16 hot roles for IT pros

IT professionals who want to become irreplaceable to their organizations should cultivate existing skills and pick up a few new ones, according to Forrester Research, which recently identified 16 IT roles that CIOs will need to fill in the near term.

The trend toward IT workers taking on multiple responsibilities and filling hybrid positions is in full swing this year. Forrester Research polled its analysts to narrow down the numerous demands on IT departments to 16 roles that are critical to an organization’s success in the coming months. The demand won’t necessarily send CIOs to the job boards looking for new candidates; instead, IT managers will assess their in-house talent to match existing skills with emerging roles.

“Near-term demand for hot roles in IT will be driven by the need for local and cross-discipline knowledge, changes in technology, greater emphasis on managing risk and the enterprise, and a limited supply of key roles,” Forrester analysts Marc Cecere and Laurie Orlov write in the August research report “What are the hot roles in IT?”

Level 1 or the hottest IT roles are information/data architect and information security expert. The former serves the organization by designing data warehouses, data marts, operational data stores and data-interface standards. This role also is responsible for defining data-governance processes and policies, and developing the organization’s strategies for data management. “Nearly all organizations now see the need to integrate information across the entire organization,” the report reads.

The information security expert takes on risk management and compliance policies. Senior experts would oversee a team of security architects, audit and compliance specialists, policy experts and more. This group also would be tied to physical security and operational risk management, Forrester says.

“Security roles have increased in importance as security expands to include risk management, and requires an approach that considers applications, infrastructure, facilities and business factors,” the analysts say.

In the extremely hot, Level 2 category, Forrester includes data- or content-oriented business analyst, business architect, enterprise architect, and vendor-management expert. For this second tier of roles, Forrester has found that the complexity of the information with which IT professionals in these roles deal drives the demand.

“These roles deal with processes, technology and vendors at the enterprise level, and individuals with this experience are rare,” the report reads. Level 3, or very hot roles consist of traditional IT roles that have broadened to an enterprise level. For instance, enterprise-application strategists are responsible for building internal application road-maps that will support current and future business processes or accommodate mergers and acquisitions. The role of IT planner involves IT strategy and budget decisions at the enterprise level, and network architect broadens in Forrester’s opinion from local planning to enterprise network strategy.

“They primarily focus on new projects and future investments in network technology,” according to Forrester. “Network architects also participate in annual budget reviews and oversee the testing of network equipment prior to moving it into production.”

The last of these Level 3 roles is enterprise project manager, which includes such responsibilities as determining project scope to overseeing outsourced projects to defining the project-management methodology.

At Level 4, the final six hot roles Forrester identifies tend to be those of more business-specific or technology-specific experts that companies today find difficult to replace or find from the current pool of available candidates. For instance, account managers serve CIOs as a more direct liaison between the business and IT. Service manager is another example of a role that would define how IT serves the business via a services catalog and manage the IT service management process. And business-process analysts would work to “capture the business-process requirements from stakeholders and translate these into specifications that technical people can use,” according to the report.

As for technology-driven roles, Forrester identified desktop virtualization expert, mobile operations and devices expert, and storage director as up-and-coming positions. Desktop virtualization experts determine the need for the technology and how to implement it in their organization. This role will give traditional desktop managers more responsibilities.

“Because this shifts the computing from client terminals to the data centre, architects are more involved with back-end infrastructure operations elements including servers, storage and the network,” Forrester says.

Mobile operations and devices experts take on wireless networks, mobile devices and the management of both. And storage directors, one of the few management positions Forrester put on its list, are responsible for all aspects of storage.

“The demand for hot roles is tied to the technology aggressiveness of companies and their flexibility with sourcing,” the report reads.

To derive its list of roles, Forrester used five criteria. IT professionals filling these roles first have to have local knowledge, meaning an intimate understanding of their business, industry or region. This type of specialized knowledge, Forrester says, will challenge hiring CIOs because supply will be limited and the relevance of the role will be increased. “For example, the importance of account managers is highly dependent on their knowledge of both their business’ needs and the capabilities (and limitations) of IT,” the report reads.

Another key factor in determining the importance of roles was cross-discipline knowledge. The days of the IT specialist are changing, and now “many of the hottest IT functions place a premium on knowledge that crosses technologies, management practices and customer groups,” according to Forrester. Other factors the firm used to evaluate roles included the risk level of the position. For instance, if an IT professional filled a role that drove projects across multiple business units, the risk factor would be increased.

External supply also entered the equation because many IT organizations fill gaps in skills with outsourcers and contractors. With less supply outside the company, the roles become more critical to internal IT. And lastly, Forrester examined roles’ relationship to technology, vendor and industry direction.

“Some roles are hot simply because of technology, vendor or industry pressure,” Forrester says.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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