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New applications could change IT job descriptions

New applications are not just changing the way we compute, they're also changing job descriptions -- from the CIOs in suits to the developers in Deep Space Nine T-shirts.

IT staff of every stripe will experience a shift in job responsibilities as applications continue to evolve.

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A recent report from Meta Group Inc. states that the applications instigating the changes are those related to new technologies -- Web services, Microsoft's .NET and Java, to name a few.

There also may be new responsibilities and a mind-set shift coming in regard to security, because of the recent release of Windows Server 2003, which comes with many features disabled, unlike previous Windows releases.

"You really have to understand the security implication of turning on a feature," said Val Sribar, senior vice president at Stamford, Conn.-based Meta. "And that will be a significant shift in mind-set."

The CIOs and other top executives are not the only ones who must learn new skills, he said. These changes will affect IT job descriptions across the entire staff, right on down to the developers. Top managers have to evaluate where to spend the bulk of their time, both today and a year from now. Technical people need to understand how Java and .NET will affect each other, and, for example, whether they should call on a service or write a routine, Sribar said.

With .NET -- and Web services in general -- some applications will appear as a service rather than a product or piece of code, and that's a different mentality from an IT management standpoint. "Managing that environment takes the headache we had with middleware and integration to a whole other level," Sribar said.

"Applications used to stand alone but, with .NET things, are all tied into one another," he said.

Some enterprises are already experiencing the shift. Jeff Goldman, application administrator at Delaware Investments, a Philadelphia-based investment bank, said his colleagues are taking on more responsibilities -- a function of a tighter economy and overlapping technologies.

Goldman said that, even though most IT employees are specialized, more people are forced to become jacks of all trades, particularly with the advent of technologies such as Web services, Windows 2000 and Active Directory.

"Everything is tied into each other, so you have to know all of the different facets," Goldman said.

Elizabeth Roche, vice president of technology research services at Meta Group, said IT executives in heterogeneous environments must focus more on the interoperability of the application, rather than just its functionality.

Developers, for example, must have more visibility into the downstream integration requirements of an application than ever before. They may have once coded an application using whatever tool kit was easiest to learn. Today, however, they may need to use the toolkit that works best with an application framework.

Roche said IT managers will become managers of components that are no longer broken up by function. The IT world is becoming one of assembly, rather than one where applications are built from scratch, she said.

One growing trend involves how business process automation moves across a corporation. "There may be several IT organizations in a global company, and those different organizations may have to automate a single application across a company," Roche said.

Meta Group analysts said some new job categories will emerge that cut across different business units and technologies and which prioritize workers' time effectively:

Advanced business analysts are IT employees who are good at turning business requirements into defined processes. They will take an end-to-end view of technology lifecycles.

Application portfolio managers will identify and prioritize new projects, programs and activities. Like advanced business analysts, they must have a "big picture" view.

Application measurement and metrics specialists are employees who will need expertise in measuring productivity when using new technologies.

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