IT's winning (and losing) job titles

In the intense new battle for IT jobs, those with multiple skills and broad knowledge of technologies will prevail.

Sure, there are still some Cobol systems on their last legs in the deep recesses of just about every large IT organization. But they are most assuredly on their way out -- as are the programmers who coded them.

Also due to disappear, CIOs say, are virtually all other single-purpose IT job titles. Unix administrators? Forget them. Today's trend toward services-based software, mobile apps, cloud and consumer technologies means it is the breadth, not the depth, of knowledge and experience that wins -- or keeps -- the IT job.

And the job itself most likely won't be based in an IT department, but embedded in another business function such as sales, marketing, manufacturing, or supply chain, with the employee working alongside tech-savvy business colleagues.

"It's very unusual for us to have folks who only have one skill," says Norm Fjeldheim, CIO at Qualcomm in San Diego. "There are folks who I was forced to let go because they only wanted to retain one skill set. It's very career-limiting for people to be so specialized that they can't work in multiple environments and multiple technologies."

Unlike the traditional IT environment, which consisted of a portfolio or inventory of discrete applications and technologies tended by in-house technical specialists, the emerging environment is a tightly-woven fabric of on-premises and off-premises services offered to an increasingly mobile workforce and customer base on an ever-widening range of consumer devices, like smartphones and iPads.

These services are designed, assembled and continually enhanced by professionals with a broad knowledge of what the technologies can do and how they fit together, plus a deeper, more specialized knowledge of how they can be applied to a particular set of steps or tasks in an overall business process, such as order to cash or procure to pay. The ultimate goal is to build and assemble a combination of technical capabilities and business services that enables a company to distinguish itself from its competitors in terms of price, customer service, operational efficiency and other key business metrics.

Enterprise Architects

At General Mills, a regular on Computerworld's Best Places to Work in IT list, CIO Mike Martiny says he has organized these various capabilities into centers of excellence where the mission is to "stitch a number of technologies together to create a solution or capability that didn't exist before."

New job titles to emerge in the centers of excellence range from solutions developer to enterprise architect.

"Expertise in a technical area is an entry in the door," Martiny says. After that, General Mills will focus on building skills in four key domains: security, mobility, integrated digital marketing, and enterprise data and governance. "These are four areas that have a broad reach," he notes.

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