IT hiring in Singapore will likely stay strong and steady this year, and any upsurge in hiring activity will mostly be due to pent-up demand carried over from initial hiring freezes at companies.
The reason why the market will be "relatively vibrant" in 2013 is mainly because employers have had limited IT hiring over the last two years, which has caused demand to snowball, said Roger Olofsson, business director for finance technology, IT and telecommunications at Hays Singapore.
Around the same time, the growing adoption of major disruptive technologies such as cloud, big data, social media, and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications has created a need for new or updated IT skills. This applies to end-user companies as well as IT suppliers, Olofsson noted.
In the end-user community, businesses are following up on manpower requirements for the various IT investments meant to help boost market share, customer numbers, products, and services, or reduce costs and risks, he explained.
On the vendor side, companies want to grow staff strength in sales, pre-sales, and solutions to capitalize on the increased demand among existing and potential customers. System integrators and consulting firms are also expected to hire professionals with abilities to sell and deliver outsourced or managed services, he added.
Mark Hall, vice president and country manager at Kelly Services Singapore, similarly forecast the country's IT jobs market to remain largely unchanged in 2013, either staying steady or just inching up slightly. Previously implemented headcount freezes at several multinational corporations (MNCs) are expected to ease off by the second quarter of year, he added, although the majority of the hiring spree would be for IT sales and business development roles.
As for specialist technical roles, hiring will also pick up but many will likely be contract based. Companies want skilled project managers, infrastructure managers, and technical architects for core business periods or projects, but without the long-term cost burden of a permanent hire, Hall explained.
Hiring in mobile, big data, cloud
Below are the top 5 IT jobs expected to be in strong demand by companies this year, according to industry recruiters in Singapore ZDNet spoke with.
1. Mobile developers
Eric Koh, CTO of JobsCentral Group, said IT jobs in Singapore will see a pick-up in hiring activity for professionals with mobile-development expertise. The high mobile penetration of smartphone and tablets in the country is expected to grow even further. As such, there will be a lot of demand for enterprise application on mobile platforms, which in turn drives the same demand for mobile developers, he said.
Hays' Olofsson concurred, observing that mobile development skills are in demand across several industries, from software to digital media to telecommunications. "Singapore has established itself as a startup center in this part of the world and there are many mobile software startups that are growing aggressively, which will increase the demand for talent in that sector."
2. Big-data consultants and architects
Interest and adoption of big data is on the upswing, and so will candidates with experience in this field, be it the analytical tools and business domain expertise, said Olofsson. He added that the degree of big-data interest is increasingly in industries such as financial services, retail, and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG)--sectors where the ability to take huge data volumes to help customer profiling, improve customer service offerings, and decrease risk is very important.
Foong Sew Bun, chief technologist and distinguished engineer at IBM ASEAN, said the company will see growing demand for big-data talent, among other skills. Foong said he has observed organizations eager to offer new innovative business services to customers or improve productivity in serving customers, which requires insights gleaned from data.
But before data can be useful to the enterprise, various steps need to be done from data integration to data visualization and collaboration among different departments. "Such an expert-thinking role requires an IT professional who has deep problem-solving skills as well as the ability to innovate with varying groups of business users," Foong said.
3. IT Project and transformation managers
According to Olofsson, these roles are those in charge of implementing highly complex and typically outsourced technology solutions, as companies rely increasingly on IT to transform and operate their business environment moving forward.
The job involves sizing up an organization's or customer's existing IT landscape, inventorying all their IT systems, and building a future state technology road map with the transition and migration plans. Candidates hence need to have exhaustive infrastructure and application implementation and operations experience.
At Singapore's Changi Airport Group (CAG), Steve Lee, its CIO, said this year that the organization is aiming to boost the "Changi experience" to passengers and visitors alike, so it plans to enhance certain platforms such as loyalty program systems and feedback systems. Therefore, the company's IT hiring will center on "information architects [defined as] IT professionals with experience in customer analytics and information systems, particularly in areas of retail and operations," he said.
4. Cloud architects and advisors
Olofsson said candidates with in-depth experience in infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and software as a service (SaaS) would see hiring demand as companies increasingly adopt cloud-based infrastructure or cloud-based software. He added that those with strong customer-facing and negotiation skills who can articulate the value propositions of cloud at the CXO or corporate level will also be well sought after.
Kelly Services' Hall noted that the increasing prevalence of cloud computing will ensure that specialists in this space will remain among the most sought after in the industry.
5. Security protectors and defenders
Hall also pointed out that IT security professionals will "enjoy a knock-on effect" due to growing awareness of security among companies in Singapore, be it due to cloud adoption, data and IP (intellectual property) protection, or reports of security breaches.
According to Olofsson, the rise in criminal and fraud-related activities in cyberspace will result in hiring in various aspects of IT security, from computer forensics to penetration testing and Web security. For those in identity and access management, the focus will not just be in terms of technical implementing but also policy development to meet regulatory and compliance requirements, he added.