Project managers, network administrators, and business analysts
will be in growing demand during the first part of 2005, but they’ll need a new
set of skills to land the jobs, particularly in the areas of finance,
compliance, research and planning. That’s the opinion of Terry Phillips, branch
manager for Robert Half Technology’s Columbus, OH marketplace, and a long-time
technology recruiter and former techie. Phillips’ employer just released the Robert
Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report, which shows some hiring
optimism in 2005.

In a national poll that includes responses from more than
1,400 CIOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies, 11 percent of
CIOs polled said they’ll be adding staff in 2005, an uptick of 9 percent over
the previous quarter’s forecasts.

It won’t be blanket growth across all sectors, however, says

Growth sectors

The wholesale sector leads all industries in hiring
optimism, with 16 percent from this sector planning to staff more IT. CIOs from
retail, business services, finance, insurance and real estate industries also
anticipate notable employment gains.

Several factors are driving the positive hiring projections.
According to Phillips, these include:

  • Companies
    going through a refresh cycle to bring older technologies up to date.
  • Public
    companies responding to regulatory requirements, such as the
    Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, a law requiring public companies to follow
    strict requirements for financial record keeping and reporting.
  • General
    business expansion, requiring infrastructure expansion and more help
    desk/end-user support.
  • Increased
    attention to firewall administration and wireless network management.
  • Projects
    associated with SQL management and Cisco network administration.

Large public or soon-to-be public companies are driving much
of the projected job growth due to compliance needs pertaining to

“It has forced companies to spend money on compliancy,
where small firms haven’t necessarily been held to that standard,” said
Phillips. “I think smaller firms are getting into things like IT corporate
governance, but not to the full length that a public firm or a larger firm that
wants to go public.”

New job category

IT governance itself is creating a new job category for
people with CIO/CFO skills. “Instead of a CIO, there will be an individual
appointed at some of the larger firms to deal with the compliance aspect—sort
of like a Chief Compliance Officer,” said Phillips. The person will need a
CIO or CFO background and should have implemented a Sarbanes-Oxley compliance
project or corporate governance project.

Like the CIO, the network administrator, business analyst
and project manager will see evolution in their jobs.

A new breed of network administrator

Due to the increased use of automation in the network,
network administration jobs are going to evolve in two ways. In 2005, more
opportunities will arise for people with entry-level skills. Those net admins
with advanced networking skills will become less tactical and more strategic in
their jobs, requiring net admins to have strong business skills in research,
planning, and project management.

The shift to automation makes way for net admins who are
just starting their careers. “With automation, there is room for more
operational skill sets, which could be brought in and developed on an entry
level skill set,” says Phillips.

Project managers on the move

Project managers also find themselves in demand this year. After
being in maintenance mode for a number of years, companies wanting to expand
need a new cadre of project managers”the people to plan for, budget, and drive
new projects. “Whenever you have business expansion, there always has to
be someone leading that charge,” says Phillips.

In terms of job growth for PMs, Sarbanes-Oxley projects are
creating much of the demand. Project managers are needed to handle the
implementation of process and procedures laid out in corporate governance
initiatives, and for that, they’ll have to know business rules and processes.

As companies push into infrastructure upgrades, project
managers will also find opportunities in infrastructure roll-outs and upgrades.

“When you’ve been in survival mode for a period of
time, the project manager skill set is not there to do a new project or project
development,” says Phillips. “So really the need for project managers
has increased quite heavily because of that aspect.”

Business analysts shifting focus

Phillips also predicts a shift in the roles and responsibilities
of business analysts. He’s seeing a great number of companies reengineer
processes and procedures based on the software they’re purchasing.

“Companies have realized that whenever you have to
upgrade [custom] software, you have to go all the way back to the drawing
board,” says Phillips. “You’re talking about large dollars and

Companies are shifting to prepackaged business solutions
with built-in best practice business processes. This cuts down on expense
related to maintaining custom processes, but also redefines the business
analysts’ job. “You’ve got to have a person to take the technology and
work it into the business process, rather than take the business process and
write requirements for the software,” says Phillips.

Getting ready for the growth

Technology professionals wanting to seize these new
opportunities have to stay current with the demands of their professions. Techs
should pursue training or projects that will get them more involved with
business processes and understanding how business works.

“I think that going forward it’s not just about the
technology, but it’s about bringing business knowledge along with the
technology,” says Phillips.