Nash Technology Survey, we asked what the hottest skill is right now (free text), and if you look at the word cloud, you'll see some different answers. [See graphic below.]

Harvey Nash Technology Survey free text
Harvey Nash Technology Survey free text

DevOps is definitely in there, but you'll notice data science, big data and analytics stand out bigger -- the larger the words, the more responses. This ties up with our other research: Analytics is the hottest skill and where there is most growth in demand. But this doesn't mean DevOps isn't also hot.

Any sign the software dev shortage is ending or evolving? What are the skill, pay and location trends for late 2016?

Grimsey: There is no sign that the software skills shortage is declining. We asked software developers how many headhunt approaches they get a year. Last year, 57% had over 10 approaches; this year, it's looking the same (55%) -- in short, an enormous demand. It's hard to comment on pay and location until we get more data, but we are noticing some wider trends from the CIO Survey.

There is quite a marked difference in scarcity of developers when comparing large and small companies, with small companies having the biggest challenge. In one sense, this is surprising, as the CIO Survey points to smaller companies having a stronger ability to attract and retain talent, and the variety of projects and potential for responsibility in a smaller company may be better.

However, larger companies tend to have many more tools at their disposal to secure development resources. One such tool is outsourcing and offshoring, and what we've seen in this year's CIO Survey is quite a watermark: This year is the first year where access to talent has overtaken saving money as one of the key reasons to outsource … and software development is the single most outsourced function [over half -- 52% -- of organizations that outsource choose to do so with this function].

Another tool larger companies have at their disposal is cross-training. Software development is a skill that can be learned and, for the right individual, can be an excellent career step. For the organizations with the internal structure and resources -- i.e., the larger ones -- this can often be an effective [way], both from a speed and cost perspective, of getting development talent.

Can you share more about the hottest skills, locations and technologies today?

Grimsey: This year's Technology Survey points to some big growth areas.

There are the usual things: analytics, security, DevOps -- all of which continue to grow in demand.

But there are some more unusual things that we haven't seen before. For instance, many people are beginning to gain exposure to the internet of things, and many people are quoting artificial intelligence and machine learning as new skills they are learning.

This is just as well; 41% of respondents believe their current job will be automated within 10 years. The tech industry moves forward at great pace, and to be successful, you need to move your career even faster.

Want to have your say? It's not too late to take the survey.

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Diversity at work: A look at how Intel does it

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