Reinvent or Else or Maybe Not

It looks like gloomy skies ahead for IT professionals, if the crystal-ball gazers at Gartner turn out to be right—5 years from now. Analysts at the market research firm predicted at a conference in Barcelona earlier this week that the number of IT pros will shrink by 15 percent come 2010.

The problem, say the seers, is that external service providers are boosting their capabilities and finding new ways to enhance their value to enterprise customers. Meanwhile, enterprise IT shops are too focused on delivering services to individual business units rather than on proving their strategic worth to the enterprise overall.

"The IS organization will need to either reinvent itself to create and manage assets of business processes and relationships, or it must choose to focus on the sourcing and execution of IT services,” says John Mahoney, worldwide chief of research for IT services and management at Gartner. “Our advice to IS leaders is that although they have some very difficult decisions to make over the fate of their departments, they need to act now [because] the transition will take a number of years."

Competitive pressures from external service providers that will be able to offer professionalism and prices that internal IT organizations will find difficult to match, will make the tough time ahead even tougher, Mahoney claims.

Gartner says IT is becoming a more integral part of every business function, and more people outside of IT will have the ability to do the work of the typical IT staffer. The net result is that there will be less need for in-house IT pros.

By 2010, Gartner predicts that 6 out of 10 people in IT will assume business-facing roles that revolve around information, process and relationships. As a result, Gartner says, the size of the IT organization will decrease, and the IT departments in midsize and large companies will be at least one-third smaller than they were in 2000.

"As we see departments within businesses taking on the traditional functions of IT, so IS professionals and leaders will have to choose between careers as technologists, technical managers and business professionals,” says David Flint, research vice president at Gartner. “To ensure the quality of their work, organizations will need to establish ‘profession management’ for selected roles across the whole business. The end result will see many former IS employees in professions in which their manager or head of profession does not sit within IS."