ChannelTrends: Trends in the IT Workforce, Signs of Good Luck?

by Brian Sherman | May 13, 2011

While today’s the day many people are especially careful to avoid black cats, walking under ladders or spilling salt, for the rest of us, it’s just another Friday. Okay, I admit to being a little superstitious, but I am also a firm believer that we make our own luck in life and our careers. When someone works hard and focuses on accomplishing a goal, their fortunes tend to be positive. Whether that is luck or old fashioned effort is your call.

The news this week concerns the fortune of the IT workforce, with several articles pointing to the positive trends occurring nationwide. From California to Maine, the signs are positive and a number of factors seem to indicate the health of the technology industry is strengthening each month.

California Leads the Tech Rebound
With a 5.3-percent increase in IT jobs in March, hiring in the state of California was active among social networking, clean technology and other service positions. According to the Wall Street Journal, a number of companies, including LinkedIn and Solaria, have added significantly to their workforce. Overall, California added 90,600 jobs in the first quarter, which was more than all the new jobs added in the state during 2010, exceeding most economic experts' estimates. The tech industry is fueling that labor growth, especially in the Bay Area with a high number of IT professionals and businesses.

Positive signs for the technology community in California should make IT professionals throughout the country optimistic, as the job growth indicates that the industry seems to be back on track. After the economic downturn, many companies took a “lean and mean” approach to hiring employees, with others scaling back their workforce to prepare for tough times. With those “purse strings” loosening, can we take that as an encouraging sign the worst is over and that the industry is hiring for new demand? Perhaps, but we still need to see a longer trend of technology job growth to affirm that financial outlook. No luck required, just businesses doing what they do best, working smart to make a profit.

Advanced Technology Leads to New Job Opportunities
Other good IT workforce news comes to us in the form of managed services and cloud computing, with several media reports attributing IT workforce growth to these developed technologies. Each model allows solution providers to run a leaner organization, while offering additional service and support options to their customers. That means not only better profitability for the MSP or cloud services provider, but more opportunities for the properly prepared professionals that work in the industry.

Those with certifications and advanced training in network and managed services technologies are gaining the upper hand when it comes to hiring. Their expertise and skills are not a commodity, but a valued resource.

The same positive career outlook applies to sales professionals, with those proficient in consultative selling gaining the upper hand over the traditional product/service sales people. It’s all about skills and, with a leaner staff, VARs and MSPs are looking to staff their organization with the best and brightest. Paying a higher salary for these experienced professionals is a worthwhile investment, since their revenue and customer service contributions typically offset the additional payroll expense.

Managed services and cloud computing are making a significant contributions to the current growth of the IT labor market, as a number of businesses reduced their internal technical teams and rely more on service providers. Some may argue that just shifts jobs, but the improved efficiencies of both technology models is helping solution providers bring these services to companies that had no IT staff. That brings managed services and cloud computing, as well as employee and business productivity increases to a wider audience.

What does that mean for the IT labor market? As reported this week in the Channel Insider, “the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed a net gain of 17,800 IT-related jobs in April, representing the 11th consecutive month of positive job growth across four primary IT labor segments in federal employment data.”

While those are general technology market numbers, experts agree that managed services and cloud computing are key to driving the increases. No luck here, just innovation and a lot of hard work by a number of entrepreneurs and their employees.

Economic Challenges Are Reshaping the IT Workforce
As mentioned previously, economic challenges are causing businesses to rethink their technology strategies, evaluating their internal technical resource needs and shifting much of the work to solution providers and other outsource companies. The Harvey Nash CIO Survey 2011 was released this week, and confirms a number of the trends we’ve been hearing about the last couple years. The professional recruitment consultancy and IT outsourcing organization has conducted this annual examination since 1998, asking professionals to share details of their technical and business needs, as well as other insightful information.

The results of the survey are encouraging for VARs and MSPs, as well as other players in the IT channel. “The evidence is clear; CIOs are spending a greater percentage of their IT budget on outsourced activity than ever before,” says Albert Ellis, chief executive of Nash Harvey Plc. “Almost one third of global CIOs (28 percent) will spend up to a quarter of their entire IT budget this year on outsourced activity, up five percent on last year. More than one in ten global CIOs will devote more than 50 percent of their IT budget to outsourcing. Investment on outsourcing in the next twelve months is also due to increase for 45 percent of global CIOs, up nine percent on 2010, while an additional 43 percent will maintain spending at current levels.”

With continued technology advances, many companies just can’t keep pace with the hiring and training required to meet their organization’s needs. That’s a win for solution providers who are willing and able to fill in the gaps, or replace their entire infrastructure and support team. As discussed in the survey, many CIOs are seeing the benefits of partnering with companies that can provide cloud services, mobile technology and a number of other services.

Again, that success is due to advances in the industry. Even if you’re crossing the road to avoid black cats today, remember that “real luck” comes from hard work and focus.

Brian Sherman is founder of Tech Success Communications, specializing in editorial content and consulting for the IT channel. His previous roles include chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and industry alliances director with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@techsuccesscommunications.com.

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