Evolving IT roles 'require business and technology skills'

The time for talking about bringing business skills into technology jobs is over, and hiring managers in 2008 expect to find IT professionals with as much business acumen as technical know-how, US analysts have warned.

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The time for talking about bringing business skills into technology jobs is over, and hiring managers in 2008 expect to find IT professionals with as much business acumen as technical know-how, US analysts have warned.

According to industry watchers, what firms are seeking is the IT hybrid – which can be loosely defined as a professional who can combine technical expertise with extensive knowledge of a functional business area.

"Hybrid jobs require IT professionals to sit down at a business meeting and be able to predict and deliver the technology the business will need to meet its goals and go about implementing it," says David Foote, CEO and chief research officer at Foote Partners.

"The premise of IT/business hybrid roles started at the CIO level. In 2008, you will see it as far down as the [lower ranking] operations people."

One position Robert Half Technology says will be hot next year is messaging administrator. The position would encompass administering and maintaining systems for email and wireless devices that access email remotely, and, while it would naturally require knowledge of messaging technologies, the position is not better called Exchange manager.

"Messaging administrators are almost the air traffic controllers of corporate communications," says Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology. "Their duties run the gamut from implementing to upgrading to supporting and documenting the standards companies must follow to withstand a natural disaster and ensure communications can continue under any condition. It's not just about managing an email server."

Other hybrid roles hiring managers are looking to fill range from SOA integration specialist to IT process manager to converged network engineer.

The trick for IT pros is learning how their technical knowledge serves the business – and learning to convey that to hiring managers.

"We continuously hear from the industry that there are not enough of the 'right-skilled' people for IT positions that have been open for too long," says Neill Hopkins, vice president of skills development at the Computer Technology Industry Association, or CompTIA.

"We are seeing more job-role identified skills than technology- or certification-defined positions. People want an IT professional that is not only technically competent but that has business skills on the resume alongside certifications."

But that's not to say specific technical knowledge isn't valued, other add. In fact, the more businesses rely on technology to support distributed employees, deliver products to market quicker or secure corporate data, the more hiring managers will be looking to fill what could be considered traditional network, database and security positions. For instance, recent research from Robert Half Technology showed that among 1,400 CIOs polled, about one-fifth cited networking as the single job area in which they expect to see the most growth, and 70% of respondents said network administration skills were in high demand.


"Foundational network and security certifications and knowledge of popular operating systems will always be in demand. There is a lot of demand for IT professionals, but going forward the demand will no longer be for such specialised skills or expertise in one technology or vendor product set," Hopkins says. "IT professionals need to have a much broader understanding of IT and its role in the business."

For IT executives, thenk the pressure is on to make sound hiring decisions.

"Our ability to execute our strategic plan while remaining within budget is largely dependent upon having adequate staffing and skill sets in house," says James Kritcher, vice president of IT at White Electronic Designs in Phoenix, who lists finding and retaining IT talent among his biggest concerns as an IT manager.

"Over the past couple of years, demand seems to have increased sharply – particularly for hot skillsets such as IT audit, ERP and workflow."

CIOs facing skills challenge as business assimilates IT

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