I remember those heady days of the late 1990s, when companies were dealing with IT staffing issues on two fronts. First, they desperately needed people with “legacy” skills to help make IT systems Y2K-compliant, while management was breathing down their necks to assure that nothing would go wrong. At the same time, dot-com businesses were threatening to eat everyone's lunch, thus, companies were also scrambling for “new age” skills to help build an e-commerce presence – by the way, management was breathing down everyone’s necks on this, too.

It got to the point where some companies were almost pulling people of the street to train them in basic coding, literally. That's what gave the Indian outsourcers their first big boost in the North American market, by the way – they were able to provide people who were paid low wages to eyeball line after line of code and flag two-digit year fields.

Two recessions later, the landscape changed quite a bit for IT professionals, many of whom were out of work or fearing for their jobs.

Now, it seems the pendulum is swinging in the other direction, with companies engaging in a frenzy of activity to beef up their big data and analytics capabilities, as well as better understand cloud and social media opportunities. At October's Hadoop World conference in New York City, I can't tell you how many times speakers told the audiences that “we are hiring.”

Are the good times back for IT professionals (meaning the desperate times are back for IT recruiters)? In a way, yes – there are a lot of hot spots, such as big data and analytics, mobile development and cloud management, where demand far outstrips supply.

That makes attracting the right kind of talent even tougher for insurance companies, often seen as conservative, traditional data center shops. The challenge for insurance IT recruiters and managers is getting incoming professionals to see the various new technology opportunities that are emerging within the industry. As robust and open as today's mainframes are, they will not be attractive options for professionals wanting to be part of the next FourSquare or Klout.

How bad (or good, depending upon how you look at it) is it going to get? Dice, which tracks tens of thousands of technology positions, predicts a huge surge in IT hiring during the first half of 2012.

Demand for tech professionals will remain a bright spot as 2012 begins, according to nearly 1,200 IT-focused hiring managers and recruiters surveyed by Dice. Some 65 percent of these hiring professionals said their companies or clients will look to add technology pros in the first half of 2012 – with about a quarter (27 percent) of those hiring looking to expand their staffs by more than 20 percent in the six months ahead.

Even more telling, of those respondents with open positions to fill, 48 percent reported that the time to fill those jobs had grown longer relative to the year before. Nearly six in 10 (57 percent) of those who said it takes longer to hire new tech professionals attributed this delay to a shortage of qualified tech talent.

For insurance IT managers and recruiters, it's time to show the world how mobile, agile and data-driven the industry can be. But it takes a special kind of marketing. Is your company and IT department ready?

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Joe using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at joe@mckendrickresearch.com.

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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