The previous issue of People and Place carried an article by Bob Kinnaird on the sharp increase of skilled migrants sponsored into Australia on long-stay temporary-entry visas. (1) The data showed particularly steep growth in the entry of temporary migrants with information technology (IT) skills. Bruce Telfer is an experienced IT programmer and consultant. He describes the way in which this trend has been coupled with a growing tendency to send IT work overseas, and outlines the effect of both of these tendencies on his own career.
I grew up in country Victoria in the 1950s and early 1960s and found it necessary, along with many of my colleagues, to move to Melbourne in the late 1960s for tertiary study. At that time the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology offered one of the few opportunities for young people to make a start in the fledgling computer industry. Part-time study and full-time work led me into a career which exposed me to widely varied technologies, but from around 1992 I specialised as a programmer in one of the world's leading business applications software producers: SAP. (2)
SAP is used by over 320 of Australia's top companies and increasingly by smaller organisations. Many thousands of professional consultants are employed as specialist analysts and programmers in these businesses, often as short-term contractors. These consultants help implement SAP and provide technical support to firms as they use the software and adapt it to their needs. Since around 2002 contractors, such as myself, have found diminishing employment opportunities. This has happened at the same time as a rapid increase in the availability of foreign programmers, largely from India has occurred.
SAP is a standardised software product which adapts well to off-shore resourcing. Its popularity is due partly to the way in which it imposes standard functionality and thus gives companies comfort in conformity. Many companies have found that changes to their internal business procedures allow them to match their business processes to the standard SAP model quite closely. Other companies take advantage of various configuration and customising techniques available to SAP consultants and use these to modify various aspects of the package. For example, they employ consultants to use these techniques in order to satisfy specific government, industry and competitor requirements or to allow the exchange of data with other computer systems.