Tech & Work

Enterprise software development: Do we have an age problem?

Larry Dignan thinks business technology may be in need of a youth movement as software developers flock to consumer applications.

This is a guest post from Larry Dignan of TechRepublic's sister site ZDNet. You can follow Larry on his ZDNet blog Between the Lines, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Business technology may be in need of a youth movement as software developers flock to consumer applications. Where will corporations find the next generation of enterprise software talent?

That question has come up a lot in recent days. The age factor in enterprise technology has become a common theme. To wit:

  • On the Enterprise Irregular email list, one member, who was recruiting developers for a startup, concluded that "the enterprise applications game is for the 30 and over crowd and is completely irrelevant to people under this age." He contrasted the talent environment today relative to 2000 when companies like PeopleSoft, i2 and Ariba were recruiting young bucks. Simply put, all the recruitment in enterprise technology revolves around people already in the corporate IT game. Where's the next generation?
  • At SAP Sapphire, you couldn't help but wonder about the same point raised above. There weren't a lot of 20-somethings pondering SAP, sustainability and in-memory databases.
  • Rimini Street CEO Seth Ravin noted that his recruiting focused on the older IT engineers. That move makes sense since Rimini Street specializes in supporting legacy applications. Ravin noted that he had a few 60-year-old folks running around the company. Ravin said he had little interest in building a farm team because experience provides more return on his engineering dollar.

The big question: Could Ravin build a farm team if he wanted to? The following thoughts are meant to spur an open thread and start a discussion. Are these fears about aging enterprise technology talent warranted?

A few initial thoughts:

  • It's unclear whether there's an age issue in enterprise technology. On the surface, an older demographic just makes sense. You simply become more business focused as you age. However, it could be disconcerting if no next generation emerges despite the market possibilities and big corporate challenges ahead.
  • Meanwhile, it's also possible that the young enterprise technology talent is going to next-gen business technology companies like Google, Salesforce.com and VMware.
  • And what's the effect of outsourcing? It's possible that the next-generation enterprise technology talent isn't in the U.S. Perhaps, the next generation of business technology talent is in India working on low-level services, but setting up to take over higher value projects. Have engineers been commoditized to the point where there's no interest from the younger set? In other words, an aging business technology workforce may be a side effect of hollowing out the talent pool due to outsourcing.

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