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Cloud computing is often talked about as a technology that will make IT departments obsolete as companies seek to outsource computing needs. This analysis misses the complexity of what's actually happening in IT departments.
The actuality is that cloud technologies are running in conjunction with on-site systems, and many companies are choosing to operate and maintain their own servers - even if they have a few Cloud applications up and running. This adds a layer of complexity to effectively managing the IT needs of an organization. Rather than eliminating the role of in-house IT professionals, the cloud is merely changing the skill set and job functions of the IT department.
In my experience, here are the top 5 skills IT professionals will need to learn to work in cloud computing:
The idea of IT becoming a "strategic partner" of business has been tossed around quite a bit. In the world of cloud technologies, this requires being well versed in the full range of cloud solutions on the market, and being able to effetively communicate how deploying these technologies will impact your organization's C-level priorities.
Learning the technical features and benefits of various technologies is something most IT professionals are already doing. The new challenge (and valuable skill) for IT will be addressing C-level executives using their own vernacular and navigating an audience where technology expertise varies widely. For instance, the CIO may be convinced everything is ready to move to the Cloud, while the CFO may have lingering security concerns about putting financial information outside company firewalls. Being able to address these concerns and outline the benefits of cloud technologies in business terms will be essential.
In a recent conversation with Ben Kepes, Principal Analyst at Diversity Limited, Kepes noted that the division between development and systems operations is blurring. Why? As Ben explains it, "today's modern platforms are sufficiently robust and self-contained," so deploying and maintaining applications is much simpler these days.
For the IT community, this translates to an increased demand for individuals who can code, develop and deploy their own applications. This is a growing area of opportunity for IT professionals because there are so many new applications to be built for businesses and a real shortage of next-gen development talent. Capitalizing on this demand will require knowledge of cloud platforms, such as Force.com and Microsoft Azure. Additionally, it's important to know popular applications programming languages, e.g., PHP, Ruby, JAVA and .NET.
In addition to understanding how to develop cloud applications, IT professionals also must understand how to connect them and manage information flow. Deep knowledge of Cloud-to-Cloud integration as well as Cloud-to-On-premise integration technologies will be vital.
IT professionals should be familiar with third-party Cloud-based integration services such as Boomi and Informatica, as well as integration appliances like Cast Iron. Of course, these third-party tools are not always sufficient for the task at hand; for this reason, it's helpful to know how to build custom integrations using SOAP, RESTful APIs and custom integration servers.
The proliferation of smartphones & tablets, and the increasing number of companies implementing BYOD (bring your own device) policies, is spurring significant demand for IT professionals who can effectively manage mobile security. While the industry is leaning toward OAuth certification standards, there is no widely accepted standard for managing mobile security. This means that IT professionals will be expected to stay on the cutting-edge of emerging security technologies that control permissions and access from work and personal mobile devices.
The final area I believe the IT community should focus on is validating their hard-earned cloud computing skills. Certifications carry weight in the IT world, expecially in new and emerging technologies where very few have vast experience. Respected providers currently offering cloud certifications include Amazon, Salesforce, Rackspace and CompTIA. Earning a cloud computing certification will increase your job marketability and help you capitalize on the current skills gap in cloud computing.
The demand for these skills will only grow as companies continue to increase their investments in Cloud computing and develop an increasingly complex ecosystem of applications. Since these skills are in short supply, the IT community would be wise to ready themselves for the Cloud market, which Forrester predicts will be valued at $241 billion by 2020. These growth projections suggest that the opportunities won't be limited to internal IT departments, but also within ERP software companies themselves. IT professionals that build this new skill set will position themselves for a thriving career in the Cloud Era.
What are your thoughts on this skills shift? Do you have experience obtaining any of the skills mentioned above? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.