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The tech jobs that the cloud will eliminate

Leon Erlanger | July 22, 2009
Already under pressure, IT pros face new competition for their jobs from cloud services. Which jobs go, and which become more valuable?

CIOs will have the same supplier-management shift apply to their jobs, says Terrosa's Terry. "The CIO will likely spend more time as a contract negotiator and manager and orchestrator of providers, with a focus more on business process, rather than CPUs, disk space, and cooling systems. They'll also have more time for their role as a business leader that takes a strategic view of technology," he says.

The skills required of in-house software developers will also be affected by the cloud. "There will be more job emphasis on integration with SaaS," says Terry. "If you're paying someone now to code an application, tomorrow you'll be paying someone to configure and customize an SaaS application for the business."

McDonald sees this skill-set change occurring even today: "You're already starting to see people that are Force-certified [for Salesforce.com's development platform]. You'll also see a need for custom development in certain highly focused areas that have a lot of value. For example, we're seeing a lot of people doing things with customer information that help drive customer retention and pricing power for the company and that require a lot of custom development and specialization."

IT pros with certain "industrial-strength" skills will also be in demand by cloud providers, says Forrester's Schadler. "They'll need really high-quality people who understand automation and standardized processes," he says.

"Someone who is really smart at understanding the complexities of capacity and usage patterns of all their customers at any time of the day can create huge economic savings for a cloud provider by taking servers on and off line as needed," such as through power savings, says Joshua Lamel, senior vice president of commercial policy and government affairs at TechAmerica, a technology-industry advocacy organization. Gartner's McDonald concurs, saying he expects cloud providers to highly value capacity planning expertise to support their expected growth rates.

For IT as a whole, "there will be great opportunity for high-paying, long-lasting jobs in these areas," Schadler notes -- "but not as many of them as there are today."

So what should today's IT employee do to protect his or her career? "Look for the skills the company is going to need five years from now, not now, and start building them," advises Forrester's Schadler. "These include vendor contract management, integration with the cloud, analytics, rich lightweight Internet workforce applications, mobile applications -- these are all skills for the next decade," he says.

"Try to get work with an infrastructure provider rather than an internal company system," advises Terrosa's Terry. "Develop an expertise on a particular high-end technology environment, such as virtualization or storage area networking. Or get some experience managing a SaaS provider. Embrace the cloud, don't fight it," he says.

 

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