For this year's breakdown of the most sought-after skill sets in the IT workforce, we're once again drawing data from ComputerWorld's annual hiring forecast. In addition, we'll analyze a range of trusted sources (see links at the end) and provide expert commentary to prognosticate about the hottest technology skills through 2016 and beyond.
For its latest forecast, ComputerWorld surveyed 182 IT managers and decision makers. With over one-third (37%) of respondents planning to grow their rosters in 2016 - up from 24% in last year's survey - the technology job market is certainly heating up. This spells good news for existing tech pros looking for a new career path, as well as job seekers new to the IT space. Of course, capitalizing on this growth is contingent on possessing the right expertise, so without further ado, here are the top ten IT skills in demand for 2016:
42% of survey respondents will attempt to fill IT architecture positions this year. This comes as no shock as IT architecture is the hub around which modern technology infrastructures and deployments revolve. Holding a variety of job titles, IT architects are tasked with understanding and internalizing an organization's mission and business goals, then developing an IT footing to meet these needs. IT architects also manage software and technology lifecycles, steadily rotating out and retiring older, less effective solutions, while implementing the latest and greatest tech in an ongoing effort to preserve business alignment and maximize IT's return on investment (ROI).
IT architecture's debut in the top spot of 2016's top ten skills list reflects the increasing importance of a cohesive IT strategy as organizations race to adopt innovative technologies in hot and emerging areas like cloud computing, Internet of Things, and big data. The demand for IT architecture specialists also presents a great opportunity for IT pros who aspire to reach the top tier of their profession, but are inclined to stay more technical and distance themselves from a purely management role.
Hot IT Architecture Skills: Enterprise IT Architecture | Cloud Storage & Distribution | Business Intelligence | Computer Systems Analysis | Strong Business & Technical Acumen
Programming / Application Development
40% of IT managers plan to bring on new programmers in 2016. Scalable, secure and efficient software is vital for mission critical and line-of-business applications, so organizations will continue to seek out talented developers to build new apps that will spark a competitive advantage, as well as those who can support and upgrade existing computer systems to maximize their software investment.
In IT, project management refers to the planning, organizing, and delegation of responsibilities for the completion of technology-related initiatives. As a crucial component of IT operations, it's no wonder that 39% of survey respondents plan to fill PM roles in 2016, placing it among the top five hottest tech skills for the tenth consecutive year! ComputerWorld analysts also tie growing demand for PMs to this year's 46% projected increase in IT spending, i.e., more spending = more projects = more IT project managers.
Hiring managers are actively seeking professionals with expertise in DevOps and Agile project management - two frameworks commonly associated with software development and integration projects. Also in high demand is experience in the negotiation of project essentials - such as priorities, scope, deliverables, and expectations - with various stakeholders. Soft skills like negotiation, time management, and leadership will further grow in importance as organizations continue to outsource essential IT elements to cloud-based service providers (which we'll discuss more in the Cloud/SaaS section below). All told, there's a plethora of job opportunities for skilled and certified IT project managers.
Call it Big Data, call it data science, call it what you want: analyzing and extracting valuable insights from the massive caches of information that organizations routinely collect and maintain has become a key goal for business and service providers. This explains why 36% of technology managers plan to hire big data pros in 2016, and why this skill shot up to fourth place in this year's forecast (up from #10 in 2015). Just to round out the picture, the same survey revealed that big data and analytics tops the list of information technologies being beta-tested or piloted in-house.
High on IT managers' wish lists in this area are professionals who can manage and package big data collections, analyze and interpret trends, and present their findings in an intuitive way to upper management, especially through user-friendly data visualizations.
Hot Big Data Skills: Big Data Visualizations | Statistical/Quantitative Analysis | Big Data Reporting & Presentation | Apache Hadoop | NoSQL Database Skills | Machine Learning
Business Intelligence / Analytics
Business Intelligence (BI) differs from Big Data in that it goes beyond the numbers to include the tools and techniques business leaders use to take action based on the findings of data analyses. Now that we've clarified the lingo, let's talk marketable BI skills. More and more companies are using “self-service” business intelligence platforms to create BI reports and visualizations, thus streamlining the process and lessening the reliance on (and the expense of) additional staffers. Administration and development skills in these platforms are rapidly growing in demand. The hottest self-service BI platforms right now include Tableau, IBM Cognos, Oracle BI, SAS, and SAP.
Successful BI analysts also possess a wide range of soft skills - such as critical thinking, creative problem solving, effective communication and presentation - in order to formulate concise depictions of the data so upper management and other departments can attain and share their insights. 34% of survey respondents plan to hire BI/analytics professionals in 2016.
Hot BI Skills: Strong Technical and Business Acumen | Expertise in Self-Service BI Platforms like Tableau, SAP, Oracle BI, Microsoft BI, SAS, and IBM Cognos | Superior Soft Skills
Help Desk / Technical Support
A mainstay in just about every ranking of in-demand IT skills, 30% of survey respondents plan to hire help desk and tech support staffers in 2016. Filling IT support roles helps organizations maintain a roster that disseminates into all levels and specialties of IT as these workers get exposed to different technologies and disciplines and begin to discover the aptitudes and passion that will lead to the next step in their IT career path. With this in mind, it's important for managers to “look for potential as much as experience” when evaluating potential tech support candidates, says Eric Brosius, VP of Technology Services at HRHCare, a NY-based non-profit health care provider.
Beyond the nation's recent economic growth - which tends to have a direct positive impact on tech support hiring - key trends that are stimulating demand in this space include the proliferation of mobile initiatives like BYOD (bring-your-own-device), and the increased adoption of new operating systems such as Windows 10. Soft skills are also vital at the IT help desk as the best and brightest in this arena possess exceptional abilities in verbal and written communication, time management, and customer service.
Yet another data-centric skill in this year's list of top tech expertise, 25% of survey respondents plan to bring on new database administrators in 2016. When it comes to landing a job in this space, knowing the right platform(s), a.k.a. database management system or DBMS, is key. Widely used DBMSs you should know right now include Oracle 12c (note: Oracle's previous database version, 11g, is still popular and currently has a similar number of job postings as 12c, but if you have a choice you should learn 12c for a more future-proof skill set), Microsoft SQL Server, IBM DB2, MySQL and PostgreSQL.
Certifications are a great way to validate your database administration skills, and all five DBMSs mentioned above have globally-recognized credentials you can pursue and leverage in your job search. Beyond the platforms, currently marketable skills for DBAs include information security, cloud computing, and big data.
Hot DBA Skills: Administrative Skills and Certifications in Oracle 12c/11g, Microsoft SQL Server, IBM DB2, MySQL & PostgreSQL | Information Security | Cloud Computing | Big Data
Security / Compliance / Governance
Compliance and Governance join the evergreen top ten IT skill, Security, to rank eighth in this year's forecast. 25% of survey respondents reported plans to hire InfoSec specialists this year, while a whopping 50% plan to increase spending on cyber security technologies, and security ranked 2nd overall among respondents' most crucial ongoing IT projects. Robert Half's 2016 Salary Guide places the starting salary for security professionals in the six-figure range, increasing about 7% from 2015 and signifying one of the largest year-over-year salary bumps.
These numbers don't lie; information security and its related specialties will continue to be a priority across all industries as cyber threats continue to upsurge in scope, frequency and sophistication, and proliferating tech trends like cloud computing and Internet of Things create additional loopholes for malicious hackers to exploit.
Hot IT Security Skills: Cloud Security | Incident Response | Threat Intelligence | Wireless Network Security | Software Systems and Applications Security | Disaster Recovery
Cloud / SaaS
The proliferation of cloud-based business solutions is shaping the future of IT, so cultivating your skills in this area is a no-brainer. Market research firm, IDC, forecasts spending on public cloud services will double from nearly $70 billion in 2015 to a whopping $141 billion by 2019 - almost six times the growth rate of overall IT spending. Software as a Service (SaaS) - the software distribution model wherein third-party providers host on-demand applications that customers can access and manage via the Internet - is on pace to capture over two thirds of this cloud spend-a-thon. With such a fertile marketplace, it's no wonder 25% of respondents plan to hire IT pros with cloud computing skills in 2016.
Marketable cloud skills include cloud migration, cloud security, and cloud application development, as well as administrative and development chops in today's leading cloud management platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Salesforce. In addition to SaaS, two more white-hot cloud categories you should explore right now include Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS).
Hot Cloud Computing Skills:
SaaS | Cloud Migration | Cloud Security | Cloud Software Engineering | AWS | Microsoft Azure | Salesforce | IaaS | PaaS | VMware Virtualization
As the Web continues to permeate every facet of our waking lives (next stop - our dreams, people!), consumers' craving for enjoyable, innovative and user-friendly online experiences will flourish. The runaway train that is ecommerce will keep gaining steam. Last year, Amazon surpassed Walmart as the world's largest retailer, heralding a changing of the guard from brick-and-mortar to retail first.