Big data, mobile management and security smarts matter. See what other IT specialties will help you get ahead now.
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Going on 20 years ago, I was involved with a cover story on what was then a new and provocative concept: the alignment of business and IT. The cover showed a techie-looking guy (plucked from our publication's lab, utility vest and all) and a more polished and preppy-looking person (straight from the copy desk). The idea, stereotypes and all, was that IT people needed to become more business-like and businesspeople needed to acquire more tech savvy.
Today, that mix of skills is not just nice to have for IT pros, it's essential. Further, a whole new set of skills should be on the radars of IT professionals looking to bring additional value to their organizations -- not to mention a boost to their own careers. This will be true especially for IT staff at small and midsize businesses (SMBs), where resources are scarce and specialization rarely possible
Here are seven skills you need to add to your IT tool belt.
1. Big Data Analytics
Big data offers organizations a wealth of opportunity -- if they can manage and make sense of it. To support the business, IT pros must become versed in the language of data, as well as in the use of data analysis tools and services.
Companies are adopting bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and company-owned, personally enabled (COPE) programs to save money, but such programs also up the management and security ante. With all those devices accessing all that corporate data, IT pros must be adept at leveraging a bevy of tools. These include mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) systems, as well as security tools such as data loss prevention and monitoring systems.
3. App Savvy
With the explosion in mobile technology has come an explosion in mobile apps. IT pros need to know how to manage the apps their end users access, support the development of apps for use in-house and by external customers, and potentially even assist in the build-out of enterprise app stores. IT pros also need to be aware of (if not skilled in) the use of APIs to connect applications between and among a growing set of internal and external business systems.
4. Social Skills
As companies increase their use of (and reliance on) external social media platforms, IT pros need to be able to speak to the technological underpinnings of such platforms, as well as their security and privacy implications. This goes for widely used sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, but IT pros also need to keep up with a growing number of rising stars, such as Vine. IT pros also need to understand how social business capabilities are being integrated into traditional business applications and how that will affect user productivity and security.
When you signed on for a career in IT, you probably never imagined yourself in the marketing department. Well, with the increasing use of social -- and with social being an increasingly movable target -- marketing departments are pulling in IT people to help them turn on a technological dime. This means thinking about technology in a whole new way.
6. Policy Development
Never have so many different technologies opened up so much potential -- and so much liability -- for organizations. When it comes to the use of things like social media and mobile, companies need to be explicit about what is and isn't expected of users. The development of policy that does just that is key. IT pros shouldn't be the sole authors of acceptable-use policy, but they should certainly be at the proverbial table as that policy is hashed out and written.
Security? Hasn't security always been in the IT pro's purview to some extent, you ask? Yes, but IT pros now have to think of security less in terms of reactive patching and more in terms of proactive vigilance -- putting into perspective the stakes the organization has in social, the cloud, XaaS offerings, the use of consumer devices in the workplace and rogue IT, among many other concerns.
Would you add any skills to this list? How do you anticipate this list will change in the next year? The next five years? Please tell us what you think in the comments section below.
InformationWeek Must Reads Oct. 21, 2014InformationWeek's new Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of digital strategy. Learn why you should learn to embrace DevOps, how to avoid roadblocks for digital projects, what the five steps to API management are, and more.