2009: A few observations / lessons and good riddance (don’t get mad, get even)!

As 2009 winds down to a merciful close, I think maybe a few comments may be in order.  (Or at least not out of order?) With IT professional services bill rates as low as I have seen them since them since the early 1990’s, I will not be mourning the passing of this year, etc.  The ironic thing is that margin aside, there was some excellent work done in 2009, and I was indeed grateful for the opportunity to be working on some significant enterprise programs.

It is interesting to see that the biggest tech industry winners are the companies that have taken new technology (Apple, RIM, Salesforce.com, etc.) and helped push it from the early adopters to the mainstream.  How the iPhone has been able to enjoy such incremental success while the country is mired in the worst depression since 1929 is indeed curious!  Nevertheless I do think 2010 will be a very strong / bounce back year for the mainstream IT industry.  The fortune 1000 and many middle market companies have little choice but to continue to invest in upgraded infrastructure and new product development as these organizations cannot broaden their product offerings and improve worker productivity without such investments.  A fascinating reality of the world wide and North American economy in my opinion is that economic spending, recovery, etc. continues to be regional and industry specific in nature.  Those workers who are nimble enough to position / reposition themselves in the medical, green or tech industries in 2010 should have a very solid year (my pipeline of new opportunities is as strong as it has been since the spring of 2007).  Those in construction, automotive or even commodity service sector are likely in for another difficult year.

Another very promising trend from 2009 is the continued growth and penetration that Agile and Scrum methods and techniques are having in main stream fortune 1000 and key middle market organizations! Indeed more organizations than ever before are awaking to the potential benefits of Agile product development.  The corollary to this is that most of these organizations are moving steadily and slowly up the learning curve to become effective agile organizations!  There is still more improvement and maturity required before many of these organizations will truly accomplish much of what agile offers them.

The bottom line for IT service providers and skilled engineering labor is that deep and broad skills and experience are still in significant demand, and will be busier in 2010 then 2009. Rates have already begun to bounce back!  For those who are just entering the industry and trying to develop a solid foundation of Agile technical skills, the best strategy this year will be to focus on getting real world and useful agile experience and work.  Although the compensation for this group will still lag, it will pay off in the due time for those who can hang in there!

Cheers and best wishes for the year ahead!

Paul Reed