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IT technical skills need to adapt as IT architecture shifts

As IT architecture shifts and cloud computing grows, some IT departments may have outdated IT technical skills. How can IT departments close the skills gap?

IT departments need to be structured around the idea that businesses can leverage technology to create competitive advantages. Unfortunately, staff within your IT department might not have the proper IT technical skills to achieve this goal. Let's explore how shifts in IT architecture have created a skills divide, and what you can do to bridge the gap.

The adoption of cloud computing has largely been responsible for the major shift in IT technical skills requirements. It used to be that a significant portion of time and effort had to be put into the underlying private data center, where servers, applications, data and network policies were developed and managed from the ground up. Now, managing physical hardware, virtual machines and other infrastructure components is largely automated, requiring fewer resources to deploy and maintain. Yet, you still likely employ a sizable number of IT staff members who consider these outdated skills their primary strength.

Data security is another IT role that has been significantly upended due to advancements in cloud computing. Previously, security administrators focused much of their attention on creating policies that formed boundaries between trusted and untrusted networks. Hardware appliances were strategically placed throughout a private infrastructure to prevent data breaches and data leaks out to untrusted parties. But, in many cases, the location of applications and data has shifted from behind secure boundaries to a cloud provider's network. Therefore, data security experts have had to abandon the philosophy of deploying security at the edge of the network -- because network boundaries have eroded. Instead, security admins must now be concerned about end-to-end flows, no matter if the data runs across a trusted or untrusted network.

New cloud-based security tools are now being deployed to handle this significant shift in security architecture. Yet, data security administrators' skill sets may be stuck in the past. It's important they possess new skills and understand how to best protect emerging security architecture methodologies.

Know your cloud service providers

It's clear to say some IT technical skills once considered staples in the IT department have either taken a backseat to new skills, or have been completely eliminated in a cloud-dominated world. So, what skills should IT staff and IT decision-makers target instead? Well, for one, seek out IT technical skills that involve a deep understanding of various cloud service providers.

Now that infrastructure services are being outsourced in the form of software as a service, platform as a service and infrastructure as a service, understanding the differences between service-provider offerings is key to the success of any new cloud service deployment. Cloud service architects have a deep understanding of multiple cloud providers and help choose the best provider for a certain application or business need.

They are also responsible for negotiating pricing and providing accurate pricing estimates based on various application-usage loads. Enterprises are finding data and apps that have specific integration and customization requirements work better in some providers' networks than others. So, having an intimate knowledge of which providers can best meet specific application needs is becoming increasingly important.

Be adept in multicloud environments

The trick lies in identifying skills where departments are lacking and working to fill those gaps as quickly as possible.

Another skill set likely to be in high demand is the ability to manage and maintain network and security policies in multicloud environments. If your IT department manages both private and public cloud presences, IT network and security administrators must do their best to implement identical network and security policies so they operate under the same set of rules.

Originally, managing public and private policies in hybrid environments was strictly a manual process. But as cloud usage expanded, and companies began leveraging multiple providers, the manual management of policies became overly complex. That's why we're seeing significant interest in multicloud management platforms. Multicloud management tools assist network and security administrators by automating policy deployment in private data centers and many of the most popular cloud services currently available. The tools can be of great assistance to ensure company policy is uniformly enforced, no matter where applications and data reside.

History has shown that shifts in information technology make some IT technical skills obsolete, while also opening up new skills and opportunities to learn. The trick lies in identifying skills where departments are lacking and working to fill those gaps as quickly as possible. Ultimately, as the IT department takes on a more prominent role within enterprise organizations as the department that can create competitive advantages, it is of critical importance that it quickly identifies and abandons outdated skills in order to adopt new ones.

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This was last published in October 2016

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