Demand for Traditional IT Skills Takes a Dive


To rip off a famous advertising slogan from General Motors, the IT jobs of the next decade and beyond won't be your father's IT jobs. Or for that matter, your existing IT jobs.


One company that is changing its requirements for IT pros is KaMin LLC, a spinoff from chemical company J.M. Huber. In a recent Forbes interview about KaMin's IT strategy, Forbes asked CIO Senad Hadzic what he sought in an employee. His response:

What I'm looking for are people familiar with the business process. I'm hiring business analysts who can take IT to the higher level. The old way of looking at IT is gathering requirements, buying the equipment and turning it on. There's a big assumption there that people know what they want. In today's world everything changes so fast it's hard to pinpoint what people need. I'm looking for people who can take us to the next technological level. They have very profound business/leadership and project management. The technical skills are secondary. I can buy those off the shelf.

I cited a similar statement from Tim McLaine, global functional manager for data center services at Perot Systems, in a post about a desire for more business-oriented skills in the data center. A Network World story quoted McLaine as saying he'll hire IT pros with no data center or tactical experience as long as they are enthusiastic, passionate and energetic. In fact, he said, too much reliance on traditional skills (emphasis mine) could be a disadvantage in next-generation data centers.


So it's no surprise that some companies, including Google, eBay and Yahoo, are looking for a rarefied blend of financial analysis, mathematics and engineering skills in their new hires, as Computerworld reports. Earlier this year, Hal Varian, Google's chief economist, told The New York Times that statisticians would be the next "sexy" job in IT. ( I assume by "sexy," he means "desired.")


One of the experts interviewed by Computerworld is Gartner analyst Diane Morello, who predicted companies will create "outward-focused, business-driven competency centers" staffed by IT pros that specialize in areas key to achieving corporate goals, such as information integration or systems integration. That way, said Morello, companies "can leverage scarce and high-value talent that tend to get dismantled at the end of every project." This talent pool will be geographically distributed rather than working out of a central office, which means they'll need to be able to adapt to new conditions and work well with people they don't know.


Like experts I've cited in previous posts, Morello tapped project management, application development, relationships and sourcing management, and process design and management as skill sets companies will increasingly expect their employees to possess in addition to more traditional IT skills.


More predictions from Gartner:

  • By 2010, six out of 10 people affiliated with IT will assume business-facing roles.
  • IT organizations in midsize and large companies will be at least 30 percent smaller than they were in 2005.
  • Up to 15 percent of IT pros will leave the field as a result of the automation of tasks or because of a lack of interest in the sector.


Respondents to a recent Gartner CIO survey said they want IT pros who can manage processes and relationships. On the other hand, they'll be more likely to automate or offshore technology infrastructure and service jobs, including programming and operations work. Said Morello:

The more that [a task] can get codified or changed into explicit instructions or documentation, the more likely it can get transferred. The more likely it can be transferred, the more likely someone will come along and will develop tools to reduce even further the number of people required to do the job.

Guess who creates this documentation and figures out how to streamline these tasks? Yep, IT pros. As Hackett Group research officer Michel Janssen told me when I interviewed him about the loss of back-office jobs over the past decade:

A good part of those jobs are going away because of productivity. And IT is a primary driver of productivity. It's not a movement of jobs in many cases, it's just an elimination. Why have a whole floor of accounts payable clerks going through invoices when you can automatically route those through systems? IT is aiding and abetting productivity. It's a one-two punch. We've always thrived with productivity. The cost of an accounts-payable transaction is a lot cheaper if it's automated. Nobody thinks it's a good thing to have those 50 accounts payable clerks on the third floor.

David Foote, CEO and chief research officer of IT management consultancy and wor kforce research firm Foote Partners LLC, believes "enabler jobs" such as business enterprise architects, business technologists, systems analysts and project managers will be most in demand in the near future.


Computerworld lists some "hot" and "cold" jobs for 2010, many of which echo IT job outlook forecasts from Robert Half International. Both think IT security planning and management will be a high-growth area, for example. Research company IDC agrees, predicting the number of IT security pros will grow nearly 30 percent this year, hitting 2 million. But skills associated with data continuity and recovery will be increasingly relegated to third-party providers.