The 9 hottest skills for '09

Old notion: Certain skills, such as programming, are prime for outsourcing. New order: Firms want developers and other talented staffers in-house.

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3. Project management

Even though many companies are cutting back on IT projects, there's still robust demand for project managers with solid track records, says Spencer Lee. "A differentiator is whether the person can articulate that they've brought a project in on time -- or, better yet, under budget -- and how they did that," she says.

Project management is one of the areas "that endure all economies and climates, where companies are constantly looking for people who understand the project and the systems development life cycles and make sure the project goals are closely aligned with the business objectives," says Harvey Koeppel, executive director of the Center for CIO Leadership in New York.

Employers also need people with project management certificates, even at the vice president level, according to some headhunters. As of late July, The Computing Technology Industry Association had awarded 20% more Project+ certifications than in the previous year, says Gretchen Koch, director of skills development programs at CompTIA.

4. Networking

The ongoing convergence of voice, e-mail, video, instant messaging and other communications systems will continue to create demand for networking specialists with implementation experience. For example, Scholastic Inc. in New York posted a job opening in November for a network convergence manager to help it create a virtual call center using voice over IP, says Saad Ayub, senior vice president and CIO at the children's education company.

Those types of projects often require new skills as well. In 2008, for example, CRST International Inc. moved from a frame-relay network to AT&T's Multiprotocol Label Switching network and installed Cisco's VoIP system. As part of that project, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based transportation company trained some of its IT staffers to become Cisco Certified Voice Professionals, says Steve Hannah, vice president of IT.

Network convergence projects will also heighten demand for workers with network security and data privacy acumen, Koeppel says, adding that "it's not just pure [network] backbone and infrastructure skills" that are being sought by employers.

5. Business intelligence

Now more than ever, corporate executives want to be able to analyze customer and sales data in order to make informed decisions about business strategies. That's driving demand for business intelligence specialists across the board, including people with data mining, data warehousing and data management skills.

At Aspen Skiing Co., which operates four ski resorts in western Colorado, company officials will be making year-over-year comparisons on customer spending, including analyses of spending habits during the previous recession, says CIO Paul Major. "We're going to have to get very granular with our analytics," he says.

Meanwhile, there's steady demand for IT professionals with experience using vendor-specific BI tools from companies such as Business Objects and Cognos, says Spencer Lee. But the toughest people to find in this area are those who can help business managers understand the type of data they're trying to analyze and how to interpret the results, she says. "What's difficult," she adds, "is to find someone who's the full-meal deal."

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