The IT profession in the year 2010

* The IT profession to split into four domains of expertise, says Gartner

At the beginning of the year, I always try to take stock of my life - my finances, my career, etc.; I imagine you do the same. That's why I was quite interested when a colleague pointed me to a study by Gartner last September, which suggests that "technical aptitude alone will no longer be enough" as IT execs will need to "possess expertise in multiple domains." The research firm says that by 2010, the IT profession will be split into four domains of expertise: technology, information, process, and relationship.

Gartner says that by 2010, six out of 10 people affiliated with IT will assume business-facing roles and that by the same time period, IT organizations in midsize and large companies will be at least 30% smaller than they were in 2005. Gartner also believes that by 2010, 10% to 15% of IT professionals will drop out of the IT occupation for a number of reasons, including automation of tasks and because of lack of interest in the sector. A sobering thought.

"When we talk to CIOs we found that the new opportunities and initiatives that they're finding calls for people with different perspectives. If you've retained deep and narrow specialization, chances are you're not going to be one of the people who are chosen because your knowledge is too narrow," says Diane Morello, the Gartner analyst who wrote the study "The IT Professional Outlook: Where will we go from here?" CIOs want IT execs with breadth and depth of skills and diverse experiences, the report states.

So what's involved in the four domains of expertise that Gartner says will form the basis of the IT profession? Under the technology infrastructure and service domain - which includes the traditional area of networking - Gartner says network design and security will remain strong, while routine coding and programming activities will gradually shift to developing countries. That doesn't tell us anything we don't know already. But Gartner stresses that it is not enough to be expert in a piece of networking technology - infrastructure and services practitioners have to understand the implications of the technology, related technologies and their applications, and be an excellent communicator, influencer, team player and be adaptable.

IT pros who pursue the information design and management domain "require a deep understanding of when and how a particular business needs, uses, manages analyzes and distributes information," says the study. IT pros in this position will also assume business roles, says Gartner. The domain includes areas such as data warehousing, data management, Internet design, information management, and content management. As this domain is driven by the "information" side of "IT," IT pros will also see competition for jobs here from non-IT people who understand how businesses use information, says Gartner.

Gartner believes that one to three IT pros out of every 20 will pursue the process design and management domain, which is reflected in such areas as business processes, operational processes, and project management. "Process expertise is not for the faint of heart. Process discussions tend to be arcane, abstract and ambiguous," according to the study. However, knowing how to implement efficient processes can provide competitive advantage to organizations.

The fourth domain - relationship and sourcing management - calls on soft skills as you'll be spending plenty of time negotiating, persuading and social networking. Areas covered by this domain include managing external relationships with vendors and internal relationships with business units.

We'll dig into Gartner's report a bit more next week, including taking a look at what Gartner describes as "versatilists." But before I sign off, I want to ask you a question.

Network World celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, and as part of a special anniversary issue that we have planned for March 27, we're asking for current IT pros to tell us what areas of IT should today's students get into to be well positioned for the next 20 years? Please send me your thoughts at mailto:lleung@nww.com, and include your name and contact details if you'd be happy to be included in the article.

Also, please take part in our online survey to share your views of the last 20 years in technology. The results of the survey will also be released on March 27. Thanks for your participation!

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