The State of the IT Community

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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.