IT staff are at the whim of emerging "megaforces" that are threatening to divide the industry over the next four years.
While demand for skills such as network design and security will remain high, the role of IT "technicians" will be at risk. Gartner predicts as many as 10 percent of techies will lose their jobs each year through to 2010.
In a research paper entitled, IT professional outlook: where will we go from here?, Gartner analyst Diane Morella said if 1990 through to 2005 was the era of specialists, then the coming decade will be the era of "versatilists" or people whose role, assignments and knowledge adds to business value.
Morello also said that, by 2010 the IT profession will be split into four domains of expertise: technology, information, process and relationships.
Moreover, six out of 10 people affiliated with IT will assume business-facing roles and between 10 and 15 percent of IT professionals will drop out of the IT occupation completely, adding that tech staff will soon have to choose between remaining in technology and working in information.
"Through to 2010, IT professionals will have to decide whether they wish to remain in the realm of 'pure' technology or whether they will, like many corporate IT organizations and vendors, transform their competencies and expertise towards information, business processes or alliance building," Morello said.
"Many IT professionals will redirect themselves to new domains of expertise and develop practical experiences in industries, market segments, core business processes and unique challenges.
"The changing employment picture calls for behavioural competencies that involve driving change, demonstrating leadership, analyzing external forces, focusing on results and acting ethically."
Fellow Gartner analyst John Enck predicts by 2010 that interest in Unix will have declined due to the management, reliability and performance of Linux and Windows and Unix deployments will slow as software vendors become platform agnostic and focus on J2EE or .Net.
However, Adrian Mouton, IT manager at the University of New England, strongly disagrees with the Gartner claims, especially the 10 percent annual drop in jobs.
"There will always be a need for people to be the interface between technology and humans and this will be the role of the IT manager," Mouton said.
"There will always be a spot for someone to translate between programmers and other technical staff, which basically will be the role to help the business or CIO who doesn't want to know about the technology."
IT manager at H&R Block accountants, Grant Robertson, said even losing 10 percent of a workforce is a big call, but admitted there will probably be a reduction in headcount as the desktop becomes commoditized, or IT in general becomes a commoditized infrastructure.
"There will always be a job for skilled IT people, but the roles may vary and if you look at what the focus was 10 years ago, most of the same people are still delivering the same things to business," Robertson said.
"The general focus is shifting to securing networks and infrastructure and the people who may have been developing the standard operating environment (SOE) are just redeployed. Today security people are picking up the slack.
"Security takes such a huge amount of time and this role will not go away even if all the operating systems are commoditized."