Strategic CIO // IT Strategy
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4/24/2006
12:05 PM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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Offshoring Is Your Wal-Mart: Don't Take It Head-On

Offshoring is to U.S. IT workers what Wal-Mart is to retail. If you're squarely in its path, competing head-to-head on price, you'll be crushed by the economics in its favor. But that doesn't mean the death of the IT career.

Offshoring is to U.S. IT workers what Wal-Mart is to retail. If you're squarely in its path, competing head-to-head on price, you'll be crushed by the economics in its favor. But that doesn't mean the death of the IT career.As shown in InformationWeek's cover story, "You Vs. Offshoring," there are a lot of positive signs in the IT job market. Just as many retailers have learned to survive and thrive in a Wal-Mart world by competing on factors other than price, many U.S. IT workers are finding there's still a lucrative place for them despite the lower-cost competition from global IT.

Two numbers surprised me most in our IT salary survey, which brought responses from more than 10,000 IT pros. One is job stability, which improved noticeably. Two years ago, 19% of IT staffers felt insecure in their jobs, and just 31% felt strongly secure. Today, just 12% feel insecure, and 42% feel strongly secure. For managers, 50% feel strongly secure today, up from 40% two years ago.

The second is whether the career looks as promising as five years ago. Nearly twice as many IT staffers this year thinks it's as promising as it was five years ago--but that's still up to only 30% of IT staffers. This is the question that gets closest to, "Would you recommend an IT career to a kid?" which has been discussed passionately on this blog before. (Another article of interest: Latest government employment stats show IT unemployment at 2.5%, with management jobs fueling the growth.)

The Wal-Mart analogy is apt in that offshoring has created a brutal and uncertain competitive environment for IT pros. Just as Wal-Mart roared into the grocery business and could move into banking and even health care, the key question for offshore IT offerings is, "What categories can it succeed in next?" Everyone in IT has to actively manage an IT career with one eye on offshoring. It's the tension that runs through our coverage this week. Our data and reporting paints a picture of IT pros feeling more confident they can keep their careers out of offshoring's path. The kids behind them, they're not so sure.

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