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IT Career Crisis Management: Five Lucrative Areas

By Steve Andriole
September 1, 2009

OK, so you’re feeling a little better these days since technology spending has stabilized somewhat (which means that the decreases are smaller then they’ve been). Your company seems to have a handle on what the “new” IT strategy should look like (mostly infrastructure projects, very few big strategic initiatives and very little training around emerging technologies – since they’re unlikely to be deployed).

But don’t believe the calm. IT’s really just before the storm.

So what do you think? What will you be doing in a few years? Will you be doing network management, PC deployment, break and fix, server maintenance, applications development, sitting behind a help desk, plodding through data in search of business intelligence (BI) – or what?

And where will you be doing whatever it is you end up doing?

The trends are very clear, so listen up. While there will always be a tremendous need to “run the engine” – keep operational technology going – where that takes place is changing dramatically. Providers are leaving the vertical corporate nests for outsourcer opportunities. This is not all bad for internal IT professionals who work in infrastructure. Their jobs will not go away, they will just move. Sometimes they’ll move down the street; sometimes they’ll move across the planet.

So if you’re in the infrastructure business you should track trends here and prepare to make yourself look good to outsourcers who will need your skills to deliver operational technology to their clients.

Do not expect to end your career – unless you’re a couple of years from retirement (!) – at your pharmaceutical, financial services, retail, chemical or manufacturing company. Your infrastructure services are horizontal – not vertical – and therefore commodities, and commodities usually travel a lot.

Who’s left inside and what will they be doing? Inside technologists will become more strategic and performance-focused. Some will work in architecture, some in social media, some in vendor management, some in requirements and demand management and some in budgeting.

Five Lucrative IT Areas

IT Architects: The architects will don white coats and walk around pontificating about SOA, EDA, open source APIs and business processes. They will be highly paid and interface extensively with the vendor community about technology trends. They will manage enterprise architecture as well as monitor how that dovetails with the functional (communications, applications, data) architectures.

This is heady stuff and requires a lot of ongoing learning – and thinking. Architects are probably the most cerebral professionals in our analysis, though that should not discourage you from morphing into a brainy architect (after all, George Constanza pretended to be an architect for years).

Social Media: The social mediaphiles will explore all things Web 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and eventually 5.0. Move and more transactions are moving to the Web. Gen X and (especially) Y live on the Web. Customer service, innovation, content management, training and a whole range of additional activities will move to the Web.

The optimization of collaboration and content that social media enables will become a corporate priority. How many of us really understand social media and its implications for business? Social media knowledge and skills are already in very short supply.

Vendor managers: Vendor managers can write their own tickets. Real vendor managers, that is. There are certifications in vendor management, negotiations, SLA management, performance management, ITIL, CoBIT and related areas that “qualify” professionals as legitimate vendor managers. If you invest in this knowledge and these skills you will be rewarded.

Requirements and demand management: Requirements and demand management represents a skill set that essentially manages the technology demand and fulfillment process. But in order to do this well professionals need to understand several domains. First, they need to understand business processes and models – deeply. Secondly, it requires knowledge of existing technology and the potential of that technology to satisfy requirements. Next they need to understand the allocation of talent to tasks and how to optimize the project and program management processes.

Yes, that’s a lot of knowledge and even more skills. How many of us have this knowledge or these skills?

IT Finance: Finally, IT finance will become more and more important as we segment operational and strategic technology, outsource more and more, and manage our vendors to cost-performance metrics. Specialists in this area will become increasing valuable to companies that need to optimize their technology investments.

These are the areas that will pay the big bucks in the next few years and probably through 2020. After that, who the hell knows? But if you want to gear up for the next decade, these five areas will serve you well.

ALSO SEE: Hot IT Skills: Certified and Non-Certified IT Skills in Demand

AND: The 2009 IT Salary Guide

Steve Andriole is the Thomas G. Labrecque Professor of Business at Villanova University where he conducts applied research in business technology convergence. He is also the co-founder of The Acentio Group, a new economy consortium that focuses on optimizing investments in information technology, executive education, Web 2.0, technology audits and pilot applications. He is formerly the Senior Vice President & Chief Technology Officer of Safeguard Scientifics, Inc. and the Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President for Technology Strategy at CIGNA Corporation. His career began at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency where he was the Director of Cybernetics Technology. He can be reached at stephen.andriole@villanova.edu.