The grinch who stole IT's Christmas

Bad news about IT wages and bonuses, as well as job pressures from offshoring and shift to the cloud, dampen holiday cheer

A decidedly Scrooge-like report this week may tamp down holiday spirits in IT departments -- or move you to hit the egg nog harder. "If tech is so important, why are IT wages flat?" lays bare one of tech's inconvenient truths: "Despite information technology's ever increasing role in the economy, IT wages remain persistently flat." The sluggish U.S. economy gets most of the blame, but truth is IT salaries simply have not kept pace with inflation, according to Janco Associates, which reports on IT wage compensation. And a new report by the Economic Policy Institute shows the average wage in computer and math occupations has increased less than a half-percent a year over the past decade. Bah humbug.

If base pay for tech workers is going nowhere, the outlook for IT bonuses is also murky. IT pros are divided when it comes to bonus expectations this year, according to tech jobs site It seems all that hard work and overtime you've been putting in doesn't necessarily translate into a fatter bonus check. "Generally speaking, people view bonuses as a personal achievement -- meaning individual performance determines if a person is going to receive a bonus. But that's not the case in the IT department, where bonuses gained and lost are thought to be determined by company conditions," says Alice Hill, managing director at and president of Dice Labs.

Offshoring continues to affect IT jobs and wages. In a significant symbolic shift this week, IBM's India workforce now likely exceeds that in the United States -- I say "likely" because whereas Indian firms report hiring on a quarter-to-quarter basis as a source of pride, big IT firms in the States do not break out headcounts by country. However, according to an internal document, Big Blue now has 112,000 workers in India, up from 6,000 in 2002, and the average pay for all IBM workers in India was $17,000. In comparison, "[t]he only source today of IBM U.S. employment data is from the Alliance@IBM/CWA Local 1701, which puts the U.S. headcount today at about 92,000."

The growth of cloud computing may also be causing staffing problems. As InfoWorld's Eric Knorr points out in his Modernizing IT blog, "An increasing number of [enterprise development] projects will be supplanted by an abundance of narrowly targeted, cloud-based, collaborative, mobile-friendly apps that will effectively cut IT out of the loop."

The news isn't all bad: "Although there's a shift to the cloud, no one is saying that on-premises enterprise IT is going away. There's an abundance of assets and workloads that no company would cede to an outside service provider. But hoping you won't be last to grab a chair when the music stops is not a career strategy."

If a New Year's resolution to spruce up your resume and hit the networking sites is beginning to form, you might want to head over to this week's report on hot LinkedIn buzzwords, which observes "so much for being 'creative': It remains the most overused LinkedIn profile term for the second year in a row among U.S.-based professionals as well as those worldwide." The social business site recommends reworking your LinkedIn profile with a news-style headline, and "rather than just calling yourself creative, make sure you cite creative projects on which you've been involved." It probably doesn't hurt to throw in some of the site's nine other top buzzwords.

If all else fails, take heart in knowing that even if the monetary rewards aren't exactly flowing these days, there's still the satisfaction of a job well done. Which leaves the workers exposed in this week's Off the Record blog the prospect of a decidedly downtrodden Christmas -- top awards for a crazy-but-true tale of managing IT go to the manager who found a trove of thousands of pornographic pictures on the company server. It seems the employee responsible initially refused to remove them, then marched off to the HR director to ask for a CD burner to make copies before deleting the files.

Is that laughter I hear down in Whoville?

This article, "The grinch who stole IT's Christmas ," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.