The State of the IT Community

Michael Vizard
Slide Show

Top 10 In-Demand Tech Skills for 2011

Each year, the good folks at the Society of Information Management (SIM) put together a survey on the overall state of IT within the enterprise. This year, however, SIM wants to reach out to the entire IT community, as opposed to just the SIM membership. After all, SIM only represents a subset of the total IT community and, as such, any survey of the SIM membership is going to be based on people who are inclined to join an association such as SIM.

Alas, it's fair to say that the bulk of the IT community is not necessarily made up of "joiners." But SIM membership notwithstanding, the folks at SIM want IT professionals to share their opinions by answering a few survey questions that can be found here.

Despite the doom and gloom in the overall economy, Jerry Luftman, executive director and distinguished professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology, who is overseeing the survey on behalf of SIM, notes that the outlook for IT professionals with the right set of skills is quite bright. The caveat is the right set of skills. Too many IT professionals don't stay current on the technology, so when it comes time to look for a job, they discover that the technology has moved on or that their particular skill set has become a commodity.

Of course, many IT professionals labor under the impression that the companies they work for should provide training. But Luftman says, in reality, it's up to the IT professionals to manage their own careers, and that always starts with being current on the latest technologies generating the most demand for people skilled enough to manage it.

Luftman also notes that many IT professionals also fail to embed themselves in a particular vertical industry where knowledge of how to apply IT to solve specific business issues can be invaluable. Instead, many of them think that they could work for one company in a particular industry and then shift to another tomorrow. To a degree that's true; it also proves to be self-limiting in the long run because the IT professionals who advance into management ranks are the ones who are the most business-savvy.

They are also the same individuals who can bridge the historic divide between IT and the business, especially as it seems right now that IT is doing more to understand the business than business executives are doing to understand IT. The good news is that many business executives are at least cognizant of the fact that IT is a critical enabler for reinventing business processes that ultimately cut costs for the business, as opposed to being a cost center that needs to cut to the bone. The problem is that there's a huge chasm between understanding that conceptually and actually being IT-literate enough to execute it.

Perhaps this situation will improve as a new generation of IT-literate business executives moves up the management ranks. But in the meantime, IT people, notes Luftman, have a lot more cause for optimism than dismay.

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Aug 26, 2011 9:49 AM Jeff Jeff  says:

With the endless variety of technologies there are in the landscape, how exactly do you propose that individuals "stay current on the technology"?  Even within a single language or stack this is difficult, and specialization is risky (and undesirable for some of us).  It's not possible to be up on all of it, and trends of popularity aren't necessarily easy to predict with any accuracy (even for analysts looking at it specifically).  I don't think it's unreasonable to "labor under the impression" that companies should provide the training.  After all, if companies are having that much trouble filling positions due to apparent lack of skills in the marketplace, where exactly do they expect those skills to come from?  This is especially true of the senior-level skils expected in often very new technologies; training isn't able to provide this, only actual work experience can.  Unemployed people can't necessarily afford to get the necessary training, and employed people don't necessarily want to spend the little bit of time they get for themselves on more crap for work.  If Company A doesn't want to provide training, why should it expect that Company B or anyone else to do so and inject the market with ready talent?  The disconnect, as I see it, is in unrealistic expectations by companies coupled with unwillingness to make necessary and reasonable compromises and invest in the employees they have.  You get what you pay for.


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