Surviving the sea change

The IT profession, from code jockeys to the executive suite, is undergoing a sea change. The existence of everything IT, from job categories to entire departments, is up for reassessment — and maybe even headed for redundancy.

The most obvious change involves the loss of jobs. Many have gone abroad, and they aren’t coming back. Offshore outsourcing as a percentage of IT budgets went from 12 per cent in 2000 to 28 per cent in 2003, according to Forrester Research. It’s only going to get worse as more companies outsource more and more functions. Meta Group predicts that up to 50 per cent of all IT workers globally could shift to contracting by 2007. Meanwhile, our seed is under siege: fewer students are opting for IT degrees as more corporate recruiters skip uni campuses.

We’ve also suffered the loss of IT credibility. Massive sums of money have been spent on IT in the past five years, and many companies remain unsure of the benefits. Large projects that failed, disasters that didn’t happen, revolutions that didn’t come, ROI that can’t be quantified — all have dimmed the aura surrounding IT in the late 90s.

Then there are the command-and-control issues. Should the IT function be dispersed across business units? Has IT become a utility or so pervasive that having an IT department is no longer warranted? Should the whole shebang be outsourced, or is IT still too critical to corporate strategy?

There’s no question the industry is changing before our eyes. We need to focus on how changes taking place today will shape the next phase of this industry. Some issues you should consider:

- What are your core competencies and business needs?
- How will your company comply with new government regulations on privacy and accounting — many of which will require system upgrades?
- How would an ever-changing group of contractors affect your budget, project schedules, quality assurance, maintenance and upgrade processes and plans?
- If projects are built by contractors, should their costs be borne by the affected business units? Furthermore, do business units need to go through IT to get projects done?
- If IT isn’t the builder of projects or the supplier of labour, into what will it evolve? What kind of value will it bring to a company?
- If key skills are outsourced abroad, who will fuel the next generation of technological innovation in your country?
- What new IT and management skills will be in demand?

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