The incredibly shrinking IT department

As cloud technology and other managed service models reduce IT departments, admins need to bone up on tech certifications and master softer skills to keep their careers off the endangered species list — and open up new job opportunities.

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Brace yourselves. IT departments are going to shrink dramatically in the next 10 years. By 2025, IT staffs will be a quarter of their current size as infrastructure and legacy application jobs shift to the cloud and other software-as-a-service models, according to industry researcher Gartner.

Adding to the bleak outlook is a Future of Jobs report from the World Economic Forum, which predicts a rough road ahead for the labour market, particularly in the IT space.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is interacting with other socio-economic and demographic factors to create a perfect storm of business model change in all industries resulting in major disruptions to labour markets,” the report states.

With the cost and productivity efficiencies associated with cloud computing and other managed services, you can bet there will be a certain amount of job loss. But there will also be new opportunities.

In 2014, IT World Canada reported that more than 21,000 IT professionals were employed in Canada’s cloud economy. As the cloud gains traction in the enterprise, we’ll see an associated increase in the number of admins dedicated to managing it.

Some industry insiders argue that the biggest challenge the cloud poses isn’t job loss, but finding individuals with the right blend of skills to meet high-demand roles.

Nima Mirpourian at IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology says technology developments such as managed services are opportunities for IT workers who invest in their technical certifications.

“They need to learn about those new technologies — how automation is helping the bottom line and how they can add the next level of strategic IT initiative.”

Mirpourian advises IT admins to re-evaluate their current skills to see how relevant they are to the IT department today, and going forward.

According to Robert Half Technology’s 2016 salary guide for IT pros, the most in-demand technical skills in 2016 include ASP, C#, Java, .NET, PHP, virtualization, Python, Ruby on Rails, and Windows 7. And IT professionals with top technical skills can expect to command a five to nine per cent premium in the job market.

With big data projects launching at record speed, IT administrators who can manage the convergence of networking, systems and data storage will remain in high demand for some time.

For now, network and systems administrators remain in high demand, as evidenced by the healthy salary jump each group saw this year. According to Robert Half Technology, network administrators’ salaries received a 6.4 per cent hike this year (from $71,250-$105,750 to $75,250-$112,000), while systems administrator salaries increased by 6.1 per cent (from $100,000-$140,250 to $105,500-$149,500).

New skills, new opportunities

A 2016 report on the State of Cloud IT reveals that new opportunities are opening up for admins with experience in cloud projects, data collection, analysis and programming. Rather than being assigned to routine tasks, cloud IT admins often oversee more strategic projects such as improving security, end-user training and application integration.

While a lot remains unknown about the ultimate impact these technologies will have on IT jobs, one thing is clear: The winners will emerge as those who can demonstrate a keen understanding of the business and its strategic objectives.

“There’s a clear gap between those professionals in the back-office who can’t speak to the business and those who can,” says Mirpourian. That’s where the rubber meets the road.”

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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