In IT in 2009/2010, It'll Be about Jobs and Budgets


In my last post, I took a historical perspective on the relationship between previous stock market "corrections" and major changes in the IT market during those same periods. Those changes were the switch from mainframes to minis in the 70s; the switch from minis to PCs in the 80s and early 1990s; and the movement to making PC technology into commodity servers earlier this decade. If history serves its usual function of telegraphing the future, what similar changes can we expect from the September/October 2008 financial market "break?"


In writing this series of posts on the stock-market/credit-crunch/recession, I am assuming we are near another Dow low that affects IT. I am also assuming just a recession is coming, as opposed to a total depression. I consider the future implications for both IT guys and the IT market in two chunks: the near-term (2009-2010) and the long-term (2011-forward).


In the near term, this will not be about technology changes. It will be about jobs and budgets. This recent blogpost on Techworld Australia discusses the effect of open source software on IT jobs, but many of the article's points apply if you change the words "open source" to "recession." There is an IT skills shortage and competent IT people will find work despite a downturn. In other downturns, you might have had to move geographically to take advantage, but telecommuting might make that less necessary in this downturn.


To key off the Techworld article, recessions make enterprises more agile and resourceful. IT can be a prime mover in enabling agility and resourcefulness. The opportunity for the IT individual and the team is to lead the agility movement rather than to wait for it to be imposed on them by C-level management.


The good news among the depressing headlines is that in this recession, for the first time in business history, IT is like some of the bailed-out companies that received all kinds of government money in the last few weeks. That is, IT is "too big to fail." IT is so intrinsic to the operations of every enterprise -- and more importantly, each enterprise's interaction with its customers and suppliers -- that its budget can't be arbitrarily cut.


But make sure you are employed in an industry you like because, going forward, your knowledge of IT's implications on your own company's business plans and the fortunes of the industry in which your own company plays is going to be more important than a "commodity" understanding of how the devices or software work.


The final post in this series will discuss what this all means for the years after 2009-2010, when the next boom begins.