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Big data salary increases present cost pressure for Indian CIOs

Viraj Desai

As pressure mounts on CIOs to drive business growth through customer acquisition, big data skills, which come at a premium, will put pressure on budgets.

The need for people with the right skills means CIOs will spend more of their budgets on people and transform themselves into business as well as technology leaders.

IT staff costs are on the up in India. The latest data from Forrester’s Foresights Budgets and Priorities Survey, Q4 2013, found that 71% of Indian CIOs will increase the expenditure incurred on benefits as well as salaries of IT staff this year.

And data skills are in great demand with a shortage pushing up costs. Manish Bahl, country manager India at Forrester, said figures show that overall IT staff salaries will increase at an average of 10-12% in 2014, with big data skills costs increasing at a higher rate.

“As there is a demand and supply gap to find big data related skill set in the market I believe people for big data will come at a premium,” added Bahl.

The high cost of recruiting will make internal training a more attractive option. Bahl said Indian CIOs should be more courageous in re-tooling their staff to win in the age of the customer. Forrester estimates that only 60% to 70% of technology management executives will be able to make the transition to the BT agenda. 

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IT salary increases are prevailing in media, entertainment, and leisure, retail and wholesale, and manufacturing sectors, according to Forrester. Areas that typically see the value of data.

Varun Sood, Head IT, Fortis Healthcare Limited, said the organization is investing internally on developing the skills of existing employees. “At the company level, we run several training and mentoring initiatives to make our employees more IT saavy. We also have a rigorous mentoring and coaching process that orients people in various aspects of business.” 

As firms look to prune costs from all corners, salary increases may prove to be the Achilles heel for them. CIO’s will have to strike a balance between finding solutions within constraints that business operate in.

First and foremost Bahl said business leaders expect their CIOs and IT teams to contribute to business growth by winning and retaining customers. “CIOs must broaden their technology management priorities and add Business Technology (BT) agenda in addition to their IT agenda for superior customer interactions,” he said.  

BT is defined as technology, systems, and processes to win, serve, and retain customers. Big data technology and skills is vital as businesses digitize.

“By building a BT agenda alongside the IT technology management agenda, CIOs will become truly customer-obsessed business leaders. CIOs who fail to make this transition will lose credibility within their organization: Marketing and business execs will build their own BT teams to acquire and retain digitally empowered customers, leaving CIOs behind,” added Bahl.

Sood at Fortis Healthcare Limited said the organization is making efforts by ensuring that IT professionals within the organization are making interaction with customers easier.

“The role of CIO in today’s context is more of a business leader while being technology grounded. In that context, the focus of the CIO should be on solving business needs that may or may not always necessitate additional investments in technology”, said Sood.

“Some of our IT initiatives include providing a consistent patient experience through standardized systems and processes throughout the company, establishing a foundation for enabling patients to access their information at a future point in time and improving in-room patient experience by streamlining access to services patients may require while in the hospital,” he added.

Bahl said another change is seeing companies hiring people with hybrid skill-set, with much more focus on business acumen, communication, and ability to link technology spending with clear business outcomes.

According to Sid Deshpande, senior research analyst at Gartner India, data science is a strong area of growth and the demand for data scientists, with a techno-functional role of a statistician, will increase.

A data scientist is likely to have a doctoral degree and is also expected to be familiar with languages such as Java and C.