The demand for IT specialists is decreasing and the size of IT departments is shrinking significantly, according to new research presented by Gartner at the Gartner ITxpo conference in Cannes on Wednesday.

By 2010, IT organisations in mid-sized and large companies will be 30 percent smaller than they have been this year, predicts Gartner. Ten to 15 percent of IT workers today will drop out of the industry entirely in the same time frame, said Diane Morello, vice-president of research at Gartner and the report's author.

Perhaps the biggest shift in the IT department will be away from the worker who specialises in a certain technology and toward what Gartner calls the "versatilist", she said. This type of worker has a strong base in a certain area, which may or may not be technology-related, but is comfortable interacting with people outside of his or her typical domain. A versatilist might have expertise as a project manager or a financial analyst but is able to take on broader responsibilities required by an IT group.

But the future isn't all gloomy for the IT specialist. Those that find a decreasing need within the enterprise for their expertise may move to vendors where they can continue to pursue and develop their specialist skills, Morello said. By 2010, 30 percent of IT workers will migrate to vendors or service providers, the study concluded.

Morello is also seeing some projects that traditionally fall within the IT organisation shift to fall under the chief operating officer's (COO's) umbrella. For example, security, infrastructure management and information privacy are beginning to be defined as enterprise projects handled by the COO's organisation, she said.

There are four main drivers instigating these changes in the IT organisation, according to Morello. The trend toward outsourcing and IT automation are partly responsible. Also, business restructuring as a result of mergers and outsourcing is leading to constant reorganizations, leading IT workers to vie to fit into the resulting organisation. Morello also said that consumer technology plays a role because employees have a decreasing tolerance for the complexity of business applications after using consumer products and services.