CIO Magazine – Postmodern Manifesto

CIO magazine 1 may 2006

The Postmodern Manifesto, by Christopher Koch

In a 2005 SIM survey of skills that CIOs expect to most value in their IT staffs over the next three years, project management led the list, followed closely by company, functional and industry knowledge. Other skills in demand included business process reengineering, user relations management, negotiation, change management, communication and managing expectations. Only two technical skills (systems analysis and systems design) made the top 15—and both of those skills focus more on architecture and process than on hard-core programming.

To some extent, the deconstruction of IT has already occurred, especially in big companies where the large scale of IT and the separation of IT functions such as help desk, application maintenance and some programming have made them candidates for outsourcing. More and more jobs in IT will become components in a distributed services supply chain modeled on today’s distributed manufacturing supply chains.

IT departments already have undergone a structural shift. The number of programmers employed in the United States has dropped by 25 percent since its peak in 2000, even though the total number of IT workers has increased slightly since then, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In our “State of the CIO 2006” survey, 76 percent of respondents said they outsource application development, maintenance or support—more than double the next highest category.

In one respect, the distributed services supply chain model is actually creating more work. As pieces of the IT supply chain break off and become more specialized, the need for coordination of the pieces increases. That means the number of internal jobs dependent upon external people is increasing. This shift is reflected by the new emphasis in IT departments on relationship management and project management.
Economists call these kinds of skills tacit work, which requires the ability to analyze information, grapple with ambiguity and solve problems, often based on experience. Tacit interactions are complex and require interaction (such as managing a software development project) rather than being simple and solitary (fielding help desk calls with a script, for instance).

Tacit jobs have been growing three times faster than employment in the entire national economy, according to consultancy McKinsey, and they make up 70 percent of all U.S. jobs created since 1998 and 41 percent of the total labor market in the United States. These roles track pretty closely with the categories where the Department of Labor says IT employment has made the biggest gains since 2000: application engineers, systems engineers and network analysts.

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