Will job prospects for U.S. IT professionals fare better or worse for the rest of 2010? It's hard to tell from the latest economic and employment data being released by IT career experts.
Reports issued in the first week of June provide conflicting information about IT hiring, compensation, and outsourcing trends. On the plus side, these reports say IT hiring will increase during the second half of 2010, and CIOs are more optimistic about their budgets and staffing levels than they were a year ago. However, IT salaries and benefits are still being squeezed from all sides, and it's difficult to tell which IT skills are most in demand on a month-to-month basis.
[ InfoWorld's Bob Lewis offers advice on how to get your first tech job -- it's not what you think. | Get sage advice on IT careers and management from Bob Lewis in InfoWorld's Advice Line newsletter. ]
"There's more volatility in the market than at any point in time since we started tracking IT pay data in 1999," says David Foote, CEO of Foote Partners, a consulting firm.
As evidence of the volatility, Foote points to the May 2010 U.S. Department of Labor National Employment Report, which showed a net loss of 100 IT-related jobs in May, following a gain of 8,800 jobs in April. Foote has been tracking ups and downs in employment in five key job categories – IT services, computer systems design, data processing, computer/peripheral equipment, and communications equipment – for the past six months.
Foote is seeing similar swings in how much money companies are paying for a variety of certified and noncertified IT skills. He says the unpredictability is the result of companies making wholesale changes to their IT staffs, with more work being outsourced to contractors rather than full-time employees.
"Hiring managers don't need to hire full-time people…They can purchase managed services, or they can put their applications out in the cloud," Foote says. Among the types of work that CIOs are outsourcing now are networking, telecom, desktop and security services, he says.
"CIOs are saying: 'Half the people who work for me, shouldn't work for me. I can buy the technical services from someone else. If I can get rid of half of my people, then I can hire the architects, analysts and business people that I need to work in product development,'" Foote explains. "The volatility has hit because now CIOs are changing the rules."
Here are some of the more interesting trends that we've culled from the latest IT salary and hiring surveys:
1. Expect more churn in IT staff as CIOs accelerate their move to more flexibile staffing models, says Foote Partners. CIOs are outsourcing more technical work, including managed IP services such as VoIP and VPNs. They're hiring more contractors for desktop and security services, and they're putting more applications such as remote backup in the cloud. At the same time, they're looking to hire IT people with business and analytical skills, such as risk management and project management. Indeed, CIOs report that they're having trouble hiring IT people because either they can't find IT professionals with the right business skills or they can't afford them. All of this means more turnover in IT departments.