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Hot Job Skills For The Year AheadHot Job Skills For The Year Ahead

Businesses need expertise in security, EAI, project management, and business analysis.

InformationWeek Staff

December 28, 2001

4 Min Read

On a single day in December, E. & J. Gallo Winery's IT department destroyed 325 incoming E-mail attachments that were infected with Goner, a software worm that deletes antivirus and firewall software and can open the door to hackers. Kent Kushar, CIO at the $2 billion-a-year wine producer in Modesto, Calif., knows there will be future viruses even more troublesome than Goner, which is why he plans to staff his department with systems security specialists. "General programming skills don't help with understanding what to do if a virus gets in," Kushar says.

Even in a very tight job market, IT professionals with security expertise shouldn't have much difficulty finding and keeping jobs this year, and not just because of the growing number of malicious viruses. Security skills, such as knowledge of encryption technologies, also will benefit companies looking to strengthen collaboration with business partners and customers. "Network security is probably the hottest skills area right now," says Jack Cullen, president and CEO of IT staffing and consulting firm Modis Inc. Continued demand is anticipated for those with hands-on experience in the data-security areas of backup and recovery, as the events of Sept. 11 prompted many companies to take a closer look at how their IT infrastructures would hold up in the event of a large-scale disaster.Other IT skills that will be in demand this year include enterprise application integration, database administration, IT project management, network administration, and business and systems analysis, say IT and business executives, recruiters, and analysts. There's a common thread to all of these requirements: Companies need people who can move beyond general technical expertise and contribute to the strategy and development of IT systems that achieve business goals.Many companies made the mistake of hiring too many Web developers and programmers in the past few years. Those employees did their assigned work but offered little in terms of how to coordinate and make the most of companywide IT systems, says Beth Florin, executive VP of Clark/Bardes Consulting, which studies IT compensation trends. Gallo's Kushar agrees: "I don't need Web developers. I need Web-fulfillment implementers who can get Web sites to talk to warehouse systems or order-fulfillment systems." Kent Kushar

CIO Kushar is looking for systems security experts who can help Gallo defend against future viruses. Businesses will be looking for IT personnel who can help integrate company applications with a business partner's applications over a secure network and developers who can extract the best value from a company's enterprise resource planning system. That usually means knowing where the problems are in the ERP system-which is often an imperfect, one-size-fits-all package that came from a vendor-and writing the applications that solve those problems.On the database side, companies need analysts, administrators, and data-center managers who can improve access to and security of data, and find the best ways to mine it for key strategies such as improved customer-relationship management. And business and systems analysts, who study how IT systems can be used to achieve business goals, also are a hot commodity. Business analysts often have MBAs, plus a solid understanding of information technologies. IT vendors and IT consulting firms are clamoring for good analysts that they can dispatch to customer sites, says Andy Lee, CEO of CRM software provider Alorica Inc.Most of these hot skills represent a combination of technical expertise, initiative, ingenuity, business sense, and, most importantly, experience working with a range of applications and systems. But for those without the experience to be analysts, integrators, or data or security experts, there's still decent demand for specific technology skills. Modis' Cullen says the continued drive toward Web-based IT infrastructures means work for XML programmers. Because of the proliferation of ERP systems, he also sees demand for experts in Oracle, PeopleSoft, and SAP applications, plus networking specialists and those who are keeping up with the latest Microsoft technologies. Jim Wolken, a partner in New Work Media, which publishes two IT staffing magazines, says there should be continued demand for IT workers with SQL server and Java skills.Still, the most marketable IT workers of all experience levels will be those who have both the technology skills and business experience in industries that plan healthy hiring in 2002. A programmer who has worked in the health-care industry, which will launch a government-dictated data reform effort this year, and the biotechnology industry will have better luck than those whose experience lies in the troubled manufacturing industry. Says Jim Carter, Washington branch manager of IT staffing firms Kenda Systems: "There's more skilled IT folks to choose from now, so companies are looking for people who also understand the business."

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