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The Future of Jobs in IT

October 15, 2018

With this post, I am finishing the series on who does what job in IT and what their job titles are. Now that many jobs have been described and discussed, what kind of future can you expect in job categories like project manager, IT specialists, IT architects and others? Let’s explore the future.

What Factors Influence the Future of IT Work?
The future is not easy to predict, but we know some things about the present, so we can build a model and use it to anticipate the future. Consider these four variables:
  1. The impact of innovation (internal or external to the company)
  2. Availability of skilled human resources
  3. What companies do in IT (an IT company that uses IT compared to a company that produces products like clothing or appliances and uses IT)
  4. How companies use their human IT resources—main or secondary
Impact of Innovation
Innovation can really shake things up. I remember when mainframe OS automation evolved from homegrown CLISTs using automation tools from IBM and others to robust commercial products supporting the complex systems we observe in almost every commercial installation. The impact of this innovation was a significant change to the job of computer operators. Some operator jobs were eliminated and some operators became administrators of the automation system and software that completely changed computer operations.

At present, there are less than 20 job openings listed for mainframe computer operator on Clearly, that instance of innovation had a big impact on IT people who operated computers. Now, we experience completely automated startup, shut down and recovery actions. Sure, humans have a big role to play, but the software controls the main actions and sequence.

Availability of Skilled Resources  
Rapid technological advances and the digitization of the workplace are making it more challenging for workers to match their skill sets with the needs of employers. These are not necessarily IT jobs, but jobs impacted by IT. The size of the problem varies from country to country, but is particularly bad in Japan, where more than 80 percent of firms have difficulty finding qualified employees, according to recent data from The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the economy will need as many as 100,000 new information technology workers per year over the next decade. Right now, only about 60,000 of these workers enter the workforce each year. Some areas of IT employment are experiencing severe shortages. There are plenty of cybersecurity positions, but there are not enough qualified candidates. Businesses are experiencing significant delays, six months or more, in order to fill IT security job openings. Some organizations are finding that many (half or more) of the cybersecurity job applicants are not qualified for the job. In the U.S., every year, employers are failing to fill 40,000 information security analyst jobs. That number is closer to 200,000 when you include all IT security-related jobs.

What Companies do in IT
Companies that create IT services and products experience labor challenges more severely than companies that don’t. In fact, they have the double-sided challenge of staffing the company personnel to create and grow products and services, as well as support their own internal IT department. These companies have recruited IT people in every way possible and many have built facilities in countries where IT labor is more available and at a lower cost.

You don’t have to be an IT company to make the most of IT. Think about Uber, a peer-to-peer ridesharing, taxicab, food delivery, bicycle-sharing and transportation network company with operation in 785 metropolitan areas worldwide. Their IT assets are key to making their basic business work. When you think about it, the same is true of banks, insurance companies and so many of the other enterprises that touch our lives through technology.

How Companies Use These Human IT Resources
For some companies, IT people are direct revenue-generating resources. They help carry out projects or administer on-going programs for paying customers. Just because they generate revenue doesn’t mean that their future is assured. Over time, there are cost pressures on contracts that encourage companies to do less with more or seek lower-cost labor. Working on these contracts can be very challenging.

Other IT employees generate revenue in a less direct way. Consider software developers who help create and support commercial products that generate revenue. The developers are a cost center, but without them, there would be no product or service to sell. It’s very difficult to estimate the revenue or profit they generate. This Quora post contains a good example of the discussion that this topic generates.

Implications for You in This Discussion?
The usefulness of a model like this is that it provides a framework for exploring the topic. But what is the future of IT jobs? We know that innovation can cause disruption, so you want to benefit from this disturbance in some way if possible. IT people who learn quickly can benefit by aligning themselves with innovation initiatives or companies and seek those jobs. Since the median tenure for workers ages 25 to 34 is 3.2 years, you can align or realign with innovation somewhat frequently, always mindful of anticipating the next shift.  

Since there is a global shortage of skilled workers, those workers who maintain and develop their skills can command a better salary. IT workers must focus incessantly on their skills—technical, business communication—the whole package. You see this clearly when you look at job finding sites. Employers are looking for balanced individuals who know how to work and communicate and who can master a wide variety of technologies. Lifelong learning needs to be factored into the workweek and not something that gets put off for another time.

It’s not so clear if you want to work for a “computer company” or a company that uses computers. Due to the growth and importance of IT in the last five decades, you don’t need to work for a computer software and services company to have a really interesting and satisfying IT job. It has become easier to find companies that have a real need for skilled IT people in every sector imaginable.

Posted October 15, 2018| Permalink