For this article, I’ve created a simple way to discuss the future of IT jobs. This involves significant factors like the availability of skilled human resources and the impact of innovation. At the end of the article, I discuss the implications of this and other considerations for future IT jobs. This article is part two of a two-part series on IT Jobs. To see the first part in this article series, see “Today’s IT Roles and Responsibilities.”
What Factors Influence the Future of IT Work?
The future isn’t easy to predict, but we know a lot about the last five decades, so we can build a model and use it to anticipate the future. When creating this model, we should consider these four questions:
1. What’s the availability of skilled human resources?
2. What do companies do with IT? Is it an IT company or a company that produces clothing or appliances but utilizes information technology?
3. How do companies use their human IT resources, and are they primary or secondary to the mission?
4. What’s the impact of innovation? This can be internal or external to the organization.
Finding Skilled IT Resources
Finding people with IT skills is a pressing worldwide problem. Rapid technological advances and the digitization of the workplace are making it more challenging for workers to match their skill sets with the needs of employers. These are not necessarily IT jobs, but jobs impacted by IT.
The size of this problem varies from country to country, but is particularly bad in Japan, where more than 80 percent of firms have difficulty finding qualified employees, according to recent data from The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the economy will need as many as 100,000 new information technology workers per year over the next decade. Right now, only about 60,000 of these workers enter the workforce each year. Some areas of IT employment are experiencing severe shortages.
There are plenty of cybersecurity positions, but there are not enough qualified candidates. Businesses are experiencing significant delays of six months or more in order to fill IT security job openings and some organizations are finding that half or more of the cybersecurity job applicants aren’t qualified for the job. In the U.S., every year, employers are failing to fill 40,000 information security analyst jobs. That number is closer to 200,000 when you include all IT security-related jobs.
Organizations and IT
Companies that create IT services and products experience labor challenges more severely than companies that don’t. They experience the double-sided challenge of staffing company personnel to create and grow products and services, as well as running their own internal IT department. These companies have recruited IT people in every way possible and many have built facilities in countries where IT labor is readily available at a lower cost.
You don’t have to be an IT company to make the most of IT. Think about Uber, a peer-to-peer ridesharing, taxicab, food delivery, bicycle-sharing and transportation network company with operations in 785 metropolitan areas worldwide. Their IT assets are key to making their basic business work. When you think about it, the same is true of banks, insurance companies and so many other enterprises that touch our lives through technology.
How Revenue Is Generated
For some companies, IT people are direct revenue-generating resources. They help carry out projects or sustain ongoing programs for paying customers. But just because they generate revenue doesn’t mean that their future is secure. Over time, there are cost pressures on contracts that encourage companies to do more with less or seek lower labor costs. Working on these contracts requires finding new ways to achieve sustained results.
Other IT employees generate revenue in a less direct way. Consider software developers who help create and support commercial products. The developers are a cost center, but without them, there would be no products or services to sell. It’s challenging to estimate the revenue or profit they generate. This Quora post contains a good example of the discussion surrounding this topic.
Innovation Disrupts and Creates Change
Innovation can really create change. Consider mainframe OS automation. It evolved from homegrown Command Lists using automation tools from IBM and others to robust commercial products supporting the complex systems we see in almost every commercial installation. The impact of this innovation made a significant change to the job of computer operators. Some operator jobs were eliminated and some operators became administrators of the automation system. This software innovation featuring automation completely changed computer operations.
Presently, there are less than 20 job openings listed for mainframe computer operator on Indeed.com. Clearly, that instance of innovation had a big impact on IT people who operated computers. Now, we experience completely automated startup, shut down and recovery actions. Sure, humans have a role to play, but the software controls the main actions and sequences.
How Does This Impact You?
Since there’s a global shortage of skilled workers, those workers who maintain and develop their skills can command a better salary. IT workers must focus incessantly on their skills—technical, business communication, the whole package. You see this clearly when you look at job search sites. Employers are looking for balanced individuals who know how to work and communicate and who can master a wide variety of technologies. Lifelong learning needs to be factored into each workweek and not something that gets put off due to time pressures.
Due to the growth and importance of IT in the last five decades, you don’t need to work for a computer software and services company to have a really interesting and satisfying IT job. It has become easier to find great companies that have a real need for skilled IT people in every sector imaginable.
We know that innovation can cause disruption, so you want to benefit from this disturbance in some way if possible. IT people who learn quickly can benefit by aligning themselves with innovation initiatives or organizations and seek those jobs. Since the median tenure for workers ages 25 to 34 is 3.2 years, you should realign with innovation carefully, and always be mindful of anticipating the next shift.