It's clear that the 2014 corporate agenda will be dominated by the integration of big data analytics, cloud computing, mobile technology, and social media into the enterprise. But the focus must not be on the technologies themselves. Everyone has access to the same systems and tools. The differentiator will not be the technology itself, but the business value it delivers — or doesn't.
"The technologies are a side show to a lot of what's really critical," says David Foote, chief analyst at IT labor research and analyst firm Foote Partners. "It's IT's ability to do something meaningful with them that's important."
That ability to be transformational in getting the real business value out of technology depends, in large part, on having the right IT professionals in place. Niche technology certifications will not be enough. Nor will standalone domain or functional expertise. It's won't be about the ability to simply configure and run a server. Or develop software in isolation. Context will be king.
Employers will aggressively pursue workers with multi-dimensional talent — combinations of technology, domain, business, process, and people skills, orchestrated in a proper balance to deliver specific solutions—which many traditional tech workers may not possess. "It's about taking traditional IT roles and jobs and adding elements to them to produce more valuable, high impact players," says Foote.
It can be a specific combination of tech skills, like cloud administrators who possess a variety of different skill sets around systems administration, virtualization, storage and network administration, says Foote, or data architects who mix their traditional programming and analytical backgrounds with a knowledge of statistics and creative problem-solving skills.
"What might transform a Java developer into an über software engineer capable of developing really great e-commerce applications is the knowledge of social media, one or more functional business domains, and having a keen understanding of the industry and the customer," Foote says.
Here are five hybrid roles IT organizations will need to fill to stay competitive this year:
1. Enterprise Architects Who Get the Cloud
"Enterprise architects and their counterparts in applications, data, network, and security, and other functional areas perform work that has always been hot and get hotter every day," says Foote. "But there aren't enough good ones out there." The best will be able to look into the future and figure out how to integrate cloud computing with in-house systems in a way that's sustainable and scalable. "More and more companies are starting to believe they shouldn't do anything unless they architect it first," Foote says.
Companies will need enterprise architects with a deep knowledge of public and private cloud computing in all its forms (platform-, software-, and Infrastructure-as-a-Service) and an understanding of the relevant players and solutions. "They need to be able to work with developers, engineers, and analysts as well as business and IT leaders to develop and execute a cloud strategy," says Foote, "How you go about architecting the technology versus just introducing it is critical to a successful outcome. Without that you're at the mercy of the vendors who just want to sell you their solution."
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