While it may seem that outsourcing is draining jobs from the U.S., most of the statistics fail to mention the new jobs that have been created at the same time.
According to Forrester Research (May, 2004), 3.4 million jobs will have been moved offshore by 2015. Most of these jobs are in the information technologies (IT) and computer science fields, and this trend has many people worried. News reports are filled with stories of high-paying, white-collar IT jobs moving to Eastern Europe or Asia, and anecdotal accounts of senior computer professionals being laid off abound. Politicians are jumping on this issue stating that legislators should enact laws restricting or prohibiting outsourcing. But does this trend really spell doom for American technology professionals or does it instead open new opportunities in new careers? What types of jobs are “safe?” Two job roles that are likely to remain onshore are those of systems analyst and business analyst.
While it may seem that outsourcing is draining jobs from the U.S., most of the statistics that have been gaining public attention fail to mention the new jobs that have been created at the same time by the same companies doing the outsourcing. The millions of job losses being predicted are gross losses, not net losses. In addition, it is important to remember that sending work overseas is not by any means a new phenomenon. The manufacturing sector began shifting its center offshore many years ago, but people did not seem to notice because overall domestic job production in new fields eclipsed job losses. New jobs and new careers evolved to fill the void.
So, what types of jobs are likely to remain in the United States? First of all, any job that must be performed locally such as food service, personal care, and retail will remain here. These are not necessarily professional jobs, however, and thus not appropriate alternatives for displaced knowledge workers. The second type of job involves creativity and innovation–which are more difficult to send overseas and provide excellent opportunities domestically.
In the early days of IT implementation, software applications and IT infrastructures were much simpler. IT users in an enterprise could work directly with their information services departments to have business processes and functions automated. Today, everything is much more complex and there is little time to waste on trial-and-error approaches. Automating a business process with computer technology involves careful analysis from the start, a well-defined business model, translating that model to systems architecture, developing the applications, and performing testing, verification, and validation of the final product. This is where systems analysts and business analysts come in. They provide a very important link between users and the information services department of an organization.
In a typical corporate IT project, a business analyst works with application end-users to elicit and document their business requirements, and to analyze their business processes. He/she is knowledgeable about the capabilities of modern IT solutions and can help the end-users develop a vision of how IT can solve their business needs. The business analyst then communicates those requirements to the information systems department, to either an application developer or to a systems analyst.
The systems analyst typically has an educational background and experience in computer science or computer engineering, and is responsible for evaluating the technology needs of an entire enterprise. He or she then develops technology solutions to meet those needs. While the business analyst tends to focus on the specific needs of individual work groups, the systems analyst looks at the entire enterprise. He/she might perform some of the solution development but is likely to delegate that work to programmers and network engineers if the company has an information services staff.
Key skills for both types of analyst include analytical thinking and problem solving. In addition, the business analyst must also have exceptional interpersonal skills and must be able to work with a diverse clientele of internal end-user/customers, and the systems analyst must have solid technical skills working with enterprise-wide systems.
Many schools are helping professionals move into both of these career areas with the Business Analyst Certificate Program and the Systems Analyst Certificate Program. Most students can complete either certificate within three or four academic quarters (one quarter is ten weeks long) depending on the number of courses they can take each quarter.
Outsourcing does not have to be a threat–it can also be an opportunity for rejuvenation and growth in one’s career.
Stefano Stefan is the Assistant Director of Business, Management, Legal, and IT Programs and Information Technologies Program at UC-Irvine Extension.