by Bob Violino

6 IT roles prime for reskilling

Jan 15, 202010 mins
CareersIT LeadershipIT Skills

Digital initiatives are not just transforming business — they are also significantly shaking up the requirements of IT roles that support them.

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Credit: AlphaSpirit / Getty Images

It should not be surprising, given the furious pace of change in the technology field, that some IT roles are undergoing something of a metamorphosis so that they can adapt to shifting requirements.

CIOs need to consider these roles ripe for reskilling or upskilling in support of digital transformations. Roles that required a certain set of skills and accomplished a certain set of tasks in the past have evolved to require new skills and to accomplish new goals, given the shift in strategy that a transformation requires.

Developments such as the growth of cloud computing and the rise of enterprise mobility and edge computing have greatly broadened the scope of IT in recent years. This has in turn given new meaning and scope to a number of technology jobs.

Following are some of the key roles that IT leaders need to consider anew, and skills and training suggestions to help push them from their old focus into a new version that’s more likely to be effective for this new digital paradigm.

Business analyst

Business analysts are key players within IT departments, because they help bridge the gap between IT and business operations, leveraging data analytics to evaluate processes, determine what needs to be changed, and then provide recommendations to technology and business executives.

One of their main responsibilities is to figure out how data-driven changes to software, hardware, services, and processes can increase efficiency for the organization — all within the context of what is technologically possible and affordable.

But the role has evolved with an increased need to deal with complexity — from both a technology and business standpoint. Whereas in the past, projects and the tools needed to complete them might have been simpler, today’s endeavors can be far more complex.

For example, a rollout of an enterprise application might involve dozens of countries and thousands of users. Or an internet of things (IoT) implementation could affect multiple facets of the company and span its entire supply chain.

Many companies today are in the midst of digital transformations that involve migrations to multiple cloud services, resulting in a hybrid mix of on-premises systems, private clouds and public clouds.

It’s time for your business analysts to become well versed in areas such as cloud computing services, mobile technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, software-defined technologies, edge computing, cyber security, DevOps, and other areas.

Security engineer/cybersecurity analyst

As with other IT positions, the increasing complexity of the technology environment is also having an impact on roles in the security domain, including security engineers and cybersecurity analysts.

The typical “enterprise” can now encompass multiple public cloud services, hundreds or thousands of mobile devices, numerous remote facilities, and countless connected objects via the IoT. All of that needs to be secured.

For these cybersecurity professionals, “initially the goal was to find data that represented a potential vulnerability and fix it,” says Gary Kern, vice president and CIO at Mutual Bank. “Now there is so much data from so many sources, [including] internal monitoring layers as well as external sources, that ‘prioritizing’ that information into action plans and working with multiple internal and external sources to mitigate them is more key.”

That means getting a handle on how resources such as the cloud, mobile devices and apps, edge devices, IoT, and so on, can be effectively secured. It might require a need for additional security certifications or training courses.

In addition, security engineers need to develop better communication skills if they haven’t already. For example, Kern says, they need to communicate to senior management if every vulnerability has not been patched, and that risks are being managed but not eliminated. That way IT and business leaders can have an accurate sense of the organization’s true security posture.

Infrastructure manager

IT infrastructure managers are mainly responsible for overseeing the technical and managerial aspects of an organization’s IT department.

They plan and design the infrastructure while managing the team that’s responsible for maintaining the infrastructure on an ongoing basis.

Of course, the whole concept of “IT infrastructure” has changed in recent years, with the rise in use of cloud services, mobile technologies, and devices at the edge of the enterprise network, including connected IoT entities.

IT environments today typically include cloud services and on-premises systems from a variety of vendors and services providers. As a result, the modern infrastructure manager needs to be especially skilled at vendor and integration management, Kern says.

“This role used to have complete control on the ‘engine room,’ but now with the cloud, SaaS [software-as-a-service], and other tools, everything needs to be done somewhat through others,” Kern says. “The main new charge is making sure all the pieces work together well.”

Systems analyst/systems administrator

The systems analyst or administrator is the IT professional who specializes in analyzing, designing, and deploying systems. This individual makes sure given technology tools are suitable in terms of their intended outcomes, and works with end users, vendors, programmers, and others in order to achieve the outcomes.

Sometimes these roles are responsible for developing cost analyses, design considerations, and technology implementation timelines, and can work in collaboration with business analysts to help ensure that systems are actually meeting the needs of the enterprise. 

Much of this is still true about systems analysts and administrators, but new responsibilities are emerging.

The system administrator role is shifting from an on-premises focus to managing cloud instances and services, says James Rinaldi, CIO at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “This role needs to evolve to be more value added or be automated,” he says. “Some value add is understanding costs, capacity needs, and planning and software configuration and licensing.”

The traditional systems analyst “and IT customer service-focused staff are the two roles we most often target for new workloads,” says

Bill Balint, CIO at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. “We do this because successful staff in these roles have had to enhance their soft skills to thrive.”

At the university, systems analysts are responsible for all facets of the software lifecycle, some project management, and much of what would be considered business analyst tasks, Balint says. On the other hand, it’s the IT support staff, and not systems analysts, who handle end user support functions such as training and documentation, he says.

“If the types of problems needing to be solved by these new workloads require deep synthesis between user interaction and complex problem solving, systems analysts are our go-to target,” Balint says. “However, IT support staff are targeted when the problems focus more on translating user needs into progressive solutions, particularly if the ultimate solution requires use of multiple back-office IT skill sets.”

Web developer

Shifts in the web developer’s role have been underway for a few year’s now, reflecting some of the key trends in IT such as the increased use of mobile devices in the workplace and among consumers and the growing focus on user experience.

Web developers today need to have a good understanding of areas such as modular design, designing for mobile users and the load speeds required, AI features such as chatbots, voice search optimization, and cybersecurity.

AI alone is having a huge impact on web development, by enabling new features such as voice commands that make it easier for users to navigate sites and find information.

The ongoing rise of IoT will also likely have an impact on web development, because companies might want to make some data from connected devices available to users via websites.

And many developers will need to expand their knowledge of programming languages to keep up with the latest trends.

“The requirements for a web developer have changed,” says

Jim Johnson, senior vice president of IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology. “Where requirements in the past have looked for individuals with .Net and JavaScript, today those requirements also include knowledge of JavaScript frameworks [such as] Node, Angular, React, and even DevOps.”

Network administrator

The network administrator’s role is changing because the concept of the enterprise network is changing — with the cloud once again serving as a centerpiece for the transition.

Network administrators for years have been responsible for network infrastructures, including local and wide area networks, servers, software-network interactions and network integrity/resilience. They handle any issues related to these components, making sure networks are performing at a high level in support of the business.

Today’s network infrastructures are a lot more complex than in the past, and often include the networks that support links to cloud services, mobile devices, edge computing, and increasingly, IoT.

Network administrators who in the past could get by with knowledge of Windows 10, Office, and other common on-premises platforms now need to know about cloud services such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and others, Johnson says.

The ongoing shift to the cloud is having a profound affect not just on network administrators and the other transitioning roles, but on just about everyone in IT, Johnson says.

“As the tech world continues to evolve, with companies moving systems, applications, and data to cloud-based environments, one could say all IT professionals should be looking at evolving their roles, and upskilling with knowledge and/or certifications allowing them to continue to do their roles within a changing IT landscape,” John says.