Information technology drives the New Economy.
It’s been a long time since the Information Technology (IT) department was a back-office function, working behind the scenes on necessary, if somewhat humdrum, tasks. Over the years, the role of IT moved to the forefront in many industries, taking an ever-greater role as technology advanced. And today, IT is clearly the engine driving the New Economy.
The Internet makes it possible for even the smallest vendor to provide instant, real-time service to customers 24/7. Data mining and customer management software tools allow companies to monitor every detail of the business. Changes can be made on the fly to maintain the delicate balance between cost and service.
Whether a company is mapping the human genome, building space station components, providing electricity, or delivering packages, every part of the business depends on the successful management of data. And it’s the IT department that holds the keys to the data.
According to a recent poll by RHI Consulting, 24 percent of all CIOs surveyed (from a variety of industries) said their firms would add IT personnel in the near future–only three percent expected staff reductions. Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of RHI Consulting, is equally optimistic: “The job market for technology professionals remains strong across all industries and is encouraging many firms to place greater emphasis on recruiting and retention strategies.”
Changing Expectations for IT
These are heady times for the IT professional. Job candidates with Web experience, in particular, have seen their opportunities explode. They are no longer limited to working for technology companies because, in a sense, every company today is a tech company. It’s a simple matter of competitive survival.
But the economy has shifted. “Fifteen years ago, you might say that technologists thought the point of technology was technology,” says Matt Hamlet, recruiting leader for PriceWaterhouseCoopers. “Now, technologists are expected to understand the business impact of what they do. That trend is going to continue. I think the role of the IT person will be to help an organization figure out what it takes to be competitive in an ever-changing industry.”
Moving Up, Not Moving On
In some ways, the current economic slowdown is providing IT professionals with greater opportunities. The manic job-hopping of recent years has given way to more stability. And, as Baby Boomers edge toward, the “baby bust” of the early ’70s means that companies will have a smaller pool of candidates from which to choose.
When an IT employee finds a company willing to invest in the future, it may be worth sticking around for the long term. “IT organizations over the past five years have invested a lot of time and money in career tools and career planning,” says Hamlet. “It’s critical to keep employees on the leading edge of technology in order to keep your organization marketable.”
Yet Hamlet acknowledges the risk inherent in providing ongoing training to employees–it makes them more attractive to competitors. But, he says, the advantages far outweigh the risks. “As the market becomes more mature, it allows people to stay with an organization more than in the past. And, as people see a company invest in them, they’re more likely to invest in the company. That enables me to do long-term planning, to look at the future of our organization, at the leaders of the future.”
Data Pit Goes Deeper
According to a University of California at Berkeley report, the Internet consisted of 2.5 billion documents, up from 800 million. The Web grows at a rate of 7.3 million pages per day, every day. If you add intranets and extranets, the total page count climbs to roughly 550 billion.
IT professionals can help companies make sense of this tidal wave of data, and so will hold an ever more-important role in the digital economy. The executive suite looks to IT for guidance as it maps out a competitive strategy. Employees throughout the ranks will rely on IT for everything from improving customer service to competitive analysis.