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Five Tips for Staying Employed in IT Through 2010

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One of the perils of toiling in high tech is that you’re working in a world of constant change. By definition, IT changes every couple years as businesses roll out upgraded (or totally new) infrastructures.

The challenge is huge for tech professionals who need to keep up with relentless change. Staying employed in an environment in which the rules of the road are continually rewritten requires foresight. When’s the next curve coming my way?

To provide some clue as to what the IT job landscape will look in a few years downstream, Datamation spoke with Gartner analyst Diane Morello. Morello is the author of The IT Professional Outlook: Where Will We Go From Here?. The study looks at the tech workplace through 2010, forecasting key developments that will profoundly affect IT personnel.

Among the report’s many findings are these five projections:

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1) By 2010, six out of ten people affiliated with the IT organization will assume business-facing roles.

Currently this figure is about three out of ten. Yet the percentage of IT workers who will be required to be business savvy is inarguably headed upward.

“What we’re seeing is that the roles tend to be around business relationship management, or business analyst roles,” Morello says. There’s a greater degree of interaction with business staffers that will be expected of tech personal. The IT worker who’s strictly focused on technology is going to be a rarer bird.

In companies across many industries, teams of tech pros are being assembled to advise the business division. “Not just to interpret business requirements, but actually to come back with a model of what can actually be done,” in terms of IT, she says.

So this change is already well underway. “In many of the companies that we talk to, there’s a clear demand from the business that the IT organization become more business savvy.”

(On the other hand – and this will surprise no IT staffer – “There’s also kind of a subversive demand within IT organizations that businesses become more IT savvy.”)

2) Through 2010, 30 percent of top technology performers will migrate to IT vendors and IT service providers.

There are two large employers of tech workers: 1) IT vendors/service providers, and 2) companies that use technology. Currently, the overwhelming majority of IT workers work for this second group.

But many companies that merely use technology – but aren’t actually in a tech-specific industry – will downsize their tech departments. More and more, they’ll hire as-needed contract workers from IT outsourcers for many of their technical needs, keeping only the most essential tech workers on staff. Companies will require their remaining IT workers to be (as mentioned above) heavily business-focused.

Hence, for those IT pros who don’t want to delve into business, the service providers are the place to find a job.

“For those people who want to pursue continually detailed technology and don’t really care about all the contextual issues about business, they might find that they’re perfect candidates for the vendors and providers,” Morello says.

3) By 2010, IT organizations in midsize and large companies will be at least 30% smaller than they were in 2005.

As noted above, many companies will outsource a percentage of their IT divisions. Additionally, one other powerful factor will drive the miniaturization of IT departments: automation. The daily tasks of certain IT workers will be lessened by automation software, requiring fewer workers to maintain the infrastructure.

“So what you’ll find is a lot of the work that’s occupying people now will disappear or get absorbed by some of the tools and technologies,” Morello says.

The impact could be enormous. “Some of my peers in the data center area anticipate that the automated data center of 10 or 15 years from now will occupy maybe 50% of the people it does right now.”

4) By 2010, ten to fifteen percent of IT professionals will drop out of the IT occupation.

Working in IT is tough because companies merge, splinter, downsize and reconfigure on a regular basis. And that’s not counting the technical revolutions that occur on a regular basis, reshaping the knowledge base needed to hang on to a job. Staying employed in turbulent waters can wear down even the most resilient soul. Some give up and change careers.

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“I think a lot of people lost stamina or morale with the profession because many companies continue to treat IT as a cost-efficiency mechanism and have no problem with disposing of them,” Morello says.

Moreover, “Issues around global sourcing have hit people very strongly in this area. And when companies move services to another part of the globe, the people whose jobs are affected don’t have anyplace to go within that company.”

5) By 2011, seventy percent of leading-edge companies will seek and develop “versatilists” while de-emphasizing specialists.

Notes Morello: “We’ve predicted that the demand for pure technicians will shrink by 40 percent by 2010.”

In their place will be worker-analysts, a group she dubs “versatilists.” A versatilist is a staffer with enough multi-faceted expertise – across business, technology and inter-personal skills – to handle several areas of responsibility at once.

If, for instance, a company’s strategic agenda is intellectually taxing enough to comprise SOA as well global communication and worldwide process orientation, then it must extract plenty of mental firepower from its staff. Business leaders in this case, Morello notes, will say: “I’m hard-pressed – and can’t afford – to have 90% of my people be experts on something when so much of the other activity I’m doing requires people to be able to move across teams and projects.”

This need for versatilists, however, certainly doesn’t mean the specialist is dead. It means that companies will start asking: “How do we increase the likelihood that the people we hire can move into different types of programs and projects based on the level of business dynamics we’re facing?”

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