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Fulltime IT hiring is in; CIOs who can't manage change are on the way out

Job growth for IT professionals is going strong this year. According to an analysis by Foote Partners of the Bureau of Labor Statistics U.S. employment report, 15,600 more IT jobs were added to U.S. payrolls in May — the fourth consecutive month of strong job growth.

The numbers also showed a decline of 200,000 part-time positions for all sectors, indicating that employers are hiring more full-time positions including in IT. Can it be?

In fact, employers can’t afford not to, according to Foote Partners spokesperson Ted Lane. More than ever, companies need people who understand both IT and business to be competitive, Lane said in a phone interview. “Right now I think the business is saying, ‘We want IT to add value to our company, not just manage cost.'” These businesses are realizing IT can give them an edge, now that everything is “tech-enabled in one way or another,” he said.

The full-time IT hiring that has occurred during the past few years has been mostly by the IT services and consulting firms, Lane said: 95% of all IT jobs added to the US payrolls in the past two years were in  computer systems design/related services, and management and technical consulting services. And  the trend continues today. Computer systems design/related services, for example, produced 6,600 new jobs in May. The number represented an increase over the monthly gains in November (+2,700), December (+1,400), January (+4,700), February (+5,000), and March (+6,100), but it was down about 25% from April’s 8900 new jobs. Management and technical consulting services grew by 6,800 in May, up from 5,000 in April and 3,500 in March.

These service and consulting firms have been aggressively hiring people with the skills to handle the rush of new technologies in the enterprise, from cloud to mobile to social and big data. And they have focused on people with business and IT acumen — a necessary combo for deriving value from big data analytics, developing mobile apps that users and customers actually want to use and for understanding the business velocity (as opposed to just cost-savings) that cloud affords the business.

When businesses have needed these services in the past few years, they have been turning to the IT providers rather than investing in a full-time person who may or may not work out, or going to the expense of training internally.

But Lane and partner David Foote say the tide is turning. They are seeing companies scrambling to hire people with IT and business skills into their IT departments. In addition to cloud computing, mobile platforms and advanced analytics, security is a hot field, Lane said. And these companies are finding that talent is scarce. Moreover, when companies do snag talent, they are more willing to pay a premium now, whether that job has an executive title attached to it or not: “One person that shows [he or she] can have an impact on the business is a hot commodity,” Lane said.

What does this mean for CIOs? According to Lane, the most important trait to demonstrate to the business today is that you can manage the enterprise transition from legacy systems to technologies like the cloud and mobile. And if you can’t help your company make that change, watch out. Lane gave an example of a company he was working with who hired a CIO that lasted only nine months because he didn’t know how to manage change.

“We’re in a real transition period for CIOs,” said Lane, adding that when he attends private CIO meetings there are more “really visibly frightened CIOs than I’ve ever seen.” Lane said he is seeing CIOs beginning to retire even though they are too young for retirement. They just can’t see themselves transforming their careers. The most upbeat people in upper IT management are in their 30’s, he said, — people who grew up in a digital world.

But despite your age, Lane advises CIOs start implementing “people architecture”  — that is, IT architecture in the service of your workforce. For those who can’t? “They just need to get out of the way.”

Let us know what you think about the story; email Kristen Lee, features writer, or find her on Twitter @Kristen_Lee_34

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