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.

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Martiny says the company hires people to pursue careers, not to do a job or assume a specific title. "We always have specific technology roles open," he says, "but we're looking for very specific skill sets for a period of time" -- not forever. "That's why we look for people with continuous curiosity and a demonstrated history of continuous learning."

At Qualcomm, Fjeldheim considers the role of the enterprise architect to be among the most difficult to fill, especially by newcomers. That's why he is "cherry-picking" the best and brightest from his existing IT staff to transition into the role of enterprise architect. "IT still has architecture responsibility, but we're also charged with creating and deploying some of the new and innovative technologies coming in. That's not an easy role to fill from outside, partly because the role needs to understand the business and what the business is trying to accomplish," he says.

BI Analysts

A second key trend driving a shift in IT jobs is the proliferation of so-called big data -- the massive volumes of bits and bytes collected by hundreds of thousands of transaction-based systems, sensors and RFID systems and, increasingly, social networks.

"IT's main role since the 1970s was to reduce inefficiencies in manual processes and create productivity gains through automation," notes Tim Sarvis, manager of IT plant operations and services at Eastman Chemical in Kingsport, Tenn. "The next big thing is trying to gain insight from all of this data -- terabytes and terabytes of data. [We need] a way to model the data and put it in the hands of knowledge workers and decision-makers to make better, faster decisions," he says.

At Eastman, "we're structuring our talent pool around this mega-trend," adds Sarvis. "Data modelers, scrum masters, data architects, corporate architects are all titles that we'll be focusing on to beef up business intelligence."

Guy Peri, director of business intelligence at Procter & Gamble, says the consumer goods giant regards BI analysts as "trusted advisers" to the business. The company is investing heavily in both BI tools and BI analysts; Peri estimates that BI will account for as much as 20% of the company's IT organization and budget.

What's more, P&G is setting up BI universities to train its supply chain partners in the company's processes and analytics. "We want to drive continual BI at the operational level, right down to consumers," Peri says. P&G is also tracking "chatter" on various social networks, incorporating the customer feedback it gathers into its overall analytics-based business decisions.

Mobile App Developers

Another huge trend driving the current demand for very specific skills is the ever-increasing mobility of workers, customers, suppliers and partners, experts say. Simply stated, mobile applications have exploded. In 2010, sales of Apple iOS apps totaled nearly $1.8 billion. This year, global mobile app sales are projected to hit $4 billion, according to market researcher IHS.

But as Woodson Martin, senior vice president of employee success at Salesforce.com, sees it, mobility can't be separated from cloud computing and social networking. "When I think of IT today and in the future, social, mobile and cloud are the three words that matter, whether you're in the consumer or enterprise space or a small or large business," Martin says.

"Customers want mobile applications that have a social networking component and that run in the cloud. So what I need are people who can embrace all of these things, and not in little pockets, either," he emphasizes. "I need everybody on my team to be oriented around all of these technologies."

Specifically, Martin says, "skill sets like HTML5, Ruby and Java allow us to design applications in a run-anywhere world, so they can be social, mobile and cloud," he says. As for titles, Martin says he's seeing fewer technology-specific titles and more titles like "technical staff member."

"The work done by members on these teams changes based on what the organization needs," he says. "They may be working on Web architecture one day and a mobile architecture the next day. What we're seeing are the traditional silos melting away as everyone is racing to produce social, mobile and cloud [applications]."

The need for individuals with knowledge of and experience using a wide range of technologies, coupled with a thorough understanding of how a business operates, is profoundly shifting IT's overall role in the enterprise, according to several veteran CIOs and industry watchers.

Rather than acting as implementers of technologies that can make the business run cheaper and faster, IT staffers are moving into leadership and innovation roles, informing and advising executive management about how technology can, for example, help set prices and mix product offerings to improve profits or market share.

"IT is leading the business, especially from an enterprise perspective," says Doug Beebe, who recently moved from an executive role in enterprise IT to a financial strategy and technology executive position at Toyota Motor Sales.

"Most business divisions are very much siloed. They've got a set of things they need to do on a daily basis and they aren't afforded the opportunity to look across the organization," Beebe notes. "When IT understands the [business] vision, it can recommend things that technology can do to fulfill that vision."

At Chicago-based Kraft Foods, the IT function is centralized, but CIO Mark Dajani has purposely embedded his staffers into business units so they can thoroughly understand the company's mission and drive results.

"I don't want IT to influence, but to lead the business," Dajani says. "IT is about driving business results and ownership of business results."

Next: CIOs describe their ideal job candidates

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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