Job Growth in ICT Market Expected to Continue, Despite Headwinds

The drive towards digital transformation and investment in artificial intelligence (A.I.) and data analytics is likely to boost business spending on information and communication technologies (ICT), according to a recent IDC report.

The report projected the professional services industry would continue with strong technology growth and investments, including cloud-based delivery, new apps, and tech-fueled services—all of which will benefit those with skillsets in data analytics, deep learning and A.I.

Total ICT spending on hardware, software, services and telecommunications is expected to reach $4.6 trillion by 2022, representing average growth of 4 percent per year.

“We are seeing continued movement of IT resources to the cloud, with strong investment in IaaS,” Stephen Minton, vice president in IDC’s customer insights and analysis group, told Dice. “That’s a direct substitution for on-premise hardware, which we will see combined with strong growth in spending on strategic areas like A.I. and analytics.”

The IDC report predicted the fastest growth over the forecast period would come from the professional services segment (7 percent), including cloud and digital service providers, with cloud infrastructure providers accounting for a rapidly increasing share of overall tech spending.

“You can therefore infer that there will be fewer jobs related to management of on-premise infrastructure like data centers, but more jobs related to these new growth areas like A.I.,” Minton said.

Minton noted there could initially be a shortage of workers to fill these new jobs, which all require different skillsets.

“The shortage of workers to fill new roles relating to these new technologies will create terrific opportunities to command higher wages, and the best people will find themselves in great demand,” Minton said. “This is because businesses are investing in new categories like A.I. faster than the A.I. talent pool can keep up.”

He pointed out, for example, that the banking vertical is already the largest single industry for A.I. and analytics software spending, but is forecast to increase this spending by an average of 14 percent a year between now and 2022. Meanwhile, retail firms will also increase their A.I. and analytics spending by 14 percent a year.

“There’s already an A.I. talent shortage, but organizations are determined to continue with aggressive A.I. implementation plans as they see A.I. and analytics as a core component of their digital transformation strategies,” Minton said.

Some companies will attempt to bridge the gap by retraining their existing employees, but it will take a few years for the next pool of graduates who are trained in A.I. to pick up the slack and reduce the skills shortage.

“This is therefore a crucial time for workers who have the right skills to build a strong position in the field, before it becomes more crowded,” Minton explained.

Minton noted the top verticals for investment in A.I. and analytics software last year were financial services, manufacturing and retail. These are also among the fastest-growing over the forecast period, with only the telecom industry posting similar growth rates.

He also pointed out the laggards: verticals such as construction, resources, education, personal and consumer services and utilities. “What we’re seeing is the revamping of a ton of business processes and how people do business on a daily basis—it’s becoming more of a streamlined, automated process, and communications are embedded into this now,” Brian Kracik, Oracle’s senior director of product marketing for enterprise communications and cloud services, told Dice.

He explained that, as ICT investment rises in fields such as banking and insurance, secure communications in the enterprise will require network security professionals, and people with a skillset around building an intelligent edge to prevent fraud and to analyze larger data lakes.

“This means someone with a skillset around data analytics can help us make things more automated on the network side, people who can create automated actions that respond to call patterns that customers have, and data transactions as well,” Kracik said.

Enterprises will also be looking for specialists in failsafe SD-WAN, or software-defined networking in a wide-area network; specifically, those who can help deliver predictable application performance over a multi-link WAN fabric that includes internet connections.

“Businesses are going to be looking for people to make their network failsafe, so that you don’t have interruptions, and so that there’s a great quality of experience and high reliability,” Kracik explained. “There is going to be an expanding suite of communications tools businesses will rely on, all based in different clouds that we work in, so one’s person’s skill set might be to streamline those, and another person is focused on quality and reliability. The question is, how big you need to build the teams?”

The increased use of video-based communications will also spur great demand not just for ICT experts who can provide the necessary level of network reliability and ease-of-use for end-users, but security as well.

“Visual and biometrics security, livelihood checks—we see a lot of enterprises building these things into the business process applications,” Kracik said. “That’s embedded into the machinery or the business, be it health care or construction machinery or an accountant.”

In order to stay competitive in a data-centric world, businesses are going to be looking for data scientists, statisticians, and people who know how to rationalize data, and they will all become part of the ICT team.

“Everything is about data, and businesses need to be able to look at it and tweak different levers to pull what they need out of it, Kracik explained. “What won’t need A.I. or analytics? We were just at OpenWorld in Dubai—and every single one of our applications had AI and analytics in there.”