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Chris Murphy
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Global CIO: Is Everyone An IT Worker Now?

A top IT jobs consultant thinks the government and the tech industry look at the IT profession too narrowly, massively underestimating tech jobs. Should we worry about 'shadow IT' employees?

David Foote, who leads the IT analyst firm Foote Partners, almost always has something interesting to say, so I always read his reports. A recent one didn't disappoint.

Foote--whose specialty is tracking and quantifying IT pay, skill, and career trends--criticizes as outdated the IT job classifications used by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. He writes that there are really 20 million to 25 million U.S. IT professionals, not the 4 million figure that's commonly accepted, based on BLS categories. Foote says the 4 million is based on "antiquated definitions of IT jobs." (A PDF of Foote Partners' analysis of 2Q IT jobs is here.) Writes Foote:

"The DOL doesn’t specifically identify millions of IT professionals working in business lines, corporate departments, and in various enterprise strategic and operational functions. These jobs require skills well beyond technology; for instance, precise industry, customer, product, and solution knowledge and expertise. … The fact is, the IT profession has undergone radical changes over the past several years, blending seamlessly into the enterprise."

20 million U.S. IT pros? That left me scratching my head. Of course there are far more than 4 million people who use extensive IT skills to do their job, people who wouldn't classify themselves as anything like a software engineer or computer scientist. But consider that there are about 51 million total managerial, professional, and related workers in the U.S. Up to half of them are IT pros? That sounded crazy.

So I e-mailed Foote, and had a thought-provoking e-mail exchange with Bill Reynolds, Foote Partners research officer, who replied:

"Interesting that you would limit IT workers only to Mgt/Professional category. There are another 25 million workers in the Services job category, 18 million in Office and Admin Support, and 15.6 million in Sales/related. You don’t think there are IT-related skills resident in people hold jobs in these areas?"

Reynolds says that in today's business world, end users are working in applications in ways that once would've been considered an IT job--the business intelligence power user, or the administrative or sales person using extensive IT. IT leaders worry about "shadow IT" infrastructure, where business units buy and run their own software and hardware. Do companies also have "shadow IT workers" they should pay attention to, asks Reynolds.

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