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IT job skills, digital mind-set in short supply

Figuring out who to hire and what to pay for IT job skills has never been a cut-and-dried affair. Even when IT salaries are relatively stagnant, as they have been in recent years, demand for certain IT job skills — and therefore the premiums paid for those skills — can change in a matter of a mere three months, a phenomenon David Foote understands well. Foote Partners LLC advisory and research firm, founded in 1997, tracks pay for 835 IT skills every 90 days.

“The truth is that there are so many skills that employers find worthy of extra pay, and for these skills either certifications don’t exist or the ones that do are perceived as too easy to attain,” Foote said in the firm’s latest release on IT job skills pay from Oct. 1, 2015 to Jan. 1, 2016. “Besides, employers have always had their own ways to evaluate and accredit skills expertise. They are comfortable using their own methods to qualify the strength and value of skills and how they factor into their workers’ capabilities on the job.”

In rapidly changing business climates — as is the case in today’s massive shift to digital businesspremium pay for IT jobs skills is particularly volatile, Foote explained in a phone call following up on the report. A good example is what has happened to compensation for big data skills over the past two years. For all the media buzz about the importance of advanced analytics in gaining a foothold in the digital marketplace, pay premiums for 58 big data-related skills and certifications declined an average 4.7% in the last nine months of 2014.

“Companies started going into big data, hiring people out of Google, out of big tech firms — and then found nothing was happening. ‘We’re putting money into this,’ they told us, ‘and we’re not getting any results,'” Foote said.

Big data pay on rebound

Doing big data is about data sharing and transparency and breaking down business silos, Foote said, something many hierarchal companies find difficult to do. Another reason for the pullback in big data pay? An institutional reluctance to embrace data-driven decision management. “These companies want to build a new business model to compete in a digital era — and then find that their culture just completely gets in the way of doing it,” he said.

But as companies have found their “sweet spots” in big data, discovering what they can and can’t do, compensation for big data skills has rallied, rising nearly 6% in market value overall in 2015 and predicted to increase over the next 12 to 24 months.

“Big data capabilities are just too critical for staying competitive. They’ve expanded in popularity from a few industries to nearly every industry and market,” he said. The growth of Internet of Things (with predicted compound annual growth rate  of 30 % over the next five years) — and the pressure to turn IoT data into actionable business intelligence — will further spur pay for big data related skills, he said.

Here are some other findings on IT job skills from Foote Partners’ latest research:

DevOps gets “serious traction:” Acceptance of DevOps methodology is growing. The latest premium pay data for 2,745 employers tracked by Foote Partners shows a 7.12% gain in average market value for DevOps skills in the past six months.

Cloud skills demand strong, but pay eroding: Talent supply for cloud skills is catching up with demand, resulting in a modest 1% gain in average value in 2015 for 73 cloud-related certified and noncertified skills.

Security skills gap deepens: Market values for the 76 information security certifications tracked by Foote Partners have increased an average 9.7% over the past two years. The report states: “The bad news is that while cybercriminals and hacktivists are increasing in numbers and deepening their skill sets, the ‘good guys’ are struggling to keep pace. … CISOs will have to become more aggressive about getting the skill sets the organization needs, plus [they] will need to build sustainable recruiting practices and develop and retain existing talent to improve their organizations’ cyber resilience.”

Read more about Foote Partners’ latest findings in, “Digital business disruption roils the manufacturing sector.”