Gartner: IT groups shrinking, changing

IT departments will shrink over the next five years and the demand for technology specialists will decrease, according to a Gartner study.

The demand for IT specialists and the size of IT departments is shrinking significantly, according to new research presented by Gartner at the Gartner ITxpo conference in France, on Wednesday.

By 2010, IT organizations in midsize and large companies will be 30 percent smaller than they were this year, predicts Gartner. Ten percent to 15 percent of IT workers today will fully drop out of the IT occupation in the same time frame, choosing to become teachers or take on work in government, said Diane Morello, vice president of research at Gartner and the report's author.

Perhaps the biggest shift in the IT department will be away from the IT worker who specializes in a certain technology and toward what Gartner calls the "versatilist," she said. The versatilist has a strong base in a certain area, which may or may not be technology-related, and is well-able to interact with people outside of his or her typical domain, said Morello. A versatilist might have expertise as a project manager or a financial analyst but is able to take on broader responsibilities required by an IT group.

But the future isn't all gloomy for the IT specialist. Specialists that find a decreasing need within the enterprise for their expertise may move to vendors where they can continue to pursue and develop their specialist skills, Morello said. Through 2010, 30 percent of IT workers will migrate to vendors or service providers, the study concluded.

Morello is also seeing some projects that traditionally fall within the IT organization shift to fall under the chief operating officer's (COO's) umbrella. For example security, infrastructure management and information privacy are beginning to be defined as enterprise projects handled by the COO's organization, she said.

There are four main drivers instigating these changes in the IT organization, according to Morello. The trend toward outsourcing and IT automation are partly responsible. Also, business restructuring as a result of mergers and outsourcing is leading to constant reorganizations where IT workers vie to fit into the resulting organization. Morello also said that consumer technology also plays a role because employees have a decreasing tolerance for the complexity of business applications after using consumer products and services.

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