Focus on your IT staffing strengths: Page 2

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Other in-demand skills are change advocacy, financial management, and the ability to apply emerging technologies to creating new markets and new revenue opportunities.

"Companies will keep people with contextual skills, things unique to the company, and they'll outsource generic positions, like programmers."--people3 Inc.'s Linda Pittenger
And of course there are plenty of other reasons to outsource technical staff: headcount reduction, a perceived increase in flexibility, fewer staffing headaches. "Historically, IT has been a really vexing discipline," says Michael Mah a managing partner at software developer QSM Associates Inc. in Springfield, Mass., and a senior consultant in application delivery for Cutter Consortium, a research group based in Arlington, Mass. "Projects are continually late and over budget, and they want somebody else to have those headaches," he says. With the productivity gains promised by outsourcers, companies are increasingly willing to sign on the dotted line.

A new type of IT department

Now, you might say this is a negative trend for IT professionals, some of whom may not be willing to turn in their corporate badge for the contractor's or outsourcer's way of life. "Some technical people are very excited about spending their life as a contractor," Pittenger says. "Others say that's b-s and 'my company is never going to do that.'"

Not to over-generalize, but according to Pittenger, employees in their 20s "tend to see life as multiple assignments in multiple companies. Baby boomers see it as multiple assignments in one company."

But there's a danger that companies will throw out the baby with the bathwater, says Mah. "It's dangerous if you give up people who know about the nuts and bolts of IT," he says. In order to effectively manage the outsourcer or group of contractors, "you still have to have subject matter experts." These can be people with knowledge of platforms, software development life cycles, or architecture issues.

After all, Mah says, you may not be coding anymore, but you're managing a supplier that has to meet very ambitious deadlines, delivering systems with a high degree of reliability and within budget. "To oversee that, you still need sophisticated knowledge of how application development projects behave."

With that warning in mind, this anticipated outsourcing trend may well create a new type of IT department, one that is recognized as a business driver. And that has to be good for the profession. "If IT can have greater business impact, that's good for all of us," says Vaughan Merlyn, a vice president at the Concours Group, an IT consultancy in Kingwood, Texas. //

Mary Brandel is a freelance writer in Norfolk, Mass., specializing in business applications of technology. She can be reached at marybrandel@ncounty.net.


 



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