What will the major IT issues be for 2001? Not surprisingly, many, like staffing and the creation of a Chief Knowledge Officer, are holdovers from 2000. This year may mark the emergence of the Chief Strategy Officer, or CSO. The CSO’s role is to ensure that an organization’s e-business solutions are competitive.

Here’s a closer look.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the critical shortage of Information Technology (IT) workers has been projected to last until the year 2006. The agency also projects that the United States will need 1.3 million new highly skilled Information Technology workers in the coming years.

A separate study of CEOs conducted by Coopers & Lybrand Consulting reported that nearly half of America’s fastest-growing technology companies are understaffed.

Why are businesses constantly struggling to find IT workers? Because the need for workers has outstripped the supply, said Corey D. Schou, associate dean of Information Systems (IS) and director of the National Information Assurance Technology & Education Center at Idaho State University in Pocatello, ID.

“Between 1994 and 2005, more than a million new computer scientists, engineers, systems analysts, and computer programmers will be required in the United States—an average of 95,000 per year.”

In the midst of the national shortage, new tech trends will continue to emerge and create a slew of new jobs.

Biotechnology and knowledge management
Any tech job having to do with biotechnology is in demand, according to David Smith, vice president of technology forecasting company Technology Futures in Austin, TX.

“We are leaving the age of physics and entering the age of biotechnology,” he said. “Biotechnology careers will be embracing the computer industry, for example, with specialties in DNA and optical memory computing.”

Smith also cites knowledge management as a field that’s coming into its own. The CKO (Chief Knowledge Officer) was just another trendy acronym a couple of years ago. Now it’s a serious high-level job at FORTUNE 500 companies like Xerox, General Motors, and EDS (Electronic Data Systems).

A CKO’s value lies in translating data into knowledge, Smith said. “We have so much data in our systems, we don’t know what to do with it.”

E-companies, for example, aggregate enormous amounts of information about their customers. A knowledge manager can analyze it to design a better marketing or sales program.

So far, candidates from assorted disciplines such as marketing, strategic planning, or operations are filling most CKO slots. For techies to transition to a CKO slot, “they must evaluate knowledge rather than data,” adds Smith. “That requires a new way of thinking.”

Chief Strategy Officer
Ready for a new acronym? Make way for the CSO (Chief Strategy Officer).

Mike Caggiano, president of e-business consulting company FutureNext, Inc., in McLean, VA, coined the acronym. He predicts e-companies will create the job as the market becomes more competitive and complex. He envisions Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) morphing into CSOs.

Caggiano’s CSO, for example, evaluates new technologies to determine which ones can better serve his clients. “Recently, trading exchange software prices have dropped,” he said. “Our job is to evaluate the software’s value to see if it can be improved. Maybe there is a new technology that can replace it. The goal is to help an e-business become more competitive.”

Caggiano also points to the rapid pace of technological change as justification for a CSO. “The sheer volume of solutions out there makes choosing the right one a strategic decision,” he said.

An ideal CSO has a broad understanding of the marketplace and understands both technology and business needs. “It could be someone who came up through the IT or marketing ranks,” Caggiano said. “Ideally, it takes a jack-of-all-trades and a master of all of them to fill the job.”

On the engineering front, the overall market is excellent for 2001, said Donna Beyer, associate director of Career Development at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ.

“There is a significant increase in demand for electrical engineers,” she said. “Electrical engineers are getting job offers in the technology and manufacturing industries, to name two, and civil engineers are considering offers from companies ranging from environmental to transportation. Our chemical engineers have seen an increase in offers from pharmaceutical companies in particular.”

Like last year, Beyer says computer engineers and computer science majors continue to walk away with the biggest salaries and bonuses.
What will be the hot jobs this year? Send your predictions to us in an e-mail, or start a discussion below.