10 IT Dying Skills

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10 Dying IT Skills

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10 Dying IT Skills

Linda Leung


There are some things in life, like good manners, which never go out of style, and there are other things, like

clothing styles that fall in and out of fashion, but when an IT skill falls out of favor, it rarely ever comes back.

Here’s our list of 10 dying IT skills. If any of these skills are your main expertise, perhaps it’s time to think about

updating your skill set.


Is it dead or alive? This 40-year-old programming language often appears in lists of dying IT skills but it also

appears in as many articles about organizations with legacy applications written in COBOL having a hard time

seeking workers with COBOL skills. IBM cites statistics that 70% of the world’s business data is still being

processed by COBOL applications. But how many of these applications will remain in COBOL for the long term?

Even IBM is pushing its customers to “build bridges” and use service-oriented architecture to “transform legacy

applications and make them part of a fast and flexible IT architecture.”


We’re not suggesting the Internet is dead but with the proliferation of easy to use WYSIWYG HTML editors

enabling non-techies to set up blogs and Web pages, Web site development is no longer a black art. Sure, there’s

still a need for professional Web developers (see the ColdFusion entry above for a discussion about Java and

PHP skills) but a good grasp of HTML isn’t the only skill required of a Web developer. Professional developers

often have expertise in Java, AJAX, C++ and .Net, among other programming languages. HTML as a skill lost

more than 40% of its value between 2001 and 2003, according to Foote Partners.

8. SNA

The introduction of IP and other Internet networking technologies into enterprises in the 1990s signaled the

demise of IBM’s proprietary Systems Network Architecture. According to Wikipedia, the protocol is still used

extensively in banks and other financial transaction networks and so SNA skills continue to appear in job ads.

But permanent positions seeking SNA skills are few and far between. ITJobsWatch.com noted that there were

three opening for permanent jobs between February and April, compared to 43 during the same period last

year. Meanwhile, companies such as HP offer consultants with experience in SNA and other legacy skills such as

OpenVMS and Tru64 Unix for short-term assignments.

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7. Siebel

Siebel is one skill that makes a recurring appearance in the Foote Partners’ list of skills that have lost their luster.

Siebel was synonymous with customer relationship management in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, and the company

dominated the market with a 45% share in 2002. Founded by Thomas Siebel, a former Oracle executive

with no love lost for his past employer, Siebel competed aggressively with Oracle until 2006 when it was ultimately

acquired by the database giant. Siebel’s complex and expensive CRM software required experts to install

and manage. That model lost out to the new breed of software-as-a-service (SaaS) packages from companies

such as Salesforce.com that deliver comparable software over the Web. According to the U.K.’s ITJobsWatch.com

site, Siebel experts command an average salary of GBP52,684 ($78,564), but that’s a slide from GBP55,122 a

year ago. Siebel is ranked 319 in the job research site’s list of jobs in demand, compared to 310 in 2008.

6. RAD/Extreme Programming

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s the rapid application development and extreme programming development

philosophies resulted in quicker and more flexible programming that embraced the ever changing needs

of customers during the development process. In XP, developers adapted to changing requirements at any point

during the project life rather than attempting to define all requirements at the beginning. In RAD, developers

embraced interactive use of structured techniques and prototyping to define users’ requirements. The result was

accelerated software development. Although the skills were consistently the highest paying in Foote Partners

survey since 1999, they began to lose ground in 2003 due to the proliferation of offshore outsourcing of applications


5. ColdFusion

ColdFusion users rave that this Web programming language is easy to use and quick to jump into, but as many

other independent software tools have experienced, it’s hard to compete with products backed by expensive

marketing campaigns from Microsoft and others. The language was originally released in 1995 by Allaire, which

was acquired by Macromedia (which itself was purchased by Adobe). Today, it is superseded by Microsoft .Net,

Java, PHP and the language of the moment: open source Ruby on Rails. A quick search of the Indeed.com job

aggregator site returned 11,045 jobs seeking PHP skills compared to 2,027 CF jobs. Even Ruby on Rails, which

is a much newer technology receiving a major boost when Apple packaged it with OS X v10.5 in 2007, returned

1,550 jobs openings on Indeed.com.

4. Wireless Application Protocol

Yes, people were able to browse the Internet in the late 1990s before Apple’s iPhone. Web site operators would

rewrite their content to the WAP’s Wireless Markup Language, enabling users to access Web services such as

email, stock results and news headlines using their cell phones and PDAs. WAP was not well received at the beginning

because WAP sites were slow and lacked the richness of the Web. WAP has also seen different levels of

uptake worldwide because of the different wireless regulations and standards around the world. WAP has since

evolved and is a feature of Multimedia Messaging Service, but there are now a new generation of competing

mobile Web browsers, including Opera Mobile and the iPhone’s Safari browser.

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3. Visual J++

Skills pay for Microsoft’s version of Java declined 37.5% last year, according to the Foote Partners’ study. The

life of J++, which is available with Microsoft Visual Studio 6.0, was not a smooth one. Although Sun Microsystems

licensed Java to Microsoft to develop J++, Microsoft failed to implement some features of the official Java

standard while implementing other extensions of its own. Sun sued Microsoft for licensing violations in a legal

wrangle that lasted three years. Microsoft eventually replaced J++ with Microsoft .Net.

2. Novell NetWare

Novell’s network operating system was the de facto standard for LANs in the 1990s, running on more than 70%

of enterprise networks. But Novell failed to compete with the marketing might of Microsoft. Novell tried to put

up a good fight by acquiring WordPerfect to compete with Windows Office, but that move failed to ignite the

market and Novell eventually sold WordPerfect to Corel in 1996. Novell certifications such as Certified Novell

Engineer, Master Certified Novell Engineer, Certified Novell Certified Directory Engineer, and Novell Administrator

were once hot certs in the industry, but now they are featured in Foote Partners’ list of skills that decreased

in value in 2008. Hiring managers want Windows Server and Linux skills instead.

1. Asynchronous Transfer Mode

ATM was popular in the late 1990s, particularly among carriers, as the answer to overworked frame relay for

wide-area networking. It was considered more scalable than frame relay and offered inherent QoS support. It

was also marketed as a LAN platform, but that was its weakness. According to Wikipedia, ATM failed to gain

wide acceptance in the LAN where IP makes more sense for unifying voice and data on the network. Wikipedia

notes that ATM will continue to be deployed by carriers that have committed to existing ATM deployments,

but the technology is increasingly challenged by speed and traffic shaping requirements of converged voice

and data networks. A growing number of carriers are now using Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS), which

integrates the label-switching capabilities of ATM with the packet orientation of IP. IT skills researcher Foote

Partners listed ATM in its IT Skills and Certification Pay Index as a non-certified IT skill that has decreased in

value in the last six month of 2008.

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