What Hath the Meltdown Wrought?

The Wall Street fiasco will breed more regulation and perhaps more tech jobs.

I recently wrote a column about the role of technology in the financial meltdown. I'd summarize the column's content in the following way: Never have so many smart, expensively educated executives spent so much on technology and known so little about the financial health of their companies.

The column drew a lot of response, which can be summarized as follows: "Did you really think that anyone-and I mean anyone-was going to rock the boat by doing something like developing computer systems that would make the ongoing scam more apparent rather than more obscure?"

OK, so I made the mistake of thinking that at least a few execs would stand up for the little guy.

Anyway, now that the government is trying to double-lock the barn door after the (and forgive me for flogging the metaphor) financial horses have long departed, what's next? Here are my guesses.

1) If you thought there was a lot of regulatory-induced tech investment after the Enron meltdown, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Companies still standing after the financial meltdown are going to see reporting and disclosure requirements that will be detailed and reach into every cranny of the corporate closet. They will also provide job opportunities for those laid-off financial wizards who will suddenly transform into-shazam!-consultants. Outsourcers, big tech vendors and all those new consulting companies will pile onto Wall Street as technology spending is touted as a way to prevent the meltdown from remelting.

2) Suddenly, the computer industry is going to look pretty good to all those college students and recent grads who skipped the computer business and flocked to the financial services industry. Despite dire predictions of outsourcing, computing in the cloud and visas for all, the computer industry looks to have some decent job prospects as the old code-pounders retire and businesses find that more of their financial future resides in keeping the computer systems running. I see an upturn in sales of used comp-sci textbooks as it becomes more important to have Java programming skills than a background in juggling financial derivatives.

3) There will be more job and high-tech start-up opportunities as companies seek to really understand their business. With the economic prospects looking shaky, companies will need to know where they are spending their dollars. Those chunks of the companies that have avoided becoming part of the digital domain-I'm thinking electricity, heating, transportation and so forth-will become either willing or unwilling partners in the computer infrastructure.

4) With the dot-com bubble a historical memory, the real estate crash still resounding and the financial bubble still in spectacular burst mode, the question is: What will the next bubble look like, and what role will technology play? I'm thinking that with so much money-and no economic underpinnings-chasing virtualization, cloud computing and social networks, sorting out the reality from the virtual froth might be where the bubble has bounced.

Editor at Large Eric Lundquist can be reached at elundquist@eweek.com.