Organizations want versatile tech pros who can venture outside their silos

Staffing budgets are less focused on emerging technologies and more on infrastructure, hybrid IT, and optimization, says SolarWinds.

How breaking out of comfort zones is necessary for success

Many IT jobs used to be relatively clear and straightforward in that each person had a specific role to fill and didn't necessarily travel outside that silo. Those days are gone. Today's working environment has brought with it a more blurring of IT responsibilities where silos are breaking down and IT roles are converging. 

In a report released Tuesday, IT management software company SolarWinds discusses the new roles and responsibilities that companies are demanding of IT professionals. Based on a survey of more than 200 technology practitioners, managers, and directors, the report, "SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2020: The Universal Language of IT" found that technology professionals and employers are focusing less on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and edge computing and more on hybrid IT and security.

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Among the top technologies influencing the staffing needs of organizations, cloud computing was at the top, cited by 55% of those surveyed. Security and compliance came in second, listed by 52% of respondents. In third place was hybrid IT, mentioned by 34% of the people surveyed. Only 26% of the respondents cited areas like AI, edge, microservices, and containers as their largest staffing needs.

Much of this focus is a result of budget limitations. A full 72% of those surveyed said that their technology budgets allocate less than 25% to spend on emerging technologies.

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SolarWinds

The emphasis on cloud computing naturally comes about as more organizations migrate their data, infrastructure, and other assets to online providers or environments. Security and compliance are always in demand as cyberattacks become more sophisticated, and companies have to answer to new rules and regulations. With hybrid IT, tech pros manage resources on premises and in the cloud, a strong need as many organizations maintain a combination of both.

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With this mix of technologies, IT pros are expected to be more versatile and have a greater understanding of the bigger picture for their organizations and industries. This means they need to be able to work outside their assigned roles and take on other responsibilities. It also means they need non-technical skills to work with other areas of the business.

Among the non-technical skills that IT professionals feel they need, project management came in tops, cited by 69% of those surveyed. Interpersonal communication was second, listed by 57% of respondents. People management appeared in third place, cited by 53% of those polled. These results compare with the findings of CIO's Annual State of the CIO Survey, which pointed to strategy building, project management, and business relationship management as the most critical non-technical skills for IT pros.

SEE: PMI offers free project management courses during COVID-19 quarantines (TechRepublic)

The convergence of technologies and responsibilities has naturally altered the roles of IT professionals. Looking at the changes in their jobs over the last three to five years, those surveyed cited an increased need to retrain existing staff, increased on-premises responsibilities, and increased work hours. Of course, certain obstacles and barriers have arisen as well. Among the challenges they face in supporting their organizations, tech pros cited a lack of budget and resources, a lack of clarity in shifting priorities, and a lack of training for staffers.

"We see the effects of hybrid IT in breaking down traditional silos and bringing core competencies across on-premises and cloud environments together," Joe Kim, executive vice president and global chief technology officer for SolarWinds, said in a press release. "Especially now, when organizations worldwide are facing new challenges and uncertainty, we must take this reality seriously, focusing on skills development and readiness in key areas like security, cloud infrastructure, and application monitoring. While IT continues to be a main driver of business importance, tech pros have an opportunity to help reassure the business and focus on effectively communicating performance now and into the future."

Based on a survey conducted in December 2019, the report elicited responses from 227 technology practitioners, managers, and directors from public-and private-sector companies across the US and Canada. The companies included ran the gamut from small to mid-size to large enterprise.

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