Demand for application development skills, particularly in Microsoft technologies, is soaring, according to the latest SSL/Computer Weekly Survey of Appointments Data and Trends.
There has been a 19% increase in IT vacancies advertised online and in prints, with demand for Microsoft's programming language C# up 93% over the last year and demand for .net, the development environment, up by 58%.
The strong jobs market, combined with rapid growth in key technologies, means it is important for IT departments to ensure they hang on to the staff and skills they need, said Denise Plumpton, chairman of Tif. Tif is the Corporate Infrastructure Forum which includes IT leaders from major FTSE 100 companies.
Desire to achieve competitive advantage for customer facing systems was creating a mini-boom in application development, said Plumpton. "There is a general feeling that the more technical skills are in short supply. The world is looking for applications to give them competitive advantage."
Retention not only depends on good pay, but on giving developers interesting projects and assurances on career development, said Plumpton, who is also director of information for the Highways Agency.
The need for retention strategies was highlighted by Andy Heyes, head of practice for technical recruitment at recruitment consultant Harvey Nash. "There has been a constant growth throughout the year. It is looking quite rosy if you are a Microsoft developer for 2006," he said. "I don't see any reason for demand to drop off."
Teresa Jones, senior research analyst with the Butler Group, said organisations were moving toward developing applications using Microsoft technology because of the ease of use of the development tools and the integration with ubiquitous Microsoft operating systems.
Although Microsoft's technologies will be growing from a smaller base, no other application development skills showed such dramatic growth in the survey. Development language Java grew by 4%, J2EE, the development environment grew by 9% and C++ grew by 5%.
Jones said it would be relatively easy to retrain developers from one system to another. "If you look at the development tools, they are fairly intuitive and quite similar."
However, she did not think .net would replace the Java-based system. "We still see many large organisations investing in Java, but the focus on smaller businesses is more and more on .net."