The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

Summary: Today's IT job market as well as the IT profession itself are in the midst of seismic changes that will inevitably shift the focus to three kinds of job roles.

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TOPICS: CXO, IT Employment
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There's a general anxiety that has settled over much of the IT profession in recent years. It's a stark contrast to the situation just over a decade ago. At the end of the 1990s, IT pros were the belles of the ball. The IT labor shortage regularly made headlines and IT pros were able to command excellent salaries by getting training and certification, job hopping, and, in many cases, being the only qualified candidate for a key position in a thinly-stretched job market. At the time, IT was held up as one of the professions of the future, where more and more of the best jobs would be migrating as computer-automated processes replaced manual ones.

Unfortunately, that idea of the future has disappeared, or at least morphed into something much different.

The glory days when IT pros could name their ticket evaporated when the Y2K crisis passed and then the dot com implosion happened. Suddenly, companies didn't need as many coders on staff. Suddenly, there were a lot fewer startups buying servers and hiring sysadmins to run them.

Around the same time, there was also a general backlash against IT in corporate America. Many companies had been throwing nearly-endless amounts of money at IT projects in the belief that tech was the answer to all problems. Because IT had driven major productivity improvements during the 1990s, a lot of companies over-invested in IT and tried to take it too far too fast. As a result, there were a lot of very large, very expensive IT projects that crashed and burned.

When the recession of 2001 hit, these massively overbuilt IT departments were huge targets for budget cuts and many of them got hit hard. As the recession dragged out in 2002 and 2003, IT pros mostly told each other that they needed to ride out the storm and that things would bounce back. But, a strange thing happened. IT budgets remained flat year after year. The rebound never happened.

Fast forward to 2011. Most IT departments are a shadow of their former selves. They've drastically reduced the number of tech support professionals, or outsourced the help desk entirely. They have a lot fewer administrators running around to manage the network and the servers, or they've outsourced much of the data center altogether. These were the jobs that were at the center of the IT pro boom in 1999. Today, they haven't totally disappeared, but there certainly isn't a shortage of available workers or a high demand for those skill sets.

That's because the IT environment has changed dramatically. More and more of traditional software has moved to the web, or at least to internal servers and served through a web browser. Many technophobic Baby Boomers have left the workforce and been replaced by Millennials who not only don't need as much tech support, but often want to choose their own equipment and view the IT department as an obstacle to productivity. In other words, today's users don't need as much help as they used to. Cynical IT pros will argue this until they are blue in the face, but it's true. Most workers have now been using technology for a decade or more and have become more proficient than they were a decade ago. Plus, the software itself has gotten better. It's still horribly imperfect, but it's better.

So where does that leave today's IT professionals? Where will the IT jobs of the future be?

1. Consultants

Let's face it, all but the largest enterprises would prefer to not to have any IT professionals on staff, or at least as few as possible. It's nothing personal against geeks, it's just that IT pros are expensive and when IT departments get too big and centralized they tend to become experts at saying, "No." They block more progress than they enable. As a result, we're going to see most of traditional IT administration and support functions outsourced to third-party consultants. This includes a wide range from huge multi-national consultancies to the one person consultancy who serves as the rented IT department for local SMBs. I'm also lumping in companies like IBM, HP, Amazon AWS, and Rackspace, who will rent out both data center capacity and IT professionals to help deploy, manage, and troubleshoot solutions. Many of the IT administrators and support professionals who currently work directly for corporations will transition to working for big vendors or consultancies in the future as companies switch to purchasing IT services on an as-needed basis in order to lower costs, get a higher level of expertise, and get 24/7/365 coverage.

2. Project managers

Most of the IT workers that survive and remain as employees in traditional companies will be project managers. They will not be part of a centralized IT department, but will be spread out in the various business units and departments. They will be business analysts who will help the company leaders and managers make good technology decisions. They will gather business requirements and communicate with stakeholders about the technology solutions they need, and will also be proactive in looking for new technologies that can transform the business. These project managers will also serve as the company's point of contact with technology vendors and consultants. If you look closely, you can already see a lot of current IT managers morphing in this direction.

3. Developers

By far, the area where the largest number of IT jobs is going to move is into developer, programmer, and coder jobs. While IT used to be about managing and deploying hardware and software, it's going to increasingly be about web-based applications that will be expected to work smoothly, be self-evident, and require very little training or intervention from tech support. The other piece of the pie will be mobile applications -- both native apps and mobile web apps. As I wrote in my article, We're entering the decade of the developer, the current changes in IT are "shifting more of the power in the tech industry away from those who deploy and support apps to those who build them." This trend is already underway and it's only going to accelerate over the next decade.

This article was originally published on TechRepublic.

Topics: CXO, IT Employment

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64 comments
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  • Your Forgot about Living Overseas

    Offshoring, or as my company calls it, "co-sourcing" (isn't that sooo corporate) is all the rage these days. It used to be outsourcing to other companies In America, now corporations can save even MORE money by offshoring all their IT. As more companies send their IT work to third world countries (good luck communicating with your Indian counterparts BTW), and it is happening more and more, you might want to think about moving to India, Mexico, The Philippines, Africa... at least you'll still have an IT job...
    jpr75_z
    • RE: The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

      @jpr75_z

      Yikes.....Glad i work for a small company
      MLHACK
    • RE: The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

      @jpr75_z,

      Yea, but offshoring is not a silver bullet. In the end, companies need someone locally that can be accountable. Managers want to be able to go to someone's cube, sit on their desk and say "where's my <application name>"? Unfortunately for new grads, these postions require experience. Since, we have not been hiring many new grads locally, we have not been developing the experienced personel. Can you say H1B1? I'm glad I got into the industry when I did.
      bmonsterman
    • RE: The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

      @jpr75_z

      You hit the nail on the head (though I'm sure some won't catch what you're inferring) - if you want a job in IT head overseas, because that's where all of our IT jobs have gone. Sure, some loss of the IT jobs in the US is the result of a more tech-literate workforce, but nowhere near what outsourcing and offshoring has done. There is a difference between being familiar with technology and being a technology profession- the former cannot fully replace the latter; however, if a CEO can save a few bucks sending an IT position to someone overseas, few seem to hesitate to do so.

      The part I love about outsourcing/offshoring/visas is that the companies employeeing these methods often claim they do so because of a shortage of skilled workers, and yet we have some many IT pros without jobs in the US. The truth is that these companies are feeding us complete BS, and they do it purely for the immediate cost savings and to water-down the value of American IT services.

      (I really wish we could outsource CEO's, and give them a taste of their own medicine.)
      NetAdmin1178
      • RE: The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

        @NetAdmin1178 <br><img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/grin.gif" alt="grin">
        >>(I really wish we could outsource CEO's, and give them a taste of their own medicine.)
        Ram U
      • RE: The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

        @NetAdmin1178 Hey, there's an idea. Can I become a CEO, then outsource myself to St. Bart's?
        MissMichal
      • RE: The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

        @NetAdmin1178

        The potential cost savings are huge for such a small change!
        SlithyTove
      • RE: The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

        @NetAdmin1178

        I've managed both Americans and overseas folks. I find it easier to manage the overseas folks and I find it more pleasant and productive to work with them.

        They seem to say no a lot and they seem to be a bit spoiled. I can give work to the guys in india and it'll be done by the end of their shift while it will sit for weeks on the American's desk. Then, I start to hire more indians and fire more Americans. I don't need someone dragging my team down.

        "when IT departments get too big and centralized they tend to become experts at saying, ?No.? They block more progress than they enable."
        businesstech
    • RE: The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

      @jpr75_z

      Exactly. It's just great when a company lets go of an employee that's worked with a system for 10+ years. That knows the system inside and out. Then hires someone overseas who barely knows how to run the day to day operations, and has no clue about what to do when something goes wrong.
      kingscoop71
      • RE: The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

        @kingscoop71

        see my post above. The Indian guy is motivated, nice to work with and he'll learn it sooner or later. you have to start somewhere?
        businesstech
    • RE: The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

      @jpr75_z How to keep an IT job and not see it fly offshore: Work for a federal contractor, particularly in Defense. Not even once in a blue moon do we see a position that can be filled by a non-citizen, and the jobs frequently require security clearances and physical location on base. Sure, you'll deal with frequent cycling of contractors, but the new contractor simply hires the employees already working on the contract. You just have to be willing to change health plans ever four years.
      MissMichal
      • RE: The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

        @MissMichal

        Maybe.... if Americans were nice, easy to work with and stop complaining, the jobs might stay in America?
        businesstech
    • RE: The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

      @jpr75_z
      Have you been watching the US Dollar exchange rate lately ? About 2 years ago, it took about $AUD2 to get $US1. Now it takes less than 1 Aussie Dollar to get a US dollar.
      Expect to see some of those off shoring contracts to head back your way.
      martin.english
    • RE: The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

      @jpr75_z

      As more companies send their IT work to third world countries (good luck communicating with your Indian counterparts BTW)
      <a href="http://fiat500abarthusa.info" title="fiat 500 abarth usa">fiat 500 abarth usa</a> | <a href="http://newiphonerelease.info" title="new iphone release">new iphone release</a>
      berrypoin
    • RE: The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

      @jpr75_z

      It is funny that the article did not state bill rates dropped because the government allowed millions of foreign IT workers to come over on H1B visas so the politicians could be "pro business" and count on lucrative speaking fees after they retired.

      .
      avraam jack dectis
  • RE: The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

    Being a pro with Facebook does not constitute them as knowing IT. Half of all millenials I've met still can't correctly even tell you what an IP address is. Let's see one of them install or configure a Server, of any kind and just because their Mac doesn't crash much doesn't mean they can repair a system or equipment or even a network. Steve Jobs will never pop up out of your cubicle at work and spout out to the office, "it just works". I'm looking forward to one of these so called users giving a technical explanation and sum it up by saying again "it just works".
    Nate_K
    • RE: The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

      @Nate_K

      I agree. It would be funny to see one of these dip *hits handle this scenario.

      Employee: Hello i am have an issue with my mac system
      Millenial: What do you mean issue?
      Employee: my system has crashed and will not come back up.
      Millenial: Ummm.... Ummm.. Stevey says it just works so i do not know what to tell you!
      Employee: Well i am telling you it needs to be fixed!
      Millenial: Ahh let me schedule a service appointment with an apple store should not take more than a week maybe, i guess not sure, whatever......
      MLHACK
    • RE: The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

      @Nate_K My guess is you're one of those cynical IT professionals going blue in the face.....

      The point is not that it's the end of IT, rather that the technology is better and your average user is far more IT savvy compared to 10 years ago. And as a consequence IT departments will run far leaner.

      I think the other big change in the market is that it's no longer enough to be good technically. People need to be able to engage with people not only in IT but across the business.
      The_Eggman
    • RE: The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

      @Nate_K

      but it just works and when it doesn't, we call the ISP and tell them to make it work! Send someone out or we're switching ISPs! that usually does it.

      The point is, IT pros can no longer hold the company hostage.
      businesstech
  • RE: The future of IT jobs? It's in three types of roles

    Companies are either outsourcing to other countries or hiring people to work at home. The website BestTopJobs has a FREE list of work at home jobs offered by real employers.
    VeryHappyMama