The themes of the 2006 IT professional world could be summed up as the following: H-1B visas, certifications, a job market that either rocked or was awful; and the Baby Boomer-Generation Y gap in the workplace.
Not bad for a years work, eh?
eWEEK caught up with IT workforce experts and asked them what they had on their minds and dockets for the coming year.
Many of the issues sounded surprisingly familiar but all agreed that if there is one thing that couldnt be watched closely enough, it was the release of Microsofts Vista.
1. Vista, Vista, Vista
Ongoing questions surrounding Microsofts new operating system range from how quickly organizations will adopt it, what kinks they may run into in their transitions and how quickly IT professionals will be expected to have more than a basic understanding of the way the system works.
"What will this mean for corporate environments? What will the adoption rate be like? Will it be like XP, where it took nearly four years to pick up speed, or a lot sooner?" Jim Lanzalotto, vice president of strategy and marketing at Yoh Services, a provider of talent and outsourcing services based in Philadelphia, told eWEEK.
Scot Melland, president and CEO of Dice, a New York-based site for technology careers, felt that many of these questions will not be answered until later in the year.
"The impact of Vista may only be felt nearer to the end of 2007, as it could lead to a series of upgrades."
But, beyond the immediate upgrade process and the secondary impact on networks, most feel it is too soon to tell the impact.
"There will also be second-order effects, such as the secondary impacts of changing operating systems. Nobody knows what the impact is going to be just yet, but if youre a tech pro or a CIO, this is something to be concerned about," said Melland.
Lanzalotto notes that Vista will not be the only Microsoft release in 2007 that has the potential to change the landscape and daily rituals of the IT professional.
"The second new product that will be interesting to watch is Microsofts Duet, their SAP product which will integrate Outlook into ERP," said Lanzalotto.
2. A Job Market on the Up
Nearly unanimously, IT experts saw good news on the tech job market horizon, with low unemployment rates among IT pros, strong hiring plans and multiple offers for candidates with the right mix of skills.
"In general, the job market for tech pros is going to continue to be an attractive one," Melland said. "The market is very tight today. There is a 2 percent unemployment rate among IT professionals with still a lot of employment being created. If pros want to make a move, they can and will probably see some escalation of their salaries as well."
John Venator, president and CEO of CompTIA (Computing Technology Industry Association), a non-profit IT trade association, said IT jobs are available if you know where to look.
"The perception that IT is a dead-end career continues to persist in many circles, but the perception is wrong," said Venator. "Some industries are showing hiring plans for IT workers that are significantly higher than national averages."
Venator said that these industries include finance, insurance and real estate, transportation, business services, and professional services.
Katharine Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professional services in Menlo Park, Calif., sees a tightening candidate pool across IT.
"Candidates with the hottest skills are seeing multiple offers. This affects businesses in many ways: shorter hiring cycles, creative recruitment/retention strategies, bringing retirees out of retirement on a project basis, hiring contract workers, lobbying congress to loosen restrictions on foreign workers, etc." Lee said.
Furthermore, the looming convergence of two demographic trends—the aging out of the Baby Boomer workforce as well as the shortage of U.S. students trained in math and computers—has the potential to create a "perfect storm," said Venator.
Venator said that by 2010 nearly one in three U.S. workers will be over the age of 50. By 2012, more than 21 million new jobs are expected to be created in the U.S. economy.