Tech & Work

Are jobs for support pros disappearing?

Once upon a time, a job in IT seemed a fairly safe bet. But now the economy is in the tank and lots of companies are looking to streamline their workforce. Here are three trends that I worry might affect the security of your job.

Once upon a time, a job in IT seemed a fairly safe bet. But now the economy is in the tank and lots of companies are looking to streamline their workforce. Here are three trends that I worry might affect the security of your job.

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The news is regularly announcing job layoffs in every industry, and even giants like Microsoft aren't immune. I find myself wondering how this will affect IT pros that focus on providing user support. Here are three trends that I worry might affect the security of your job.

Support tasks can be handled by other technical employees.

I think a lot of businesses are rolling support duties into other IT positions. In some cursory research, I have seen a lot of jobs posted for network and system administrators that carry responsibility for fielding user support requests. It also seems common that in-house developers are now being expected to provide user support for the apps they develop. I'm not opposed to having some support duties taken on by other IT roles, but I worry that managers will think that doing so means they can eliminate the dedicated support pros.

Support roles can become contract positions.

Many of the user support jobs I have seen advertised are temporary contract positions. I can think of a couple of ways this might help a business economize. Perhaps support techs are being hired only for the duration of a particular project or system roll-out, or companies are attempting to save the cost of the benefits that a permanent position might merit. No matter what the justification, I don't want to see stable benefits-eligible positions be replaced by short-term contracts. I think that such a practice will create turnover and effectively cap the compensation that support techs might expect from the market.

Support capacity can be consolidated.

The tools exist that allow managers to decouple technical support from specific physical locations. Remote desktop tools mean a tech can troubleshoot machine or install software from anywhere. Outsourcing IT services entirely is also attractive in tough times. A lot of executives can't get over seeing technology as a cost center. Many managers might be tempted to trim down the support division, especially since it doesn't contribute as directly to revenue as some other IT personnel.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a business analyst, but as the market tightens and more people are put out of work, these are ideas that keep me awake at night. How do things look from where you sit? Are you seeing any of these trends in your organizations and communities? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments.

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