IT Careers 2020

When the cloud blots out the classic IT shop, only the tech-savvy business experts will weather the storm.

Welcome to the IT organization of the year 2020 -- and brace yourself, because it's a far cry from the department you find yourself in today.

Computer programmers have gone the way of the typing pool. So have one-dimensional technology specialists like network engineers. Deeply technical professionals with multiple certifications in virtualization, networking and security technologies work primarily as component engineers and IT architects. Job titles include cloud architect, cloud capacity planner, cloud infrastructure administrator and integration architect.

The people who work in these roles design and maintain the underlying framework or architecture. On top of this architecture sits a shifting inventory of cloud services, plug-and-play Web-based applications and easy-to-use proprietary software components that together represent the key source of a company's competitive advantage.

How these various components will be innovatively mixed and matched will largely be decided by marketing, supply chain and other business functions and divisions that will be guided by a second tier of IT professionals: super-IT-savvy business experts who reside in the business.

They don't build software, but they work with the business to invent new products and services. They also assemble the software components needed to bring those offerings to market. They have titles like business systems analyst and business solutions consultant.

Sound far-fetched? It's only 2010, but already, the savviest companies are well along the path of implementing this kind of two-tiered IT workforce structure.

"2020 is already here," says Ian Patterson, CIO at St. Louis-based Scottrade. There, the IT organization includes project managers and business analysts with deep analytical and communication skills, and technical architects, who make sure "we don't step on ourselves by doing something that will negatively impact the business from a technology standpoint," Patterson says.

Going forward, CIOs and IT employment experts predict that this bifurcation of IT roles will vastly accelerate, with most professionals falling into one of two major categories: technical specialists and business specialists.

Tier 1: Tech Specialists

Technical specialists are the people who work in a centralized IT or business services organization. If you want to work here, you need to know about data standards, information standards, virtualization, networks, mobile technology and IT architecture, among other things. "You need to get skilled in emerging technologies and develop a deep technical skill set," says Mark O'Gara, vice president of infrastructure at Highmark Inc., a health insurer in Harrisburg, Pa.

Overall, this organization will have far fewer people than today's IT department, but these workers will have an extremely rich set of technical skills, and they will understand precisely how their business makes and loses money and how all transactions flow through the enterprise.

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