Filling a Need
The supply and demand cycle is an interesting one to consider. Many people think they have a handle on it: individuals demand a product. A business supplies that product. If more businesses go on to supply that product, prices come down until, eventually, they reach equilibrium between supply, demand, and the price consumers are willing to pay.
Suppose an individual looks around in the job market and sees that there is a strong demand for workers who understand SAP system programming. He decides to hone his skills in that area and begins to build a career in that field. A few other people follow suit.
Businesses begin to pick up on SAP systems technologies, seeing its uses in a variety of settings, and soon our SAP system programmer and his compatriots are able to command high day rates and salaries for their in-demand skills.
Companies begin to see the advantage of SAP system programming; demand increases. A short while later, though, and others looking to take advantage of this lucrative market appear on the scene.
Believe it or not, demand will actually continue to increase along with this increase in supply. As companies see a way to obtain the benefits of SAP programming services for lower prices, they will hire more in that field, until the market reaches equilibrium.
Unfortunately, the story does not end there. Third parties are also closely monitoring the IT market, looking for ways to get in. These third parties upset the balance by offering rock-bottom prices for SAP services, in the form of offshore services that can undercut just about anyone else in the market.
While this injection may have the same effect – increasing demand because cost is low – the concern we have is that cost becomes too low for that field to be worth our time as IT professionals.
For someone looking to build an IT career, what could the possible answer be?
Diversification might seem like one path. However, like in medicine, being a “jack of all trades and master of none” can cause a number of problems. It is simply impossible to know enough about several areas to be effective at all of them, particularly given the rapidly changing field of technology.
As the saying goes, you may end up learning just enough to be dangerous to anyone who tries to hire you.
Generally speaking, in IT, it often pays off to choose a specialty and stick with it. Furthermore, it costs less in terms of remaining up to speed on the areas you know – fewer certifications to update, fewer classes to take, and more time spent practicing instead of learning.
Another option is to explore those technologies that perhaps are in-demand enough to provide competitive job opportunities, but simply are not mainstream enough to warrant the attention of off-shore under-cutters. The simple fact of the matter is that most IT professionals are not out to compete on price. In fact, competing on price is usually a bad idea.
Competing on price tends to defeat the value of what you’re offering. It is important to remember that one thing many on-shore IT professionals have that off-shore providers lack is experience and skill. Competing on price also tends to reflect a lack of confidence and to suggest that the service you are providing is a commodity rather than an asset.
Lower prices attract lower budget clients on top of that: people and businesses who will try to get you to sell your services for even cheaper, and who won’t value them even then.
Rather, consider Apple’s business model: they have a product people want, and people are willing to pay a premium for those gadgets. They are not competing for the £50.00 smart phone shoppers. They want individuals who want a higher quality product and are willing to pay extra to have it.
What is an analogous area, then, in the IT world? The answer is to find a field that is niche and not mainstream, that perhaps has a more limited clientele, keeping it lucrative but making it unattractive for those off-shore companies that might otherwise flood the market.
Working with SAP is one example. SAP is an enterprise software solution; the clientele is lucrative, but also limited – companies of certain sizes and who need software mapping for certain business processes will benefit from it, but the unlimited number of small businesses and consumers out there have no use for it, making the market small and exclusive by design, and keeping it that way.
That is not to say that a career implementing, maintaining, or selling SAP solutions cannot be varied. SAP has a number of areas suitable for those who have experience in different industries – there are, after all, more than 20 industry-specific versions, and many companies look for familiarity with ABAP, the high-level programming language used for programming the SAP systems, wanting the ability to further customize SAP to their particular needs.
By consciously deciding to work in an area that has lower demand, IT professionals can start to insulate themselves from the effects of off-shoring while still providing value to their employers and clients. It also gives these professionals the ability to compete on something other than price, picking an area that requires skill and quality first.
The SAP environment seems specially tailored to cater to professionals looking for this kind of market, and there are many opportunities for those wanting to build a career in this lucrative niche.