Leadership

The future of IT will be reduced to three kinds of jobs

The IT profession and the IT job market are in the midst of seismic changes that are going to shift the focus to three types of jobs.

There's a general anxiety that has settled over much of the IT profession in recent years. It's a stark contrast to the situation just over a decade ago. At the end of the 1990s, IT pros were the belles of the ball. The IT labor shortage regularly made headlines and IT pros were able to command excellent salaries by getting training and certification, job hopping, and, in many cases, being the only qualified candidate for a key position in a thinly-stretched job market. At the time, IT was held up as one of the professions of the future, where more and more of the best jobs would be migrating as computer-automated processes replaced manual ones.

Unfortunately, that idea of the future has disappeared, or at least morphed into something much different.

The glory days when IT pros could name their ticket evaporated when the Y2K crisis passed and then the dot com implosion happened. Suddenly, companies didn't need as many coders on staff. Suddenly, there were a lot fewer startups buying servers and hiring sysadmins to run them.

Around the same time, there was also a general backlash against IT in corporate America. Many companies had been throwing nearly-endless amounts of money at IT projects in the belief that tech was the answer to all problems. Because IT had driven major productivity improvements during the 1990s, a lot of companies over-invested in IT and tried to take it too far too fast. As a result, there were a lot of very large, very expensive IT projects that crashed and burned.

When the recession of 2001 hit, these massively overbuilt IT departments were huge targets for budget cuts and many of them got hit hard. As the recession dragged out in 2002 and 2003, IT pros mostly told each other that they needed to ride out the storm and that things would bounce back. But, a strange thing happened. IT budgets remained flat year after year. The rebound never happened.

Fast forward to 2011. Most IT departments are a shadow of their former selves. They've drastically reduced the number of tech support professionals, or outsourced the help desk entirely. They have a lot fewer administrators running around to manage the network and the servers, or they've outsourced much of the data center altogether. These were the jobs that were at the center of the IT pro boom in 1999. Today, they haven't totally disappeared, but there certainly isn't a shortage of available workers or a high demand for those skill sets.

That's because the IT environment has changed dramatically. More and more of traditional software has moved to the web, or at least to internal servers and served through a web browser. Many technophobic Baby Boomers have left the workforce and been replaced by Millennials who not only don't need as much tech support, but often want to choose their own equipment and view the IT department as an obstacle to productivity. In other words, today's users don't need as much help as they used to. Cynical IT pros will argue this until they are blue in the face, but it's true. Most workers have now been using technology for a decade or more and have become more proficient than they were a decade ago. Plus, the software itself has gotten better. It's still horribly imperfect, but it's better.

So where does that leave today's IT professionals? Where will the IT jobs of the future be?

1. Consultants

Let's face it, all but the largest enterprises would prefer to not to have any IT professionals on staff, or at least as few as possible. It's nothing personal against geeks, it's just that IT pros are expensive and when IT departments get too big and centralized they tend to become experts at saying, "No." They block more progress than they enable. As a result, we're going to see most of traditional IT administration and support functions outsourced to third-party consultants. This includes a wide range from huge multi-national consultancies to the one person consultancy who serves as the rented IT department for local SMBs. I'm also lumping in companies like IBM, HP, Amazon AWS, and Rackspace, who will rent out both data center capacity and IT professionals to help deploy, manage, and troubleshoot solutions. Many of the IT administrators and support professionals who currently work directly for corporations will transition to working for big vendors or consultancies in the future as companies switch to purchasing IT services on an as-needed basis in order to lower costs, get a higher level of expertise, and get 24/7/365 coverage.

2. Project managers

Most of the IT workers that survive and remain as employees in traditional companies will be project managers. They will not be part of a centralized IT department, but will be spread out in the various business units and departments. They will be business analysts who will help the company leaders and managers make good technology decisions. They will gather business requirements and communicate with stakeholders about the technology solutions they need, and will also be proactive in looking for new technologies that can transform the business. These project managers will also serve as the company's point of contact with technology vendors and consultants. If you look closely, you can already see a lot of current IT managers morphing in this direction.

3. Developers

By far, the area where the largest number of IT jobs is going to move is into developer, programmer, and coder jobs. While IT used to be about managing and deploying hardware and software, it's going to increasingly be about web-based applications that will be expected to work smoothly, be self-evident, and require very little training or intervention from tech support. The other piece of the pie will be mobile applications -- both native apps and mobile web apps. As I wrote in my article, We're entering the decade of the developer, the current changes in IT are "shifting more of the power in the tech industry away from those who deploy and support apps to those who build them." This trend is already underway and it's only going to accelerate over the next decade.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

406 comments
TimMartin01
TimMartin01

No one can predict what will happen for the future of IT, but the points you mentioned were not much relevant. According to the current situations as far as the jobs related to developers this will always provide the good opportunities.

gabimbola
gabimbola

Only 3 jobs? Are kidding? We will only have one job: sit down and watch robots do the job for us. In fact, we won't have any data center. They will all be in the cloud (heaven) to manned by angels. Jason, go back and do your research again. IT will continue to evolve, and there will be more types of job in IT.

SaabNut
SaabNut

My company did outsource. My company got tired of waiting on hold to ask a simple "how do I format this" question, waiting out that 4 hour "allowable response time" window when the server was down, tired of having a printer down all day because no one could find the paper jam, tired of having to call yet another company if they wanted to update the web page, tired of paying triple time if a tech was needed after hours, on a weekend or holiday. So they decided to scrap the outsource companies and hire me at a fat salary which is still less then they paid previously to do all these jobs. Lastly a friend once asked me: doesn't it worry you as computers get easier and easier to use that you won't be needed? No. The easier that computer is to use, the less that they fail, the MORE I will be needed when something DOES go wrong. "Millenials" won't have a clue what it means to use a floppy disk, or a USB today, to get a computer to boot that has completely failed because they never had to. PLEASE make computers even easier, Microsoft, Apple and the rest... :D

jambbleit12
jambbleit12

The interesting part about Business process outsourcing it increases the speed of several business processes and the company’s flexibility.

Jeremy.cissell
Jeremy.cissell

Im not disagreeing, but Im sure it wont be as clear cut as that. But we are definitely reorganizing the IT industry. And consultants are becoming much more Prevalant

capeterson67
capeterson67

I am seeing a trend back to full time IT staff by many organizations who tried and were dissatisfied with contracted-out IT service either due to availability or cost. It may be that in some markets there are lots of Contracting firms with plenty of software and hardware engineers and can handle all the needs of that market. It may also be that in some markets every small business and public or non-profit organization can afford the rates that these businesses charge. That isn't so in my area. I have clients from Columbus and Cleveland OH. to Erie and Pittsburgh PA. I have seen many organizations come to me because they cannot afford the rates of larger contracting firms, some of them trying to sell them high priced solutions they don't need. When I tell them when I can start their project or how many hours a week I have to give to them for general repair and maintenance, they often ask me if I am interested in a full time position. I think there is a real movement back toward full time IT staffs but they are going to be smaller, as you noted, but also not as well paid as they were 10 years ago. In my experience, it is no longer cheaper to bring in a contractor unless it is someone like me, a one man band with a variety of skills, or a start-up that does not have an established clientele. There was a time when pre-paid service contracts were the rage but now fewer businesses and organizations want to make that initial investment that they aren't sure they will absolutely need. As for end-users becoming more tech savvy...it makes sense in theory but I am not seeing it in the field. For every smart salesperson who has mastered his IPad or Iphone, there are 100 office managers, secretaries who haven't the faintest clue about how their CRM software works or how to create a macro in Excel or why the latest HP drivers don't just work or how to rescue a corrupt PST file, let alone know a thing about Exchange...which many smaller companies began to use with the release of Server2003 Small Business. The problem is they don't want to pay for regular administration and maintenance. They call you when it has blown up.

terry_jones
terry_jones

How about SEO skills? Are they going to be relevant at all?

diman75
diman75

What an absolute load of baloney. As it was well noted by one of the commentators, using Facebook and Tweeter doesn't make you specialist. I work as an IT tech in one of the largest private schools in Canada and believe me even with today's level of automation, we have no shortage of people having trouble with their hardware or software for that matter and their lack of technical knowledge regardless of their age group. Some people just don't learn. And why would they if there is an IT department near by.

Antony Awaida
Antony Awaida

Despite all the investments in IT productivity tools, we continue to see more IT workers not less. IT work will migrate to deal with other issues: Dealing with a plethora of apps and app stores, Multiple devices per user, BYOD etc... Our company has developed a solution to help with the above.

fsa_b4u
fsa_b4u

Please go back and do your research properly and re-rewrite this article. Then I hope you will not write what you have written now.

bestquality1111
bestquality1111

The future of IT is mobile and cloud and jobs in this field

csimpson
csimpson

I really wish people would stop with "Mobile" this that and the other thing. I wrote an article for a newspaper over ten years ago "Telecommuting Is For The Birds". It focused upon the concept of no face time equals no regrets when laying you off. After all nobody knows you, so mobody will miss you. Going "mobile" is the current equivalent of telecommuting. It simply means "I'm too dam flakey to show up for work". If you have any common sense, or work ethic, you'll avoid wearing that label. For that reason "mobile" apps will never rise up to the top of the food chain because the peeps who use them are the first to get laid off.

ami.vider
ami.vider

I just started reading "Mastery, the keys to success and long-term fulfillment" by George Leonard. What he says fits perfectly well with this article. A view that everything has to be done quickly. The idea that "project manager" is a most desired role in the future assumes that IT is down to buying something from a big vendor (Oracle, IBM, CA, Microsoft), getting it installed, and we are off to "rock & roll". Maybe that's what you see here on Tech Republic (or is it what you are reading on other blogs?) In reality there are still lots of jobs for DB admins, because most DBs are still not created well, not maintained, and are not useful to most users. There are still lots of need for storage and infrastructure and networking and maintaining and upgrading both personal machines and servers and storage and.... most IT departments still have lots to offer companies that want and need good working tools. The sad part is that the trend to go fast and win big (or is it win on Donald Trump's The Apprentice?) probably don't need good tools. The simple fact is, today's work is done on computers and it's done with sophisticated tools and structure. If you don't have it, you simply can't work smart. If you can't work smart, you are going to work harder and even then you will not be able to "win" in the eyes of your customers and competing with other companies. Anyway, looks like we are still in this myopic endless loop :)

kturner1
kturner1

In my experience, IT professionals need to have skills in all of these areas.

brendanspaar
brendanspaar

I agree with everything above except for the part about developers. I have seen more than my share of development work shipped to India in the last 3 years. A project manager will generally manage a team of offshore developers with a small shell of American developers writing technical requirements and implementing the project. I would replace developers with System Engineers because I don't see a lot of companies outsourcing their datacenter. The data center is the brains of the operation and most companies want to hold on to the keys to their kingdom. Think about all of the IP that is contained in a data center. Would you want Coke and Pepsi both colocated in the same datacenter? Food for thought. - Brendan Spaar, Tech blogger from Alpharetta GA

sjzizou
sjzizou

wat does it take for a fresher to become a project manager n is dis equation rite,,,,,.......... project manager= gud communication skills + a gud knowledge of ur product(d company's product)

jcball5
jcball5

We are of the generation that put people on the moon. The Millennials are of the generation of "where is the moon?" I should know- I am raising/have raised 4 of them. Most of their friends cannot find Canada on a map and I had one working in my office that was not aware that Hawaii was a State and not its own country....

turbobeagle
turbobeagle

Wow...you've completely ignored the process and knowledge base by which all of the vast amounts of data will be turned into something meaningful and valuable. We're back to where IT stands for "a group of programmers". ???

Marc Jellinek
Marc Jellinek

>> They [Project Managers] will be business analysts who will help the company leaders and managers make good technology decisions. They will gather business requirements and communicate with stakeholders about the technology solutions they need, and will also be proactive in looking for new technologies that can transform the business. These project managers will also serve as the company’s point of contact with technology vendors and consultants.

hallettguy
hallettguy

IT will be back. You will never replace us completely. The job will grow and we are very capable of adapting. The millenials are hopeless. I'm Gen X and have my BAS in ISS. I also have over 7 years of Network admin Experience. It Spans from Apple, Linux, and Microsoft in every way. The younger generation can play around on websites and apps but have no idea what to do when it doesn't work. There were people in my graduating class that didn't. There is still very few with the real reliable knowledge and for us jobs and salary is chock full of opportunity.

Swampgrass
Swampgrass

Well, with all the fluff in PM, they can all live in the cloud I guess.

Swampgrass
Swampgrass

I've been in IT for 42 years now and will have to say management is as clueless and INEPT as ever. Just look at it this way. When IBM sold the first PCs to corporations way back in the early 1980s they sold management a BILL OF GOODs because they enticed the dumb managers with stories about how much money they would save on high-priced IT staff. Now that's really a hoot looking back because mainframe systems were A LOT less complex hardware wise than PCs and networks. In fact, there was NO such thing then as network engineers, desktop admins, help desk staff, server admins, ON and ON... I'm think CLOUD, hmmmm... Yeah right, you dumb managers should be able to fiire EVERYONE but yourself pretty soon. Keep dreaming.....

stellar_jay
stellar_jay

Absent from the article is the flood of visa workers that pushed several million American and green card residents out of the business. Companies outsourced to India what they could and imported Indian, Chinese, and Eastern European workers under restritive visas that kept them tied to their sponsor. This was done to reduce costs and it did. But now that we're seeing a lower demand for IT it also leaves us with more people with no place to work. Of the 30-40 people in IT that I knew in 2000 and kept in contact with only a hand full are still in IT. A few were lucking enough to retire but the rest of us have had to change to non-IT jobs. So the next time you read that the AEA claims a shortage of IT professionals read it as the AEA members believe that they can further reduce costs by importing more young, cheap, foreign workers.

svp4444
svp4444

This article is coming from a narrow view point. For some business (small) this may work but for Technology as part of the Enterprise no. The IT department has to be whole, to be truly effective. A solid IT Department structure has to consist of the following fundamentals. Experienced leadership, business intelligence, technology support services, Technology services administration, and governance. I agree that most IT departments have to adopt a less bureaucratic approach by positioning themselves as enablers of technology and partners with other departments. We need to change how we interact within the enterprise not lesson the department or the role within the enterprise. That would be bad.

Seotop
Seotop

Jason you have a point here! I'm absolutely agree with you.

ashadid
ashadid

I have been seeing more and more articles such as this one and must say that tech republic has been the source of most. I simply disagree based upon one simple premise; None of these new technology solutions (Cloud, software/ hardware, vendor..) do anything to address or bridge the gap between technology and the business process! This is the key as it was 15 years ago, today and I don't see that changing anytime soon. Consultants and Project managers have their place (which really hasn't changed either), but they are expensive options for the day-to-day operations.

briant11
briant11

That has a lot of promise for me, maybe in the future computer CPU's and Microprocessors can replace the human brain. They sure look smarter than we are. You are building the perfect machine, something that I fear can't be stopped by nothing. I hope you consider this carefully.

CyberlanTech
CyberlanTech

I have to agree with Armanita - I have a 21 yr old in college. I had purchased a wireless printer for him and his roommate so they could print papers, etc. As a long-standing technologist of nearly 20 yrs, I had to connect them to the printer. They weren't interested in even knowing how it was accomplished. some months later I had to help them reconfigure their Internet access. I went and purchased a Netgear N series wireless router so they could connect to the "outside" world (whatever happened to face-to-face meetings). They had no interest in such things. They knew they could ask me or find someone else to help them get their technology working so why bother. But...ask them to do a Google search, connect to each other on Skype, or open a Pages or Word doc and it's no problem. I believe support is not necessarily a dying art but the fact that it gets shipped to other countries is what hurts US the most.

ittechexec
ittechexec

I agree in orincipal with this post. I would add that infrastructure management roles in IT will be big as well. Of course, companies can hire third-party services, consultants, etc. to help them plan, deploy, and manage their infrastructure using IaaS. But with security, compliance, and IT governance concerns, many will want to retain some level of control and keep folks in-house. Still, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecasts for some IT roles through 2020. See blog post at www.mdalums95.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/it-job-growth-forecasts/

reisen55
reisen55

It is really nothing new. At Aon Group our main data center was located in Winston-Salem, NC - still is there by the way. All network traffic went through this focal point. Now, pardon me but is this not cloud storage??? Just because it is in our country and not outsourced to India? Cloud storage does not exist, nothing solid is IN the cloud, it just using the web as an ultra long cable to a server somewhere else. Cloud storage means you can dump the data center, fire the techs, create a nice coffee bar in room D36 and be happy. OH, yes when the web goes down? Well, you have better have a redundancy plan in place. OH, out for more than 2 days? Well maybe having those servers in D36 looks pretty good now, doesn't it.

mdehrlich
mdehrlich

What will happen to the operations and helpdesk as well as the system administrator positions? How will these people be retrained?

mdehrlich
mdehrlich

I have an extensive experience in operations and I am now looking for a helpdesk position. Where will all the low end jobs such as these go if that should happen. Will the staff be able to get retrained for a new job? Mark Ehrlich

muncho62
muncho62

I am an old IT Pro with 18 years in the field, I have experienced all you mentioned in the article. The large corporation I work for outsourced its IT entirely to a large vendor and overseas outsourcing for help desk, and us that remained migrated toward web based development. But there are major flaws in outsourcing that these companies look past in the hopes of achieving cost savings. This has caused a major issue in job productivity and efficiency. Most users cannot get satisfactory resolutions to their pc troubles in a timely manner, due to lack of ability from the help desk, who mainly use a script to try and solve issues and/or problems in communication because the help desk cannot speak english well. This causes frustration and alot of our employees resort to just asking for one of the local desktop people which is woefully understaffed. 1 person for a 14 story office building. Hours of downtime for a worker in my opinion ends up costing more than what they are saving.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

I do agree to a point that support is changing. I once worked for a company that had 200+ corporate users and over 2000 remote users. This company requires a dedicated corporate support person and five techs supporting the remote users. That was in addition to a manned helpdesk of about seven or eight people taking calls and triaging issues. I no longer work for that company but the last time I checked there was no dedicated corporate tech and only two techs handling the remote users. Technology has improved to the point were support requires less man power but on the flip side, techs need to be more knowledgable because the improving technology has opened up venues like virtualization that were not around ten years ago.

iposner
iposner

If the mobile revolution proves one thing, it's that users, given the choice, prefer a fat client. Yes, those "apps" are fat clients, but fat clients that no longer have the impediment of difficult installation due to the easy app stores that have appeared on different platforms. The web ain't the future for application development. It's the past. Get over it.

brettwar
brettwar

In my experience I've found that the current users need as much tech support as they have always needed. Sure, they can fiddle away for hours doing pre-set instruction but even when the simplest things go wrong, they are up a creek without a paddle.. The society is based on texting, facebook and music.. Everything else that actually provides productivity (or work) is far lacking... If your staff maintains IT personal you will do well. For those that skimp and save will be in chaos in no time, sure they will still be producing but the equipment will be borderline extinct.

troy2
troy2

I agree that IT jobs will be grouped into less and less functions but this assumption lacks the end of the cycle. As coders enter and flood the market ( in progress ) they too will become more and more extinct and their functions will become dumbed down too. There won't be the need for so many millions of apps, the next great thing will come out and apps will seem less useful. You also missed the break-fix guys. No matter what you will always need hardware guys. Desktop techs or whatever you want to call them. Even if your users are all outfitted with star trek communicators, you will need somebody to get them working. Depressing to me because honestly web-apps are not always the best solution. Companies went from a secure place of hosting their own data to now dispersing it into the web where it can easily be hacked and I guess you just hope it's backed up? Spooky, how come nobody has raised the flag on that?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

1) Because that's not particularly interesting 2) Because out in the real world, it's more than likely neither of those things will end up being true, if they ever were...

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

The future of Mobile and Cloud is IT, there are and will be jobs in this field...

spimsonidiot
spimsonidiot

@csimpson Your talking about something completely unrelated to what was previously mentioned. Mobile and telecommuting are on opposites end. When he mentioned mobile, he was referring to the movement of technology to portable and handheld devices(ie. your mobile phone, tablet, etc). Telecommuting is a business issue, not technology which we were just talking about. How about you actually read the comment, not just a few keywords before firing back your moronic response about something you wrote 10 years ago. Tech has evolved since then buddy, nothing is the same. I bet your one of those guys who claims hes an IT pro, but once faced with a problem you fail miserably. Nut up or shut up csimpson.

capeterson67
capeterson67

because I see this often. There are smart, ambitious young graduates out there but they are outnumbered by legions of kids that get passed through the system without learning the most basic things.

ittechexec
ittechexec

I agree. People mistake a general knowledge of newer applications as a sign that a person is tech savvy and doesn't need IT support. That's a big error in judgment. Of course they need support. They only know what they know, and social media platforms isn't very much =)

capeterson67
capeterson67

What happens when your internet connection goes down? What happens when one of the 1000 routers between you and your hosted apps/data goes belly up?

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

At the government agency at which I worked, some outside company did the fixing. Boeing has taken that in hand as well. IT continues to be depopulated.