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There’s a new-ish adage making the rounds in tech journalism that’s unfortunately becoming more accurate with each passing day. It goes something like this: “We’re all going to be working for a high-tech vendor some day.”
Some of my fellow journalists here at IDG (CIO.com’s parent company) have left the fourth estate and are now receiving their paychecks from the same vendors they used to cover. Those jobs are in marketing, public relations or social media strategy. Several I’ve spoken with seem not unhappy with their move—the pay is certainly better.
Some have said they occasionally miss the daily excitement and objectivity of their previous roles. That sinking feeling enveloping the media? Yeah, they don’t miss that.
Taking a gaze at today’s tea leaves, it would not be reckless to hypothesize that more corporate IT workers might be making the same career move in the near future.
As I reported in Why the New Normal Could Kill IT, Gartner is predicting that cloud computing will become so pervasive by 2012 that 20 percent of businesses will own no IT assets at all.
In a recent blog post, Michael Krupa, technical director for HR Technology and a former IT consultant, compares the IT support requirements of traditional, on-premise software versus SaaS. His verdict? “SaaS applications do not require as much IT support as on-premise solutions,” Krupa offers. “My experience with SaaS applications show that you no longer need IT datacenter support, database administration support, application infrastructure support and application development support (with the exception of interfaces).”
“Poof. Gone. No longer needed,” he adds, rather dramatically.
Other technologies such as virtualization will reduce IT hardware and, presumably, the headcount needed to manage the hardware.
Vendors of today are transforming into the “Supervendors” of tomorrow. A recent Wall Street Journal article examines the “handful of cash-rich companies that are consolidating power in the technology industry, using their wealth to expand into new businesses and making it harder for small and midsize competitors to break through.”
Those companies? Apple, Oracle, Google, Microsoft, Cisco, Dell, IBM. They are stockpiling cash, acquiring assets and tech innovation, and fortifying their power. They’ll likely need more techies, who won’t be needed as much inside enterprise IT departments.
Paradoxically, IT is reaping all that it has sewn over the years. I covered this in an article last fall, More Jobs Vanish: IT’s Gains Are Real People’s Losses. In sum: The painful, perhaps unintended consequence of realizing technology’s aspirations and capabilities is that many people will go without jobs or will have to radically alter their skills and professions, because there is simply no need for their old skills anymore. This owes to technology’s relentless march toward cheaper, faster, better.
These developments aren’t all necessarily cataclysmic occurrences, though. Many of the hard-core techies once relegated to fixing loathsome PEBKAC issues will now be able to strut their stuff at software vendors, coding their little hearts out on the next new cloud app or creating the next software-delivery mechanism.
Or their jobs will change dramatically (just as journalists have witnessed), as CIO.com columnist Bernard Golden writes in Cloud and The Death of the Sysadmin: “As software becomes more complex, and demands the scalability of the cloud, IT’s auto mechanic of today, the sysadmin, will disappear. Tomorrow’s sysadmin will be more like a physician.”
Hey, it could be much worse. Believe me, I know.
By Thomas Wailgum