Now that you recognize the large number of undocumented technical positions available you must also consider that many of these positions exist outside of traditional IT departments. The Department of Labor not only underestimated the number of IT jobs available but you can rest assured that they also miscalculated the number of job seekers by a similar factor.The news gets worse. Over the last two years of tightened budgets, downscaled resources, and reduced staffing IT, like the rest of the organization, has had to do more with less. And this trend will continue over the next 2 years with IT seeing only marginal growth. I believe that the days of IT as an accepted cost item on financial statements are gone, and that IT’s positioning within the organizational framework will never be the same.
The vast majority of organizations are seeing IT fulfill their increasing responsibilities despite large cutbacks. Slow sales and reduced revenue forced businesses to say, “We can’t afford it.” But now that businesses have continued to function with minimal or no impacts, they’ve made the significant turnaround to, “We can do without it.” They’ve come to expect more for less; more agility, more deliverables, more functionality, and faster responsiveness; less hassle, less time to delivery, and fewer required resources. The spell is broken.
“Why the change?” and “Why now?” you ask. IT has weathered many storms including the influx of outsourced services. No single factor is the root cause of the coming IT shift. It is the combined effect of changes in people, processes, and technology that changes how IT services fit into today’s organizations. Let’s look at several of these influences.
Technology savvy business professionals. This signals the decreased need for outside technical skills and the closing of the skills gap between technical and business professionals. Businesses won’t need technical professionals to implement, maintain, and support systems; they’ll do it themselves.
Cloud Computing. If you don’t know that cloud computing is so mainstream that Google offers services through their web site then you’ve been, well, in a cloud. Even Microsoft is beta-testing their own service packages so we’ve definitely moved from emerging technology to mass consumption.
Many organizations are making the business transition to managed services in the form of cloud computing, for very practical financial reasons. It’s an easy decision to choose SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS during volatile times when investments in long-term projects, costly infrastructure, and permanent employees are beyond an organization’s reach. Even before the economy recovers and investments increase, these services will be commonplace and considered best practices within most organizations.
Open Source. What better way to eliminate the cost of expensive software then to use open source to extend the functionality of existing technology. The process starts with searching for open source that already meets your needs; in this case, it’s a simple installation. If existing code is not available then the next step is to identify the code that can be customized to fit your organization’s specific needs.
A collaborative environment of open source appeals to many developers for two reasons; they can help shape software functionality and they are not at the mercy of what vendors decide to do. Developers no longer need to create anything from scratch or work with troublesome off-the-shelf commercial software; what they get for using open source is more functionality in less time.
Mashups. Open source is but one alternative to costly vendor products or time-consuming custom development. Another recent option comes in the form of mashups – web applications that use and combine data, function, and presentation from many different sources. The ability to quickly integrate existing web services through open APIs makes it practical to create rich, robust applications with a minimum of software development. One company, for example, recently enhanced their delivery system with a mashup with route planning software and Google Maps. With minimal software development they achieved faster delivery at lower cost, with fewer drivers and trucks on the road and fewer miles driven.
Competition for technical positions in and outside of IT departments will continue to be staggering. Even in the midst of this bad news opportunity exists for those individuals with the right set of skills in specific areas to succeed. In my next article, I’ll discuss how you can find your way in this varied landscape, and I’ll describe the skills and talents that you need to distinguish yourself from all the other IT professionals.