Careers: Outsource-Proof Jobs

Some IT jobs are more outsourcing-resistant than others

At the turn of the millennium, IT hotshots were a dime a dozen. That changed about five years ago, when U.S. firms first started hemorrhaging IT jobs. There’s been a recovery of sorts over the last half-decade, but would-be IT survivors are today grappling with a reality check of a different kind—in this case, the ever-looming specter of outsourcing. It’s not that IT jobs aren’t to be had—just that an increasing number of IT jobs are going offshore.

It’s for this reason, says management consultancy Foote Partners LLC, that the IT hotshots of today are those whose jobs are most resistant to outsourcing.

CEO and chief research officer David Foote breaks down outsourcing-proof jobs into three discrete segments: Enabler jobs, customer-facing jobs, and infrastructure jobs. The first segment includes enterprise and business architects, business analysts, and business technologists, along with business process modelers and project managers. Jobs of this kind are mostly concerned with IT and business alignment or business enablement issues, Foote says.

The application development space has been hard hit by outsourcing, but Foote researchers say there’s been a recovery of sorts over the last 12 months as companies have shifted resources—and budget dollars—from largely compulsory infrastructure-centric regulatory initiatives to other backlogged IT projects. One upshot of this is that app-dev experts are once again in demand—especially those with expertise in EAI, .Net, Java, Web applications, ERP, and CRM app dev efforts. Other in-demand code jockeys include Web application programmers, data warehousing and business intelligence (BI) coders, and old standbys such as DBAs, database developers, and help desk pros.

The app-dev renaissance is embracing next-generation application architectures—principally J2EE and .NET—along with other non-traditional innovations, such as agile programming processes.

Why does Foote think this segment, this time around, will be particularly resistant to outsourcing? “[I]t's obvious that this work increasingly requires customer- and industry-savvy workers and sometimes familiarity with company culture,” he writes. That kind of expertise is “[t]ough to find … in Bangalore, India, and even when you can, offshoring development is proving to be far more difficult than anticipated to manage. Costs may be reduced, but scheduling and project completion timelines are less predictable.”

It’s mostly business as usual in the business infrastructure space, however: security experts (especially those with expertise in forensics, security analysis, and senior management); data modelers (principally enterprise data management); network managers and engineers; software engineers; disaster recovery specialists; system auditors; system and data integrators; and storage and SAN administrators should remain hot commodities.

Infrastructure jobs like these should be largely outsourcing-proof, Foote speculates. “I think Web-enabled business models are locked in for the long haul at most companies. Now even a little bit of downtime on these systems can have a big impact on revenues and shake customer confidence.”

There’s another reason why organizations are increasingly loath to outsource jobs like these, according to Foote. “Risk avoidance is now a prime directive, and ‘no surprises’ is the managerial mantra for 2006 IT decision makers. Failure to understand this can mean loss of jobs. Kind of makes one think twice about putting too many of your key computing assets in the hands of vendors. Once you have your ‘A team’ in place internally, both on the technical and project management sides, then you can outsource with some confidence.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.