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Report: Techies anxious about lack of business skills

This month's Dice Report shows that IT professionals worry they lack the business skills to get ahead. According to some experts, the anxiety is not misplaced.

Technology professionals worry their lack of business skills is holding them back. New evidence suggests their concerns are not unfounded.

This month's Dice Report from Dice Holdings Inc., an online career site for technology professionals, shows that 35% of technology professionals feel their weakest career skill is budget management, 28% feel they just aren't "business savvy," and 21% say they are weak in developing "future strategy."

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"Although tech professionals want to climb the corporate ladder, many do not feel they have the necessary career skills to make the leap from the corner cubicle to the corner office," said Scot Melland, president and CEO of New York-based Dice Holdings.

But this collective fretting over business skills is surfacing at a time when demand for technology workers is strong, according to Dice. Job postings on its site totaled 96,824 at the end of the first quarter, a 12% bump over the 86,331 available jobs last year at this time. As true in past months, the New York metropolitan area tops the list of metro areas for jobs, with 10,941 positions posted. Washington, D.C., and Silicon Valley continue to jostle for the second and third spots. This month the D.C. area outpaces the West Coast stronghold, posting 8,240 jobs, compared with Silicon Valley's 6,478 jobs.

In New York, the financial markets' mounting compliance requirements are pushing the region's demand for IT professionals; and in Washington, D.C., defense work and compliance are fueling IT job growth, according to Melland.

Still, despite the strong job market, technology professionals are probably right to worry over a lack of business skills if they hope to play a strategic role at their companies, said John Mahoney, vice president and analyst at research firm Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

"Most businesses have been applying technology in effect to routine decision making over the last 15 to 20 years, and most of them are more or less finished with that," Mahoney said.

Where the jobs are
New York has the largest number of job openings for tech workers, but Boston is smoking in terms of job growth during the past six months.

Here are the metro areas Dice tracks and the percentage change in job postings from October 2006 to April 2007:

Metro area Oct. 2006 April 2007 % change
New York 9,672 10,941 +13%
Washington, D.C./Baltimore 8,591 8,240 -4%
Silicon Valley 5,821 6,478 +11%
Los Angeles 4,026 4,667 +16%
Chicago 3,605 4,277 +19%
Boston 2,935 4,217 +44%
Philadelphia 2,718 3,114 +15%
Dallas 2,601 2,990 +15%
Atlanta 2,484 2,896 +17%
Seattle 2,046 2,244 +10%

Source: The Dice Report, Dice Holdings Inc.

The skills most in demand on Dice job postings as of April 2 are:

O.S. 1. Windows 16,445
2. Unix 14,822
Databases 1. Oracle 17,405
2. SQL 14,843
Programming 1. J2EE/Java 13,608
Languages 2. C, C++ 12,184
According to new data due out later this month at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in San Francisco, people with business or business/technology hybrid experience will make at least 75% of strategic IT decisions by 2012. This is up from less than 40% in 2006. In large, technology-forward companies, this will be the case by 2010.

At least 75% of IT organizations will change their roles by 2012; 10% of IT organizations will be disbanded, and another 10% will be related to commodity status, according to Gartner data.

The disruption, Mahoney said in an interview previewing the findings, is driven by the shift in emphasis from the "T" -- technology -- to the "I" --information.

"There is a new frontier of value, a new opportunity for businesses to use technology to support and enable nonroutine decision making that is associated with three business assets. And those assets are business process, business information and business relationships," Mahoney said.

A recent survey from Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., shows the shift is well under way. The survey found that IT jobs that require business skills or align closely with business operations are high priorities for companies in 2007. Project management skills, for example, are in demand, while the more routine aspects of network management will be outsourced along with packaged application support and application maintenance, according to the data.

"Jobs that tend to be more client-facing are higher on the company priority list in 2007, for example, security skills," said Sam Bright, author of the March 8 report. "CIOs and IT leaders are concerned whether their staff has the skills the business is demanding and that is trickling down to their staff."

The high anxiety among technology professionals about their lack of business skills is not only justified, in Bright's view, but also necessary to force change in the industry. "I welcome the worry. The worry is needed for change to happen, for IT employees to proactively expand their skills sets beyond the current IT certifications by taking business classes or pursuing a business degree," he said.

The need for business savvy will become only more apparent as the job market picks up, Bright said, and IT employees see the skills increasingly sought after by other enterprises.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Linda Tucci, Senior News Writer

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