New technology initiatives and an increasingly competitive marketplace mean that the IT skills of five years ago, or even last year, won’t deliver the benefits small businesses need to stay profitable in tough economic times. Experts also note that IT fundamentals—networking, security and data privacy for example—remain as important as ever, but that wireless, Web 2.0 and virtualization technologies that enable end users to improve their ability to reach, engage and communicate are key skills in today’s business environment.
If you are considering hiring IT professionals or finding consultants, here are some of the skills that are most in demand, and expected to remain so for the next couple of years:
- Wireless and Mobility
Business owners want to be able to be productive out of the office and to be able to work efficiently anywhere. Executives want IT specialists that can resolve radio interference concerns and address wireless security issues. The ability to stay current in WiMAX and broadband is—and will remain—important for small business owners.
- Database Skills
It may not have the cachet of web-based technology, but database management expertise is crucial. As more and more companies expand their capacity to store data, the skills needed to manage large-scale data banks are becoming increasingly important. The required expertise includes experience with Oracle, SQL and MySQL. Not surprisingly, businesses also need experts to help them put all their stockpiled data to practical use—hence the need for comparable data mining and business intelligence skills.
- Web 2.0
Customers increasingly expect an online transaction to be interactive, which, in turn, requires companies to have IT professionals on hand with top-notch updated application development skills. The newer application development tools—like AJAX and .Net are superseding earlier applications like CGI or HTML/DHTML. Without updated web technology expertise on hand, business operations could become snared in performance problems.
- IT Allied With Business Savvy
Knowing what’s happening in the world of cutting-edge technology is one thing. However, a truly top-class IT professional doesn’t work in a vacuum and is able to assess technology decisions with an eye to ROI (return on investment) and the firm’s overall strategic goals. Planning and managing IT budgets with the business’ bottom line in mind is a necessary skill for all senior IT professionals. IT managers need to understand not only the business issues of the firm but also to have the communication skills necessary to help non-technical executives properly assess the financial viability and value of technological solutions.
IT professionals must be able to address security issues associated with all areas of planning, applications, and operations. Excellent IT security skills will never be unimportant. Apart from ensuring the necessary measures—firewalls, security leak procedures, compliance etc. are in place—increasingly, IT professionals will be called upon to help educate fellow employees and train personnel to make sure everyone understands and complies with a firm’s security procedures.