Which IT Customers Are Staying on US Shores?

By Geoffrey James

With greater numbers of IT jobs moving offshore, software sales reps must quickly and effectively target sales efforts toward the remaining IT players. David Foote, of Foote Partners, identifies three classes of jobs that are proving resistant to the offshore drain. IT specialists in these positions will factor heavily into any corporate software sales strategy. Foote divides these “resistant” IT jobs into the following three categories:

1. Enabler Jobs. These include enterprise architects, business architects, business analysts, business technologists, business process modelers (e.g. BPM/BPR, BPA, BAM) and project managers.

2. Customer-facing Jobs. These include applications developers (e.g. Java, Web applications, ERP, CRM), Web applications programmers, data warehousing/business intelligence specialists, database administrators/developers, and help-desk specialists.

3. Infrastructure Jobs. These include security (forensics, analysts and senior managers), data modelers (enterprise data management), network managers/engineers, wireless engineers/administrators, software engineers, disaster recovery specialists, system auditors, integrators and storage/SAN administrators.

Enabler jobs are focused on IT/business alignment and on keeping business goals and technology in lockstep. The enterprise architect is responsible for ensuring that a company’s every IT decision is made with its impact on the entire organization kept firmly in mind. Business architects look for common business processes throughout an organization so that multiple departments can use the services created by IT. The inside knowledge required to do these jobs ensures that they won’t be sent offshore.

Business analysts and business technologists comfortably move between business and technology and are essential to consistently deriving value from IT investments. Similarly, business process modelers have the ability to quickly model and automate business processes, an absolute necessity for IT organizations looking to build competitive advantage.

Expert project managers and PMOs (project management offices) continue to battle overblown budgets and missed deadlines that have plagued IT projects for years. Large employers such as IBM hold these positions in such high esteem that they have comprehensive global professions programs devoted to worldwide standards, skill certification, professional development and career development of PMs.

Customer-facing jobs are also back in a big way. Employers began shifting resources in 2005 from infrastructure-centric regulatory initiatives to new products and services and customer support systems. They also began to tackle a backlog of projects, many of which incorporate novel technologies, such as Web services (SOAP, XML, .NET, Java and WebSphere), Linux and business intelligence tools. As a result, appropriately skilled IT workers have become a hot commodity. .

Customer requirements have boosted the popularity of data warehousing and data mining, ERP and CRM applications, as well as development of integration components, user interfaces and reusable components. This work increasingly requires customer and industry-savvy workers, and sometimes familiarity with company culture, which is tough to find in Bangalore, India–another downside to offshore development is that it has proven to be far more difficult to manage than originally anticipated. Costs may be reduced, but scheduling and project completion timelines are less predictable.

Infrastructure jobs, especially those supporting the proliferation of online computing systems, continue to show strong demand. There is still a lot of spending on security- and compliance-related requirements for building bulletproof IT infrastructures, systems and processes. Hiring remains strong for network and security engineers, administration and management personnel (especially with wireless expertise), security analysts and managers, systems software engineers and integrators of every stripe.

Some of this can be moved offshore, but Web-enabled business models are locked in for the long haul at most companies. Now even a little bit of downtime on these systems can have a big impact on revenues and shake customer confidence. Risk avoidance is now a prime directive, and "no surprises" is the managerial mantra for 2006 IT decision makers. Failure to understand this can mean loss of jobs, which makes CIOs think twice about putting too many of their key computing assets in the hands of vendors.

The above is based upon information provided by David Foote of Foote Partners, a company that extensively studies IT employment patterns. . He can be reached at www.footepartners.com.