The Coming IT Labor Crisis

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Top Ten IT Labor Issues for 2011

A list of the top 10 challenges facing IT workers today.

There was a time when no one could imagine that autoworkers would be scrambling to find jobs. A trip to Detroit was a visit to a vast economic ecosystem all built around the manufacturing and distribution of cars, trucks and anything else that required wheels and an engine to run.

Then, of course, the entire auto market collapsed when global manufacturers started relying more on automation to cut costs and increase quality. Unfortunately, a lot of folks in the auto industry didn't really appreciate the full importance of this event, which is why Detroit is a very different place today than it was in the 1960s.

As we approach Labor Day, now might be a good time to take a look at what's happening in IT, because the parallels with the auto industry are striking. Globalization of IT services has arrived and IT automation, while still nascent, is upon us. No amount of complaining is going to change that reality; the question is how to best respond to it.

According to UC4 Software CEO Jason Liu, the need to cut costs in a downturn while at the same time increasing revenues by adding additional service is spurring a lot of the interest in IT automation. Liu says UC4, which provides a suite of IT automation tools, has seen a sharp increase in interest from companies trying to automate routine IT functions to better cope with the complexities of virtualization and cloud computing. But just as importantly, Liu says customers are also trying to automate entire business processes that span multiple applications. The reality of the situation, however, is that they can't afford to keep throwing IT people at the problem, so they naturally look for ways to automate as many functions as possible.

None of this, notes Liu, is about breaking the back of the IT staff. It's really a productivity issue that happens to affect IT, which today is at the root of most modern business processes. To be successful in this environment, Liu says IT organizations need to really understand what's in a particular application workload, and just as importantly, its relationship to every other application workload. That's not a task that can be easily accomplished in the era of the cloud without relying more on IT automation, notes Liu.

More reliance on increased automation may not be what every politician wants to hear, but it's a new jobs creation reality that affects people both inside and out of IT. In the IT sector, it's estimated that there are roughly 400,000 open IT positions that many companies are having trouble filling. Some of that may have as much to do with the salaries being offered as it does with the skills needed to fill those jobs. It's hard, for example, to find people who are fully certified on virtualization technologies. But at the same time, it's also becoming apparent that a lot of routine IT tasks associated with configuring and managing applications and systems will soon be automated. That presents the entire IT community with a significant challenge in that many folks may soon find that their current skill set has been made obsolete.

With the coming of Labor Day, a lot of IT folks are looking forward to some well-deserved days off. But when it comes to the current IT job market, the outlook is at best mixed. There's still a lot of demand for IT folks, but unless IT people keep their skills current on the latest technologies, they may soon find that the current level of demand for their skills might not always be there.