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Outlook 2010

Outlook 2010 IT skills checklist: The vertical climb

IT professionals battling for fewer positions could gain an employment edge with industry-specific knowledge.

By , Network World
January 04, 2010 12:01 AM ET
IT skills

Network World - After a year of hiring freezes and layoffs, IT professionals in 2010 will face a challenging employment market and the search for IT talent will grow beyond in-demand high-tech skills to also include industry-specific business savvy.

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IT professionals still smarting from the pain of the economic recession inflicted in 2009 won't find immediate relief in a booming employment market for 2010, analysts say. Companies will be rebuilding IT teams, but the majority of them will return to pre-recession levels as IT executives examine different sourcing options while working to help their businesses recover from the downturn.

"Companies looking to fill internal IT roles will focus more on crucial business-facing positions. There is no longer a blurring between IT and the business; those barriers are broken down now. IT will be expected to take more of a leadership role and make decisions for the business," says Lily Mok, vice president of Gartner's CIO Research. "IT needs to look for opportunities to really help the business transition from recession to recovery. IT needs to do more than support the business now; it needs to prepare an organization to return to growth and show how technology can be used to help the business shine."

That means managers and recruiters are on the lookout for IT pros with vertical-industry knowledge in areas such as healthcare, insurance and government, as well as experience with business process re-engineering. Yet technology-specific skills around emerging areas such as cloud computing and software-as-a-service will drive the need for savvy vendor management approaches, while security, virtualization and data center technical know-how will continue to be sought after among the pool of available IT pros.

"Data shows that the combination of deep technical IT skills with project management or leadership experience, as well as looking at the intersection of IT and risk management for the business, are the areas in highest demand," says Jeff Schwartz, principal of human capital at Deloitte Consulting.

Know your vertical

The stereotype of IT existing in the back office and not facing the business is gone. In years past, industry watchers have advised high-tech workers to better communicate with the business, but now the task is to become a critical player in the success of the business – and not only by taking direction. IT professionals will be expected to take a leadership role in 2010 and take initiative in making decisions in the best interests of the business.

"Even with all the new technologies going on, the job market for IT pros is about the application of the technologies to the business. The skills required going forward will be multi-faceted in ways they haven't been in the past. Technology workers need to understand the business and provide a diverse set of technical skills to become the go-to person to deliver the right technology for the business," says Rich Milgram, CEO of recruiting and strategic staffing provider Beyond.com.

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