| Craig S. Mullins
Database Performance Management
The IT Skills Shortage
By Craig S. Mullins
How serious is the IT skills shortage? According
to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Commerce it is very
serious. The report, entitled “The Digital Workforce,” was
released at the end of June 1999. And, according to the figures,
things look grim for those looking to employ IT folks; but bright for
the IT savvy.
Those of us in the IT industry are well aware of
the state of affairs. It is difficult to find and retain quality,
qualified professionals. The rate at which computers, software, and
networks have been adopted has resulted in a very high tech, complex
infrastructure that needs to be supported. However, not enough new,
skilled workers are available to implement, manage, and administer
According to the government study, the average
annual growth rate for computer scientists, systems analysts and
computer engineers will exceed 100% by the year 2006. More than 1.3
million new IT professionals will be required to fill the need. This
includes new job openings and replacing workers who exit the IT
There is indeed opportunity for students who wish
to pursue computer technology as a career. The study indicates a
small, recent increase in the number students earning computer science
degrees. From 1995 to 1998, students enrolled in bachelor degree
programs rose 108%; for masters degree programs the increase was 106%;
PhD programs, 71%. However, there are not enough students enrolled in
universities today to fill the demand for IT jobs into the immediate
future. Whether this is because folks are scared of technology, view
technology as for “nerds,” or simply that growth has been too
torrid to supply the demanded personnel, IT management needs to
understand and address the issue.
The report also indicates that IT was responsible
for more than a third of the growth in the U.S. economy between 1995
and 1997. Technology is driving the Internet and is imperative for the
data warehousing, customer relationship management, and knowledge
management initiatives underway in most organizations. So IT will
continue to drive the economy.
As such, the need for more IT jobs will continue
to grow. But coupled with the need for more IT professionals, is the
need for the right mix of IT professionals. Managing your IT
infrastructure is not getting easier, it is getting more complex. We
are co-mingling more and more different types of technologies than
ever before. For example, most organizations have between three and
ten different database management systems installed and operational.
And each DBMS is different, requiring different skills and knowledge
to maintain. And the DBMS is but one part of the IT infrastructure.
The IT infrastructure consists of all the things required to enable
the IT shop to function. This
includes your applications, databases, desktops, networks, and
servers. It is both hardware and software. Implementing, managing, and
maintaining a complex IT infrastructure spread throughout the globe is
a daunting task.
The Commerce report hints at this complexity. It
acknowledges that the skills, knowledge, and techniques need to
perform IT tasks varies position to position, making it difficult to
find, hire, and retain the right employees with the right mix of
skills. A DBA must know different things than a programmer, who in
turn needs different skills than a network engineer. Even within an IT
job position the skills mix will differ. Is a mainframe programmer
with COBOL, JCL, and CICS experience interchangeable with an
E-commerce programmer with XML, HTML, and Java skills? I think not.
One of the ways to help mitigate this problem is
through automation. As IT professionals we have not automated our jobs
as much as we have automated other areas of the organization. Through
tools such as proactive performance management systems, graphical
management consoles, and visual development toolkits, the job of
developing, maintaining, and administering complex systems can be made
Instead of waiting for problems and then having to memorize (or look up) arcane and complicated commands, automated tools can search for problems and help to correct them before they become bigger problems. The earlier performance problems are detected, the easier they are to solve with minimum impact to system availability.
Furthermore, management and development consoles
make it easier to develop using graphical interfaces, shared code, and
run time debuggers.
The wise IT shop will have a full battery of
development and management tools to make their IT staff more
efficient. An efficient staff can help to minimize the problems that
will be created by a less than full staff.
As IT tasks get more complex and IT professionals
are harder to employ and retain, more and more IT duties should be
automated using the computer. If computerized methods can be used to
help run IT, the amount of time, effort, and human error associated
with managing the IT infrastructure will decrease. Of course, this
will not solve the IT skills shortage, but it might help to make it
easier to bear.
This U.S. Department of Commerce report referenced in this article can be viewed at http://www.ta.doc.gov/reports/itsw/Digital.pdf