4 dying IT jobs

R.I.P. project managers and sysadmins? IT recruiters say these roles are vanishing due to factors including AI and DevOps
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The IT industry is nothing if not dynamic. At the current rate of technology change, in fact, it may be the most – dare we say – disrupted function in the organization.

For those IT professionals who enjoy continuous learning and new challenges, that’s a boon. However, it also means that some roles are undergoing more than just a shift. Certain jobs are experiencing such fundamental transformation that they are no longer recognizable as full-time positions or are likely on their way out of the IT organization altogether.

[ Career progress passing you by? Read Is your IT career stalled? 7 tips to get back on track. ]

We talked to CIOs, analysts, and recruiters to discuss which roles CIOs are less likely to hire for in the years ahead. A few of their answers may surprise you:

1. The project manager

For years, IT experts have preached about the value of the project management office (PMO) for the technology organization. Indeed, project managers and the PMO played a pivotal role in IT for some time. But the PMO and traditional project manager roles may soon be a relic of the past.

“As companies adopt an agile framework and move to a product management operating model, small nimble cross-functional teams will have accountability for project delivery, lessening the need for a separate project management function,” says Martha Heller, CEO of Heller Search Associates, a recruiting firm specializing in IT executives.

Today, PMO roles are no longer highly paid positions, says Carol Lynn Thistle, Heller Search Associates managing director, because supply now outstrips demand. “Agile and scrum are more transformational, so the compensation for those roles are rising,” Thistle says.

The PMs who survive will morph their skillsets, taking on new responsibilities and titles. See our related article, How to rethink project management for DevOps.

[ Read also: CIOs say R.I.P. IT project management. ]

2. The pure coder

While the old-school front-end or back-end developer may not be marked for death yet, this role is certainly at risk. Those specialists are much less in demand today than full-stack developers who possess problem-solving and critical thinking skills, says Jim Johnson, senior vice president for IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology.

Unlike the programmer focused solely on translating requirements into code, the full-stack engineer exhibits the mindset and behaviors demanded by IT organizations that are focused not simply on taking software orders but driving the digital future of the business: These behaviors inlcude creativity, patience, intellectual curiosity, and an ownership approach.

3. The quality assurance (QA) tester

Full-time manual QA testing roles could soon be extinct thanks to advances in artificial intelligence.

QA testing has always been crucial to the development of dependable software and will become even more important in the digital era. However, full-time manual QA testing roles could soon be extinct thanks to advances in artificial intelligence (AI).

As more and more business processes are digitized, IT is increasingly turning to automated testing tools to ensure it delivers foolproof applications. Over time, machines will write and execute their own test codes with little input from humans, learning and improving with time and experience. “There has been and will continue to be a decline in the need for QA testers,” says Kanak Rajan, a partner in HR consultancy Mercer’s Chicago office. “These jobs won’t entirely disappear. There will still be a need for manual testing, but it is not clear if it will be a job of its own or more of a task that will be absorbed by other jobs.”

In the short term, more CIOs may move QA work to outsourcing partners to eliminate the need for full-time manual testers altogether, Rajan says.

4. The systems administrator

“If you can’t write and deploy code as well as understand systems configuration, you will lose your job.”

IT may be saying “so long” to the stalwart sysadmins of classic server rooms: These IT pros have long been responsible for server configuration, operation, and maintenance tasks. Like other roles involving manual skills, demand for these skills is waning, according to Foote Partners, which conducts IT salary and skills market intelligence for the U.S. and Canada.

[ Are you working smarter, or just harder? Read How to be the lazy sysadmin. ]

“Demand for computer hardware engineers, server admins, technicians, and an array of both hardware and software support jobs has declined in direct proportion to the growth and popularity of cloud platforms and everything-as-a-service architectures,” says Bill Reynolds, a spokesperson for Foote Partners.

“Employers are more interested in people who know how to manage hardware and software services and configurations in the cloud, not servers and routers.”

As DevOps, the Internet of Things, and other technology trends have emerged, traditional systems administrator jobs are being replaced with hybrid roles requiring a mix of hardware and software skills. “If you can’t write and deploy code as well as understand systems configuration, you will lose your job,” Reynolds says. “In a DevOps environment, this is especially critical.”

Those who are interested in continuing to work in corporate IT functions “will transition into the highly sought-after roles within DevOps or cloud environments,” says Johnson.

[ How can you get to the next level at work? Read also: The #1 way to advance your IT career: CIOs speak. ]

Stephanie Overby is an award-winning reporter and editor with more than twenty years of professional journalism experience. For the last decade, her work has focused on the intersection of business and technology. She lives in Boston, Mass.


Good riddance to project managers with outsized influence, especially PMPs with little or no technical depth. All hail Agile Scrum development, and small nimble teams with deep technical skills and the power to publish.

Very good article. Food for thought for those moving into the IT Industry. Good ITPMs should not have a problem evolving with the trends. I thought pure coders were already gone, but they must be lurking in the shadows.

I did have one other thought to ponder. Since retiring, I have worked 3 ITPM contracts for a large fortune 300 company. They are trying to move to Agile, but a lot of there Project Management is still being done with Waterfall. I expect this trend will continue for a while, and that workplans like the ones I put together will be a hybrid of Waterfall and Agile, which makes for fun times. Any thoughts?


Gartner calls this Bimodal IT, and I think it will be around until IT management feels comfortable with agile. I'm not convinced they do, possibly because of reporting, or, simply, because it's new (relatively: all shops are not created equal).


In reply to by Bill H. (not verified)

New cultures and DevOps oriented skills take time to build and internalize. Would agree with Harold's comment!

Digital transformation is forcing companies around the world to move into an IT (Information technology) and OT (Organizational Technology) merge. Several IT and business jobs are changing because of it. The CIO and COO jobs are at risks too. What will be the name of the new chief combining both functions? Who knows. That we know is that more business and IT jobs will be morphing in the near future in different areas of an organization.

Hi Albert,
There's no "Like" button here, but I like what you're pointing out. It sounds like progress to me, and is a good trend. In my view, IT should be the wiring behind the walls, activated by a light switch (so to speak). Pleasing, but mostly ignored. We're getting there, but we need a whole lot more automation first. Automation is truly at the heart of digital transformation.

Bill H

I disagree with the view here. I've been in the computer business for over 40 years. The Cloud is nothing new. VIrtual Domains have been around for a long time. What drives the IT world, is cost. Why do you think people manage there own computers, cost? Only a moron would rely on a 3rd party to control their destiny.