Within a few years, having a strong technical ability may not be enough
to get you a job.
That’s the warning coming from Gartner, Inc., an industry analyst firm.
Being a specialist in a specific technology, like Linux, Windows or
database administration, isn’t going to be enough of a calling card in
the not-so-distant job market.
”Let’s just say it’s no longer going to be a question of just having
good technical ability — of having a specialty,” says Diane Morello
vice president of research at Gartner. ”If you’re just maintaining a
specialization without raising their caliber, it’s not going to be
enough… Companies will need people who are broader. The people I’m
talking about are ‘versatilists’.”
Morello says a new Gartner study shows that the job market for IT
specialists will shrink by 40 percent by 2010.
To be employable, IT professionals will need to be skilled in multiple
technologies, and they’ll need to have experience working with the
business side of the company, participating in business projects and able
to communicate with co-workers outside of IT, as well as customers.
Morello says Gartner analysts asked CIOs what staff additions they plan
to make over the next few years. Respondents said that by 2009 to 2010
processes, relationships and sourcing management will be the biggest
areas of growth. The technology infrastructure and services space will
experience the greatest decline. And that decline is partly because of
the continued offshoring trend, as well as because of the growing
automation of IT work.
”People need to become versatile through relationships and involvement
outside their specific domain and work on various projects,” says
Morello. ”There is a shift afoot and many companies are really looking
for people with a broader set of expertise who can show real business
contribution and participation in business results.”
To get that experience, Morello advises IT professionals to work on teams
with the business side, to jump on technical projects outside their
specialty and to get involved with a list of business projects.
Kevin Knaul, executive vice president of the Hudson Highland Group, a
professional staffing and outsourcing company based in New York City,
says people with singular specialties need to rethink their resumes.
”It’s important to understand how employment trends and hiring trends
have shifted for IT workers,” says Knaul. ”When we look at them, we
have a host of individuals with specialized skill sets who are in the
highest demand they’ve ever been in — SAP and Oracle packages, or Java
or Microsoft.net… For the time being, we see that continuing but it
will reach a maturity.
”But specialization isn’t a great thing in the long run,” he adds.
People tend to pigeonhole themselves. If they’re not diversified, they’ll
find themselves in a bad situation. Plenty of IT people are on the bench
right now because they’re specialized in technologies that aren’t in high
demand. Look at some of the older PeopleSoft skills or older technologies
like Cobal or C++.”
It’s time, analysts say, for IT professionals to pick their heads up and
take a broader look at the industries they’re in, and the companies
they’re working for, or want to work for. It’s time to figure out how the
company is serving its customers and what they can do to help that
”When we look at it historically, the IT department has had their heads
down and they’ve only be into the technology,” says Knaul. ”But people
in demand right now are increasingly in business-facing projects. They
understand how the technology supports the business. They help make
decisions about what technologies to bring in to help the business…
They need fundamental business experience and the technical background to
link it all together.”
But Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata, a Nashua, N.H.-based
industry analyst firm, says it can be difficult to walk the fine line
between being a specialist and becoming involved with so many different
projects that you are nothing more than a generalist.
”It’s always somewhat of a tug of war,” says Haff, who adds that this
is a trend that’s been a long time coming. ”There’s often been this
specialty of the moment, and a lot of people run out and get this
certification or that certification. It often creates a flood and then it
turns out that a lot of IT shops are looking for people who can do more
than one narrow thing… I would agree there is a demand for people who
are less stove pipes in terms of what they can do.”
He adds that IT has been heavily criticized over the years for focusing
solely on technology, without giving thought to the business and
processes and customers. It’s a criticism, he says, that needs to be
”Being the person who knows everything about Windows and wants nothing
to do with Linux — that’s not necessarily going to be good for your
career,” says Haff. ”It’s not what [the company] is going to be looking
for. Try to approach your IT role as a business person, as somebody who
is really looking to assist the company’s business processes, as opposed
to just focusing on the technology.”