Four In-Demand Skills You Need

Susan Hall

A lengthy piece at CIO.com lays out "Four Kinds of IT Professionals CIOs Need to Hire Now," professionals the article says can command salaries above $100,000. These four-developers of mobile, social media and collaboration apps, IT/business hybrids, vendor managers and masters of unstructured data-are skills we've been talking about here at IT Business Edge.


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According to a survey of 370 IT leaders by CIO magazine and the MIT Center for Information Systems Research, CIOs consider the biggest gaps in their staffs to be in social media, collaboration and mobile technology. (I also just wrote about an (ISC)2 survey that found these to be prominent security worries, too.) A companion piece asserts that IT has added a third major responsibility to its traditional build-and-run obligations: trying to capitalize on the company's digital platforms, accumulated data and new technologies.


It says the pressure is on to build systems for social media and collaboration that employees can access anywhere. When I interviewed him, Hyoun Park, research analyst for Aberdeen Group, named social media as a skill to be developed as part of unified communications. He told me:

The opportunity there is really around understanding the interactions and the data and the service that's being provided from all these different transactions. It's similar to what's happened in telecom in call accounting, security and compliance. It's translating those aspects from call accounting and call usage world into media accounting and social media usage. There are similar challenges, but a different forum, a different medium where a lot of the rules haven't been set yet.

The CIO.com article, though, paints IT pros wearing far more hats than many of us imagined:

Project managers and application developers and designers with social, mobile, and collaboration expertise can transform existing systems and build new ones to meet such challenges. A background in Web development and user experience is helpful. CIOs should seek out people who are not only proficient in these new technologies but who also understand compliance and enterprise systems, including ERP...

Foote Partners has been talking about the second kind of employee, IT/business hybrids, saying that the government's archaic way of defining IT jobs leaves many in this role uncounted.


In the article, Rick Swanborg, a professor at Boston University and president of consultancy ICEX, predicts CIOs will be required to spread IT personnel through business units because they cannot be competitive unless they understand the available technology. Business/IT teams also can experiment with new features such as data-analysis options that allow electricity customers to manage their power consumption or the dashboard cell-phone sensors that Mazda is working on.


It quotes Chris Colla, director of business process management in the logistics and supply chain department at Sharp Electronics, saying of that situation:

[IT] gains credibility and the company gains competitive advantage.

In all the hullabaloo about cloud computing, it's been tough to really pin down the skills that will be required, but vendor management is mentioned repeatedly. In this post I quoted Drew Garner, director of architecture services for Concur Technologies, saying of his company's move to a hosted private cloud:

One of the product managers working for me has had to come up to speed with researching contracts, mostly from data center providers. Especially from an SLA standpoint, people have had to become mini lawyers.

The CIO.com article calls these folks "cat herders," pointing out that in the past a supplier was held to agreed-upon service levels and penalized for breaches. In the new scenario, however, this manager will look at all services in tandem and could ask all vendors to work together to achieve a goal or to take on strategic experiments. And it won't just be about managing outsiders. It quotes Marc Cecere, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, saying:

They have to force business leaders to prioritize and compromise about what they're asking IT to do. That's very difficult.

It also warns that this should not be a junior-level job.


Our Loraine Lawson has been all over that fourth vital skill: mastering big data. I've also written about the hot job markets for business analysts and analytics pros.


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With so much data unstructured in e-mail, instant messages and other forms, the CIO.com article says, the issue is two-fold: managing the data and interpreting the data. It says:

Best suited for the job are those with intimate knowledge of core corporate systems who can also step back to ponder questions such as how does information flow? What forces underlie those currents? What's the best way to pull insights from that sea? And how does the way a company works influence what data is available and who can find it?

The analysts and career pros I've talked to about these skills say the talent pool stands far short of the supply, meaning these folks come at a premium, if you can find them at all. So it's essential to determine your company's direction, inventory of the skills you have in-house and set out a plan to bring in the fresh skills you need.

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