The IT Jobs Cloud Computing Will Create

Conventional wisdom maintains that cloud computing will eliminate scores of IT jobs. CIO.com's Bernard Golden explains why that argument is flawed and describes the many IT jobs that will flourish in the age of cloud computing.

By Bernard Golden
Wed, October 26, 2011

CIO — I was interested in this week's ZDNet piece, Cloud computing's real creative destruction may be the IT workforce. The piece discusses a presentation at last week's Gartner Symposium that posited cloud computing will be a net destructor of IT jobs.

I am not one to gainsay Gartner's wisdom. In fact, earlier this year I wrote about the topic of job losses and cloud computing in a post titled Cloud CIO: Yes, Your Job Is At Risk." The topic seems to be in the air: Another blog I came across this week was titled, I'll Probably Never Hire Another Pure SysAdmin"

As I say, I am not one to gainsay Gartner's wisdom, but I believe the research firm makes a common mistake regarding innovation (aka "creative destruction").

The argument is that cloud computing automates tasks that, in the past, have been performed by employees, and that after automation occurs, those people will no longer be needed. CIOs, who believe that their organizations are inefficient and are looking to cut costs, will substitute automation for headcount and start laying people off left and right.

Katherine Hepburn Spencer Tracy Desk Set
In Desk Set, Katherine Hepburn plays a technophobe, concerned that the new computer introduced by Spencer Tracy's efficiency expert will put her out of a job.

One might be tempted to observe that this is a drum that has been beat many times in the past. Over 50 years ago, Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy tussled over the same issue in the 1957 movie Desk Set. I believe one can compare total employment of so-called knowledge workers in 1957 and today and recognize that the number of these types of workers is far higher now.

The reason Gartner (and many others) are wrong about cloud computing's effect on employment is that they assume this disruption is unleashed in a static environment.

However, the field of computing has never been static, and will not be in the face of cloud computing. In fact, one may predict that cloud computing will vastly increase the amount of computation that is done and will significantly increase the number of workers in the field.

Why can this be so confidently predicted?

The posh explanation can be found in Jevon's Paradox. From Wikipedia: "Jevon's Paradox is the proposition that technological progress that increases the efficiency with which a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource."

More prosaically, this proposition is captured in the phrase "price elasticity of demand," which describes the responsiveness—or elasticity—of the quantity demanded of a good or service to a change in its price.

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