Just as Information Technology lead the way into the downturn 18 months ago, the sector is shaping up to lead Australia back out, given the latest figures from that monthly economic barometer, the Olivier Jobs Index. After 18 months of falls and pitiful attempts to recover lost ground, the number of online advertisements for Information Technology and Telecommunications jobs jumped 11.75 per cent in November across the country, suggesting that companies are shoring up their IT teams for some big projects in the New Year.
Over at Peoplebank Peter Acheson has also seen a big jump in demand for IT staff in the month of November, as organisations restart projects they had put on hold during the economic crisis.
2010 is shaping up to be a year of demand for information technology skills not seen since the heady days of the dot.com boom.
But this recovery will be different from the last one. It will be sharper, and it will be focused on key areas businesses need to grow. The past 12 months has seen a big change in the way business views information technology and its strategic importance within organisations.
All four big banks are carrying out significant systems upgrades, and the Department of Defence will overhaul its ever-troubled information technology systems. Big retailers like Coles and Woolworths now understand the strategic importance of ongoing investment in information technology as well as the internet, and have ongoing projects that reflect the increasing importance of information technology for the retail sector.
More broadly, a stronger focus on technology will have a direct effect on productivity: business intelligence, enterprise resource planning, virtualisation and web-based software will drag the economy kicking and screaming into a new era.
For the next five years the National Broadband Network will suck up skills from just about every corner of the economy, but especially from the information technology and communications sector. As the project progresses however, it will also provide enormous opportunities for companies to change operations at every level, and will position Australia at the forefront of a new economic paradigm, which global modern economies will ultimately adopt.
At the same time, governments around the world will need to implement policies that will force a reduction in carbon emissions, and these will necessarily involve information technology.
The NBN will enable enterprises to operate more efficiently and effectively, and will provide enormous opportunities to save on carbon emissions especially in the areas of transport and logistics. This in turn will provide enterprises with opportunities to reduce their carbon emissions by adopting new business models – enabling more staff to work from home, more customers to be serviced in a way that suits their business models, and ultimately give the early adopters big improvements to their bottom line.
IT workers can prepare themselves for a long boom in demand for their skills, so long as they focus on these areas where demand will be stronger. IT managers, however, need to think hard about creating strong pipelines for talent development because the ever-present IT skills shortage is about to get worse.