"There's been a natural evolution to the use of service providers and external clouds, and the talent has moved with that," Penman says. "I like to build and design and create big systems" -- as he did when he worked at the big banks -- "but any given company does not put in a new portfolio management system every year. If you're a real hotshot technology guy, you don't want to be sitting around doing maintenance for four years waiting for the next big-nut project."
Montalbano is a senior infrastructure consultant at Microsoft consultancy Catapult Systems in Houston. After surviving three rounds of layoffs at his first corporate IT job, he resigned and took a series of contract jobs, and that experience convinced him that there were more stable, and more interesting, opportunities for him outside the organization.
"Unless you're the guy with the in-house tribal knowledge of the company, everything else is going to wind up with a consultant or contractor," says Montalbano. He's currently working on a long-term Windows 7 deployment at a "pretty good-sized" international company. "They don't have the skills to do this in-house," he says.
Specialist or Generalist?
Like many big companies, consumer products giant Kimberly-Clark is combining what were individual IT specializations, such as firewall or intrusion-detection skills, into broader job titles.
The company once had more than 300 discrete job specifications for IT roles. But now, "I'm down to about 45," says David Richter, vice president of global infrastructure and operations.
As part of a broader plan to redeploy 252 in-house IT professionals, Kimberly-Clark employees are rotating through various jobs to learn the skills they need to perform in new roles. "Our roles are more generic than previously," he says.
Richter's goal is simple: "I need a broader bench. I need people who have two or three areas of expertise," he says.
Cook Children's Health Care System in Fort Worth, Texas, is similarly de-emphasizing individual technology specializations and "melding roles," says CIO Theresa Meadows.
To cross-train workers for the broader new roles, she instituted a "pod system" where three or four people with different skills work in groups so they can learn from one another. "That's how we're beginning to address [the skills gap]," says Meadows.
Specifically, she needs more business process knowledge within her IT staff, which currently numbers around 170. "Tools are important, but it's equally important to know the business and how the tool you're implementing impacts that process. It's almost more critical to get that business process knowledge, because we can teach the tools," Meadows observes.