IT professionals will need to acquire a more diverse range of skills to succeed in an IT jobs market forecast to shrink 40% by 2010, analyst firm Gartner has predicted.
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The increasing role of IT in legislative compliance and corporate governance will also push IT leaders to hone their general business skills, according to Gartner's Top Predictions for 2006 and Beyond report, published last week.
New technology rather than offshore outsourcing will contribute most to the shrinkage in the IT jobs market, said John Mahoney, chief of research, IT services and management at Gartner.
"When you look at large datacentres and large server farms, the task of managing them is becoming more and more automated. We expect this to continue, so the automation of IT will be responsible for more losses in IT jobs than outsourcing or off-shoring," he said.
The IT professionals that remain in demand will be those that expand their understanding of business drivers, the Gartner report said.
"IT specialists must learn to demonstrate a deep contextual grasp of their companies' competitive forces, revenue and cost drivers, industry influences, product and service strategies, differentiating processes, customer bases, regulatory requirements, cultural constraints, and external suppliers," said the report.
The growth in legislation affecting companies, including Basel 2 and Sarbanes-Oxley, is also driving IT managers to develop business skills.
"IT departments should develop a regulatory 'radar scope' that tracks new and changing regulations by source of regulation, timing, and size and area of impact.
"Regulatory tracking must be a key part of IT strategic planning to make the business more responsive while sustaining and improving business performance," said Gartner.
However, some IT managers may not be keen to acquire more business skills, said Jorge Lopez, managing vice-president for cross-industry research at Gartner.
"I am sure some do not want to develop these skills - that is why they went into IT in the first place. IT professionals are used to thinking logically about systems, but business managers are more intuitive and have to make decisions based on very little information," he said.