IT workers should expand skill sets in '06

This year's job market means that IT professionals should acquire business skills -- and look beyond the basics.

Expand your skill sets, learn new technologies and get involved in the company's business processes or risk losing your job in 2006, according to analysts and experts who monitor IT careers.

Competitive pressures and a shift toward a service-oriented architecture are causing companies to examine their business processes and change rapidly. IT workers have to be adaptable to changing roles, said Diane Morello, a research vice president at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc.

"There are people who are so deeply enmeshed in their particular area that their specialization becomes constrained," Morello said. "When it comes time for a business to reconfigure, these people can't be easily moved into new types of assignments. They're not as flexible."

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Gartner projects that 60% of IT professionals will assume business-facing roles by 2010, and that trend is happening now.

In 2006, a number of high-tech skills and certifications should be helpful to IT workers looking for new jobs or trying to insulate themselves against the threat of being laid off or outsourced.

"While employers are looking for extremely focused IT people, they are looking for people who have a breadth of knowledge," said David Foote, president of IT research consultancy Foote Partners LLC. "There's going to be intensifying talent wars, but not on the scale as in the Internet bubble years."

The demand for Microsoft SQL Server specialists continues to rise, as well as the need for IBM WebSphere skills and Microsoft .NET and SQL Windows experience, according to Foote.

"SOA projects are making Web services skills a hot commodity," Foote said.

Expect SQL technology skills to be in demand in 2006, despite the abundant supply of IT workers who have that experience, Foote said. A rise in Web services projects has also fueled the need for experienced WebSphere and Gigabit Ethernet skills, Foote said.

Web-based skills, application development and programming languages are also projected to be big growth areas in 2006, according to Foote. Projects in 2006 could focus on customer-facing applications, which will fuel the need for enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management experts, as well as application developers, data warehousing and business intelligence experts, Foote said.

Some technologies and techniques to watch in 2006 include service-oriented business applications, grid computing, virtualization for storage and servers, and product lifecycle management projects.

Foote projects a rise in need for forensics, analysts and senior managers in security roles in 2006. Network managers, wireless engineers and administrators will also be hot areas, he said.

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