Is it just the usual, cyclical phenomenon or are we actually dealing with a true revolution? One thing is for sure: more and more IT specialists leave the bigger corporations. They establish their own specialized bureau or become self-employed. Nothing clever there: in the current, red-hot market you don’t need to be a reckless entrepreneur to take the plunge.
From the outside, you might tend to see shifts like this as something temporary. With the next economic downturn, all the freebooting adventurers will queue up again at the gates of the big companies and IT suppliers. Right?
Well, maybe not this time. There is an important change in demand taking place. Companies are looking more and more for external IT specialists, leaving their own internal population at best at a stable level. The bad days of the Post Internet Bubble Dip are still well-remembered. With the new strategy, companies create an elastic cord that will save them from overcapacity and having to dismiss massive amounts of people.
But on the supply side, change is imminent too. And the interesting things happen in the more extreme age categories.
The number of older IT specialists is quickly increasing. And more than often, they don’t want to be part any longer of the worked up career rat race that we all know too well in IT. But with their wealth of experience and insight, they can be of great value to any project; through leading, consulting or coaching. These are typically roles that can be filled in perfectly from an independent, self-employed position, without the HRM manager breathing down your neck.
On the other side of the spectrum, we find the newly graduated IT students. A fluttering, YouTube-zapping species that already learned during study that through the Internet (think Elance, RentACoder, ScriptLance), you can choose yourself when you perform what kind of labour for which client. As true eBay style IT Specialists – living in India, the US, Europe, anywhere else – they sell their services through marketplaces on the web. And that involves the entire circus of supply and demand, bargaining and haggling and transparency (“tell us how you liked this Java programmer”).
Put it all together and you get an exciting mix. It might eventually evolve into a dynamic ecosystem of loosely coupled labour contracts between organizations and IT Micropreneurs.
We are well on our way towards such a Free Agent Nation. From Open Source, we already learned how to manage complex projects without having the individual team members located at one place or working for the same company. And once we have established true global certification standards for IT professionals (like ITAC), together with public methodology and tools standards (such as OpenUP), there is nothing to keep us from modernising our profession in a truly innovative way. We, the IT people, could be setting an example. Would be nice, for a change.