By a variety of measures, technology is the place to be in this modest economic recovery. In a poll IT job site Dice released in June, 73 percent of IT-focused recruiters and hiring managers said their companies will add more tech staff in 2012's second half. That’s up from 65 percent six months ago when asked about their hiring expectations for the first half of the year.
Demand for skills related to enterprise applications is contributing to healthy IT hiring. Employers are seeking evergreen app skills as well as some newer technologies.
Not So Niche
"I would say everything is in demand and not much is declining, as far as the enterprise," said Matthew Ripaldi, senior vice president of Modis, a global IT staffing firm. "Whatever function you’re looking at in enterprise, whether it’s accounting or BI or CRM or ERP, I would argue they’re all very much in demand."
He cited two reasons for this: During the recession, companies were reluctant to spend on updating, so systems became outdated. And as vendors continue to roll out new and more efficient tools, businesses that understand the importance of IT to their growth are starting to make those investments.
Jobs around enterprise apps go beyond traditional app development, he said to include implementation, support, project management, Web, mobile and cloud.
"What companies are really looking for as their workforce becomes more mobile is those enterprise applications being accessible, them being just as powerful within a mobile environment as they are on the desktop," he said.
He offered business intelligence as an example. "Having that on-the-fly BI intelligence, someone who’s in the field with a customer or potential customer, there’s a strong need for turning that data into useful information in real time.”
There’s a constant demand around business intelligence and all the tools, as well as in skills to make sense and effectively use the data being collected, he said.
Though he conceded there are fewer jobs related to mainframes, even companies with legacy systems are seeking to fill positions, though they generally involve support or sunsetting those applications.
Ripaldi named these top skills:
- ERP – SAP, JD Edwards
- Content management – Microsoft SharePoint
- CRM — SAP, Oracle, Salesforce.com
Architects and developers, project managers and business analysts are also in demand, he said.
"Companies are looking for related experience, finding someone who has just gone through what they’re going through, then being able to apply that to this project,” he said. “Our clients are also looking for someone who can wear multiple hats as well – not being so niche."
"It seems everything that we touch today, whether it’s consumer or enterprise, it all has some insight aspect to it," said Ali Behnam, managing partner of Riviera Partners, a Silicon Valley technology recruiting firm focused on startups. "…There’s building the infrastructure to get the insight, but once you get the data, there’s what to do with it and how to turn that into actionable outcomes." That means jobs for data scientists, machine learning experts, and people who have worked with databases.
Mobile is big – anything related to building apps on Android or iOS – for internal as well as external use. Programming languages such as Java, Ruby on Rails and PHP continue to be in demand.
Behnam also said professional services work is changing, thanks to growing adoption of cloud computing.
"It used to be the professional services guys would put the software in. Now the software is really easy to implement. You don’t have these big, multiyear implementation efforts in a lot of cases because everything is up in the cloud now. [Vendors] have made it really easy to plug in. So those jobs are much more about customer retention ..."
"There are always going to be big companies that want everything behind the firewall, but I think even that is changing,” said Behnam of enterprise applications hosted in the cloud. “There will always be on-premise, but I think that’s going to be confined much more to Fortune 500 or Fortune 1000 [companies.]"
Software development has gotten easier, Behnam said. "Back in the ‘90s, you had to buy the database, you had to buy the middleware, you had to buy all the different development environments. Now you can jack into Amazon’s cloud or plug into … Salesforce provides Heroku, the middleware environment, so now two developers can do the work of 10 or 12."
Behnam said the three hottest jobs are:
- Product management
- VP of Engineering
"Everything else would be a magnitude lower,” he said.
Skills Alone Won't Cut It
If asked to create a Top 10 list of the hottest skills in enterprise applications, five probably would be for SAP products, according to David Foote, co-founder and CEO of research firm Foote Partners. But companies aren't just looking for specific technical skills anymore; they want domain expertise and other "softer" qualities.
Foote said postings on job boards aren’t a true reflection of demand. Rather than focusing on demand among 2,400 employers in North America, in its research Foote Partners zeros in on what companies are willing to pay for skills, specifically in pay premiums above base salary.
"It’s not simply possessing a skill that’s important," said Foote. "It’s about what you can do with a skill and how you’ve blended it with other skills and knowledge … That could be in a specific business domain like finance, marketing, logistics, sales or operations or in a particular solution set that may involve one or more vendors and their products such as ERP, supply chain, mobile applications, security, e-commerce data warehousing or electronic medical records."
Among the changes in average market value in the first half of 2012 among non-certified skills, according to Foote's most recent report:
- Application development skills grew 3.6 percent.
- SAP and enterprise business applications, up 0.8 percent
- Web and e-commerce skills, down 3.2 percent
Application development/programming languages were only one of three categories of IT certifications that showed gains, up 4 percent.
Managed services continues to grow – the Labor Department notes 291,000 jobs added in the past three years – with more companies farming out the pure technology work tied to vendors such as Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and others.
Along with SAP skills, Foote cited these as the hottest skills related to enterprise apps, based on market value:
- Big Data -- Predictive/prescriptive analytics and modeling, Big Data analytics
- Web development -- Mobile applications development and HTML5
Susan Hall has been a journalist for more than 20 years at news outlets including the the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Dallas Times Herald and MSNBC.com. She writes for IT Business Edge, Dice.com and FierceHealthIT.