Smaller IT shops in the future

IT professionals can get whiplash from reading trade press pontifications on the market for jobs over the last year. When forecasting for 2011, Monster said “The IT job market for hands-on, highly skilled information technology professionals was picking up at the end of 2010, and IT employment for midlevel managers will do the same by the second quarter of 2011″; yet InformationWeek said “IT Jobs Outook Grim for 2011“. In August, CIO reported that “IT Hiring Remains Strong Despite Economic Fears“.

Tech Republic has said we are moving into the “decade of the developer“, while traditional IT “will be under increased pressure and are likely to become more concentrated in service providers”. Yet this summer, ComputerWorld said “employment of computer network, systems and database administrators is expected to increase by 30% from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations.”

Last month, staffing giant Robert Half reported that “IT security and networking professionals are in greatest demand right now“. Conversely, this month, Dice predicted “Traditional technical roles in corporate America will decline by at least 80 percent”.

Just last week, InformationWeek interpreted the third quarter Bureau of Labor Statistics report as “More IT Pros Find Jobs…” and Dice said “The Outlook’s Good For IT Employment in 2012“, while Ziff-Davis’ eWeek said “IT Hiring Lags as Concern Around U.S. Economy Grows“.

Earlier this month Tech Republic’s Jason Hiner summarized in his blog a presentation he recently gave regarding organization changes in IT by 2015.

…the oversized, centralized IT department of 2001* is a relic that’s never coming back and IT pros need to prepare for the decentralized IT reality of the future where companies are going to keep fewer IT pros on staff, hire more consultants, and focus their IT resources on software, the cloud, and mobile devices. A decade ago, there was a lot of new stuff that needed to be set up — ethernet networks, directory servers, mail servers, company laptops — and a lot of baby boomers who still needed helped transitioning into a computerized workplace. Those days are long gone.

Personally I am seeing much of this now: smaller staffs made up of an increasing proportion of contractors. It’s less an issue of moving to the cloud than a rough economy where businesses are cutting lots of corners, commoditization of maintenance services, and maturing offshoring models – in that order.

In a post from this summer, Hiner predicted IT jobs in future will be predominantly consultants, PMs, and developers, inferring the demise of the infrastructure support role.  I have been seeing that too, but its more the demise of the *on-staff* infrastructure – the work is just being transitioned to contractors and outsourcers. And the same model is happening with application support and development as well.

I fear the rosy statistics put forth don’t differentiate between traditional IT and IT-like activities. David Foote, the CEO of Foote Associates, a workforce analyst firm, has said that the federal government’s data does not reflect the changes in the hiring patterns with the “hybrid IT/business professionals.” They include non-traditional IT roles for statistical analysis, predictive analytics, and forecasting, among other occupations. Dice says:

If you want to continue developing applications and technical infrastructure, you’ll need to make a change to a cloud provider or innovative high-tech firm — and hope you’ll be one of the few to survive corporate restructuring. The survivors will likely work in advisory roles, and you will need a broad base of expert technical knowledge along with the ability to integrate governance and planning into day-to-day operations.

Thus the bottom line to me is that the traditional IT department will be much smaller, and IT managers must learn to leverage resources like vendors, outsourcers, and contractors.



*[see also InformationWeek‘s “IT Salaries: 9 Ways We’ve Changed (Or Not) From 2001’s Heyday“]