IT compensation hits a lull before the storm

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Despite the specter of skill shortages impeding mission critical projects, employers have hit the pause button on the bonuses and other incentives they are awarding IT professionals.

For only the second time in the past four years, cash compensation for 522 noncertified IT skills actually fell in the final quarter of 2017, although only by .03 percent. During the same period, bonuses and other payouts for 446 certified skills rose by the same small percentage. As a group, the 968 skills tracked by market researcher Foote Partners have steadily gained in market value over the past eight years.

Since its inception in 1999, Foote Partners’ quarterly IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index has monitored payouts for individual IT skills earned by 73,664 technology professionals in 83 U.S. and Canadian cities. The skills are classified as certified or noncertified and include categories such as information and cybersecurity certifications and noncertified management, process and methodology skills.

While the recent frenzy surrounding short-term skill gaps and unfilled jobs has subsided somewhat, the lull is liable to be short lived. As Foote Partners points out in its quarterly report on IT labor trends, “It’s difficult to find an employer that isn’t struggling to come up with [a] tech staffing model that balances three things: the urgencies of new digital innovation, combating ever deepening security threats and keeping increasingly complex systems and networks running smoothly and efficiently.”

Among the most important technology initiatives that businesses are scrambling to support, the Foote Partners’ researchers list:

  • The internet of things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications
  • Artificial intelligence and machine language
  • Blockchain
  • Digital engagement
  • Big data and business intelligence
  • Cybersecurity

All of these still nascent technologies could be game-changing for many industries, forcing companies to take stock of how prepared they are to deploy them. “The next few years will test employers’ people management capabilities like never before,” the report states. “These new blockbuster technologies… will place a stunning labor strain on employers regardless of whether they are developing, supporting or consuming these pervasive groundbreaking technologies.”

The IT labor market’s current relative calm notwithstanding, the report notes that skill sets pertaining to these breakthrough technologies continue to command outsized compensation. Among them:

--Blockchain-related skill premiums remain in the range of 12 to 17 percent of base salary.

--Bonuses for data visualization-related skills, including QlickView, Tableau and Cognos continue to range from 14 to 38 percent of base salary.

--Other business intelligence skill sets, such as advanced SQL, SAS and SSAS still command a 20 percent premium over base.

--Premiums for IoT-related analytics skills, including NoSQL, NewSQL and Apache Spark, are ranging from eight to nine percent over base.

--Machine learning-related skill bonuses are ranging from 13 to 18 percent over base.

--Data mining skill premiums are running 9 to 14 percent over base.

Demand for IoT-related skills in particular, the report adds, will play a major role in driving up IT compensation. Since IoT is such a broad area, it will force employers to pay premiums for a broad spectrum of development skills, including low-level assembly and C/C++ programming; higher-level languages such as Node.js and Java, and communications protocol skills—since an IoT device is worthless if it can’t share its data.

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