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SOA means money for IT workers

As SOA gains traction, organizations will be looking for architects and project managers with the right skill sets, though the supply needs to catch up with the demand.

Businesses shook the mothballs out of corporate wallets this year, spending money on new revenue-producing IT products...

and innovation -- and on the people with the skills who could make that happen. But, according to two recent studies, as more enterprises move toward service-oriented architecture, look for that to impact the skill sets that will be in demand, and the expectations for project management.

If you're an application developer, you were in the right place at the right time this year, according to a new pay study from Foote Partners, New Canaan, Conn. The study, which surveyed 50,000 IT professionals at 1,820 North American employers, found premium pay for noncertified application development skills increased 17.6% in value in the 12 months ending October 1, 2005, while certified AD skills were up 13.2% in the same period.

"No matter what people say, how they spend money is what tells you what's going on," said David Foote, co-founder, president and chief research officer.

What's going on, Foote said, is that a year ago IT spending was locked into dealing with compliance regulations, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, so now there is pent-up demand for innovation. In addition, he said, companies are looking to invest in talent and are less willing to outsource than they were a year ago.

"Offshoring turns out to be riskier than they wanted," Foote said. "When you're looking at quality or predictability, or you need to get something done in a particular amount of time, it makes sense to spend more. You won't lose your job if you spend money, but you will if hold back [a product] or let it slip."

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The average median pay for 94 noncertified technical skills grew 9.9% for the 12 months. ending October 1. Among the hottest noncertifed skills were Active Server Pages, Microsoft NT Server, Java and Visual J++. And the average median pay for 95 certified technical skills grew 7.9% for the same period. Hot certified technical skills included Sun-certified programmers, developers and enterprise architects for Java 2 platform, and Microsoft applications developers.

According to the study, in-demand IT jobs over the next 12 months include application development/database (including Java and .NET), RAD/Extreme Programming and Web-enabled analytics on the customer-facing side. On the infrastructure side, in-demand IT jobs for the next 12 months include networking, security and Web services/SOA (WebSphere, .NET, SOAP). Other in-demand IT jobs labeled as "enablers" will be enterprise and business architects, business technologists/business analysts, process modelers and project managers.

"There's an awful lot of interest in architecture in general," Foote said. For IT workers, he said, "part of the SOA play is, how will this change my role/position in this company? Companies have had to undo jobs they've assigned over the years that have become very siloed." Whereas IT professionals have built up experience in vendor-specific skills, "SOA is very horizontal. People just aren't set up to work horizontally," Foote said.

According to the recent third quarter study from the Standish Group International Inc., West Yarmouth, Mass., only 7% of respondents said they are very knowledgeable about SOAs, while 36 % said they were knowledgeable and another 49% said they were somewhat knowledgeable.

For 84% of the Standish respondents, the availability of skilled workers has a major impact on the selection of SOA and Web services tools; 17% rate it as critical, according to the report. And 49% of respondents said their companies are likely or somewhat likely to hire a consulting firm to help them move to an SOA environment.

As companies begin their SOA projects, though, there is often a disconnect between the upfront investment required and the ROI expectations, said Jim Johnson, chairman of Standish Group. "Infrastructure things are hard, they tend to be expensive and they tend to have a high failure rate," he said. Among those surveyed, 31% of companies expect an SOA project to be fully paid back in less than two years.

A quick ROI "is especially difficult when you look at such a change in infrastructure," Johnson said. "The benefits will not accrue until late in the game, but there are a whole bunch of risks there. When those things happen, it tends to slow the adoption rate down."

Cultural can also be an impediment, Foote said. "It's difficult to find enough people to collaborate and work horizontally," he said, but the emerging generation of IT professionals may have the skill set to lead SOA projects.

"We've got a lot younger people who don't have the experience or credibility, but they have the attitude. They think horizontally," he said. So he advises companies to think: "How can we accelerate their development as architects?"

This article originally appeared on SearchWebServices.com.

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