Modern Today, Legacy Tomorrow: The Nature of Fast-Changing Skill Demand in IT Services | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Posted On March 27, 2017

It is no hidden fact that the outsourcing industry is on the cusp of change. While the labor arbitrage model and legacy ERP applications ruled the 1990s and 2000s, digital has become the heartthrob of the current decade, and you can see enterprises entering new forays to keep themselves relevant in this fast-changing business landscape.

In this context, even the demand for technical skills has changed tremendously over the past few years. Some skills that used to have the largest pull have become obsolete, and others are struggling to keep their hold in the IT services industry.

Specialist skills losing leverage against generic skills

Consider the case of SAP on-premise business solutions. Until recently, SAP as a skillset had been very attractive among fresh graduates and lateral hires alike. High market demand coupled with supply playing catch up meant higher wages and easy to switch options in the ever-competitive outsourcing market. But over the past few years, on-premise ERP and factory-led offshoring have matured to the extent that once premium technical skills such as ABAP or Basis no longer command the same leverage over generic skills such as Java, .NET, and COBOL. Even functional skills such as finance controller (FICO) or sales and distribution have seen their premium declining over the last few years.

Specialist skills such as Cognos, Informatica, and IBM Websphere are also facing the heat in large outsourcing deals, where high competition and enterprise awareness have forced service providers to utilize a common, generic rate card irrespective of the complexity or diversity of skills involved. Also, organizations such as NetSuite, Salesforce, SuccessFactors, and Workday provide a viable option with consumption-led pricing models, which make them highly attractive. The level of competition and clear buying trends are forcing even behemoths to come to the table with cloud-based, integrated business solutions. Think SAP with S/4 HANA, which is pushed aggressively by the company’s account sales teams.
With the change in the business landscape, there’s increasingly a clear preference for new age phenomena such as big data analytics, hyper-automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The impact of IoT, digital technologies, and automation on skill demand

IoT is one area in which organizations are investing large sums for either cost optimization or revenue generation, depending on their business models. And it is one area in which hardware, firmware, mobility, cloud, and analytics specialists are in extremely high demand to address its hot growth. While the likes of Angular JS and Swift are being used to develop mobile applications, Hadoop and Spark are seeing a huge demand in data analytics. Even firmware and hardware engineers are being required to work in an agile fashion using DevOps methodology, a phenomenon never seen before in industrial manufacturing.

Another big area in which significant investment is being made is Service Delivery Automation (SDA). It is being looked at as a viable alternative to labor arbitrage. Enterprises are looking to automation to reduce costs and streamline business processes. Service providers and enterprises alike are scouting for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) developers and DevOps engineers for onshore/GIC/service provider operations to significantly downsize the low-level tasks performed offshore.

Overall, the current market is in a state of flux as digital takes precedence and legacy becomes less prominent. But the demand for digital services across enterprises is clear, regardless of existing market shares.

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