Monday, January 24, 2011

Top 11 IT Skills for 2011

 Top 11 IT Skills for 2011

Randy Muller, MCT, MCSE, MCSA, MCDST

During the economic downturn, many American companies saw months of staff reductions through layoffs and delays in hiring replacement workers for those who have retired or left the company. Many companies held off performing upgrades to their current systems or delayed implementing new systems altogether. The good news is that the IT economic doldrums seems to be changing. Companies are planning to hire new workers or have started to hire again as they need skilled personnel for these new endeavors. Now that companies have made the decision to hire new IT personnel for these upgrades and new systems, just what skill sets will be in demand for 2011?

1. Cloud Computing

In its simplest state, cloud computing is the delivery of hardware and application services over the internet on demand. This is done as an alternative to hosting and maintaining your own servers and application software. In cloud computing, businesses only pay for the resources that they consume. Businesses that host services and applications in the cloud improve overall computer utilization rates, as servers are running at or near full capacity from clients connecting remotely. Cloud computing offers several models:
  1. Software as a Service (SaaS) - Providing an application that clients can access through the internet.
  2. Utility computing - Where storage and server computing power available when required
  3. Web and Platform Services - Providing a platform where developers can create applications that can be accessed by clients through the internet. Instead of using your own server infrastructure, you use these remote servers. Microsoft's Azure platform provides just such an environment.

2. Programming

A computer programmer or software engineer is one of the most sought-after and lucrative careers in the IT field. In today's business environment, companies must be able to quickly adapt to new conditions. In this case, rapid programming and agile programming are making a comeback. What are hot areas for programmers in 2011 - Cloud Computing, Flash, HTML5, Silverlight, Touchscreen, and other such technologies.

3. Virtualization

Virtualization is having multiple physical servers moved to a virtual machine environment. Virtualization vendors such as Citrix, VMware, and Microsoft are making it possible for companies to improve the efficiency and availability of IT resources and applications. Virtualization is being adopted by companies of all sizes as a means to reduce costs through consolidation of servers and lower cooling requirements. Application Virtualization has become very popular with businesses. Having the skill set to deploy applications that connect securely through a browser is critical for companies that have numerous offices.
This is one area that is going to be very interesting to watch in 2011 - especially due to the dynamics between Cisco, Microsoft, and VMware. There is no doubt that the demand for skills in this arena will grow exponentially.

4. Voice

Pick your voice flavor of choice, Lync Server 2010, Polycom, Avaya, or Cisco to name but a few. They all require highly skilled and knowledgeable people. This is even more so when trying to integrate conferencing or Unified Messaging into the network. VoIP is growing rapidly. Businesses are demanding the integration of voice with their messaging and conferencing networks. The problem is there just aren't that many experienced voice people, especially ones who are skilled in two or more platforms. If you happen to be a Cisco voice guru and have also mastered the intricacies of Office Communications Server 2007 R2 Unified Messaging and conferencing, than you are set!

5.Project Management

Project Managers are always in demand; this is especially for IT Project Managers. IT Project Managers must have an understanding of the business on a larger scale as well as knowledge of the IT world. This skill set will be in great demand as companies will be upgrading their IT environments next year.

6. Business Intelligence

Companies are constantly compiling, processing and maintaining vast amounts of data. Businesses will require developers who can work with the business side and who also understand user requirements. These individuals can develop the necessary codes and tools that can be delivered through user-friendly portals (think SharePoint).

7. Security

Security will always be a hot demand skill set. All IT pros must have a good understanding of both physical and electronic security. One of the most difficult tasks with IT security is educating users. More information about a company can be gleaned through social engineering that they would rather not have divulged. Training users (and IT staff) to be cognizant of and prevent social engineering is extremely difficult. IT Pros must always be aware of security issues and understand the vulnerabilities within their networks (from operating systems, servers, even the lowly cable closet). This does not mean that every IT Pro must be able to perform a penetration test against their own network, but they must understand and prevent attacks against their network.

8. Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is commonly thought of as the interaction of social media, networking sites, blogs, and wikis that facilitate communication and information sharing. A Web 2.0 site allows users (customers) to choose their interaction experience. Many companies now have Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites established. Developers and other individuals who experience using Adobe Flex, JavaScript, Adobe Flash, AJAX, and JavaScript Object Notation will be highly sought after in 2011.

9. Unified Communications

We live in a highly connected world (perhaps too connected at times) with numerous communication technologies all competing for our attention. These disparate communications technologies were all developed and have grown into commonly accepted use separate from one another. In order to use these technologies, we may have had several accounts: one for conferencing, another for email, a third for instant messaging, and yet another for voicemail and even perhaps other accounts. Each of these systems most likely had separate user names and passwords. In order for users to access them, they would have had to remember them (or write down). Network and telephony administrators had to keep these different systems working, sometimes with limited success and much difficulty.

10. Social Networks and Networking

It is a serious mistake to underestimate the power of social networks (whether it be IMs, tweets, or the "old school" email). Social networks have been used to help free people who have been incarcerated overseas, organize popular social and music events and even keep in touch with family and friends. Social networks have tremendous power and influence - far more than most people realize (and probably want to accept either). The "traditional" workplace is quickly changing; more people are working from home or from other locations and want and even need this contact. This does not mean the real-time interaction of the bricks-and-mortar work place environment have been lost, just changed. If you are curious, tweet a friend and ask.
People keep in contact through Facebook or other social sites, blurring the line between work and social boundaries. The use of Microsoft Office Communicator will allow users to have both business and personal contacts in one IM interface. Business and IT leaders will have to learn to use these to accelerate the business-decision process and maintain relevance with workers. Customers will expect immediate answers to questions, and employees can accomplish more through these communications.

11. Helpdesk

Trained and competent people at the helpdesk will be critical in 2011 as companies continue to migrate to Windows 7. One of the most critical skills that IT pros need is how to interact with non-technical people. The Help Desk is the first interaction most users have with the IT department, and it should be a positive experience. IT Pros are very good at their jobs, but sometimes lack the ability to relate to their non-tech colleagues. Users just want their computers fixed or their data recovered,l and are not concerned with the processes behind our actions.

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