For nearly a decade, technology executives have struggled with a challenge more daunting than justifying a budget ormastering a new programming language: the challenge of managing headcount. Early in the '90s, the issue was one of streamlining, reengineering, empowering-a variety of euphemisms that all came down to staff cuts. One insurance company after another went through a very public downsizing, and much of that downsizing occurred in the back office, data center or some other techie habitat.
Ironically, at the same time, there were concerns about future employees-namely, whether the nation's schools were providing students with the necessary skills to fill the customer service, application development, network management and transaction processing positions that even the most stingy manager knew would have to be staffed. It's to the industry's credit that insurers have been in the forefront of the business/school partnerships that sprang up in the '90s, with a range of initiatives from mentoring to donations of computer equipment to real-world internships.
Then, as surely as pendulums swing, came the Internet explosion and technology boom-which resulted in acute skills shortages. Insurers found themselves scrambling not only to hire developers, integrators and managers, but also scrambling to retain those professionals already on staff. Where early in the '90s companies couldn't shed these people quickly enough, by the end of the decade it was a daily struggle to hang on to them.
Now it looks as if it may be time to duck before the pendulum swings again. The tech industry slump appears to be easing up the workforce crunch. It's not that IT professionals are exactly flooding the market, but certainly the prospects of being part of a technology team at an established corporate organization may be more enticing to talented people embarking on careers. Just hope this doesn't turn out to be a case of, be careful what you wish for, you might get it.
Speaking of workforce...2000 was one of I&T's most successful years ever, thanks largely to our talented team of editorial, design and sales professionals. Here are the faces that go with the names you see every month.
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio