Survey: 10 Most In-Demand Tech Skills for 2016

The results of Computerworld’s Forecast 2016 survey suggest that employers will face stiff competition for top talent when they goes to recruit jobseekers.

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. – Executives and hiring managers at installing security companies are all too aware of the challenges to find, hire and retain employees who offer solid IT skillsets. According to a new survey by Computerworld, those challenges are not going to abate in 2016.

Companies will need a comprehensive recruiting strategy in order to bring in top-notch workers. They’ll also need to put a lot of effort into retention so they won’t have their best people walking out as new hires are walking in, John Reed, senior executive director of IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology, tells the business technology magazine.

“If you have that two-pronged approach, you’re probably going to be OK,” Reed says. “You’re certainly going to do better than most.”

IT job seekers, on the other hand, are sitting pretty heading into 2016, Reed says, because salaries rise when demand for talent exceeds the supply of qualified professionals. Robert Half Technology is projecting a better than 5% increase in IT salaries for the next year.

Computerworld assembled 10 IT skills that are on track to be most in demand, according to IT pros who participated the Computerworld Forecast 2016 survey. Check out the following skills as reported by the magazine:

1. IT architecture

* 42% of respondents with hiring plans said they will be seeking people with this skill in the next 12 months.

* New to the list this year.

The top 10 list starts off with a surprise. Although IT architecture is a fundamental area of expertise for techies at all levels and in various roles, it rarely makes anyone’s list of hot skills.

The term “IT architect” encompasses a wide range of specialists, from enterprise architects to cloud architects, so recruiters say it makes sense that IT architecture expertise is in demand as companies move forward with all sorts of technology-driven projects.

Michael J. Sylvester II, CIO for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services, manages about 400 staff members and another 500 or so IT contractors. He says that the mix includes a lot of people with strong IT architecture talent but adds that “we still look for people with a firm grasp of enterprise architecture. We want those folks to look at industry standards and frameworks, and to set those up so we can have uniformity.”

Sylvester says he wants IT architecture professionals with technical chops who have progressed from deep technical positions into more managerial roles so they can lead teams tasked with driving IT projects forward.

Many organizations are seeking a similar mix—professionals coming from sysadmin, engineering and senior engineering roles, says Tyler Mikkelson, a recruiting team lead for the Los Angeles office of Mondo, an IT recruiting firm.

“They’re gifted technically [and] they have strong business acumen, so they can speak to executives and C-suite individuals,” he says.

2. Programming/application development

* 40% of respondents with hiring plans said they will be seeking people with this skill in the next 12 months.

* Last year’s ranking: No. 1

Despite fears that programming expertise is a commodity that can be obtained cheaply offshore, programming and application development continue to be among the most sought-after skills in enterprise IT.

“Technology touches everything today, and programmers and developers—they’re the ones who make things go,” says Jason Hayman, research manager with TEKsystems, an IT staffing, talent management and services firm.

Demand for programmers and developers is springing up in new areas, too, thanks to the rise of mobile and the emergence of the Internet of Things. Hayman points to the fact that some cars now come off the assembly line with a million lines of code as just one example of how programming’s footprint is widening.

3. Project management

* 39% of respondents with hiring plans said they will be seeking people with this skill in the next 12 months.

* Last year’s ranking: No. 2

With almost half (46%) of Forecast survey respondents expecting their technology spending to increase in 2016, it’s no surprise that project management remains a top five skill: More spending means more projects—and that means more people will be needed to manage those projects.

Ken Grady, CIO at IDEXX Laboratories, a pet healthcare diagnostics company headquartered in Westbrook, Maine, has about a dozen openings within his 250-member IT department, and he plans to add new positions in the upcoming year. His hiring plans include bringing on two or three project managers to join the roughly 15 project managers already working in his newly created project management office.

Grady says he wants people who can help his teams work within an agile and DevOps environment, as well as professionals who can manage diverse teams and negotiate priorities, scope, deliverables and expectations with various stakeholders.

“It’s not a new skill, but the difference now is the way we iterate. The execution is much faster,” Grady explains. “So it takes a bit more finesse in expectation management and bringing people together. I’m looking for people who have the comfort with that pace and that approach. It’s as much fit as it is a particular skill set.”

“My recruiting model is to find prospects, people recently graduated from college. I feel they have a well-rounded education, and it gives me confidence that they can communicate and have good customer service skills.”
– Eric Brosius, vice president of technology services, Hudson River HealthCare

4. Big Data

* 36% of respondents with hiring plans said they will be seeking people with this skill in the next 12 months.

* Last year’s ranking: No. 10

The surge in interest in using data to drive business has pushed demand for big data skills from No. 10 in last year’s Forecast report to No. 4 today.

Moreover, in the Forecast 2016 survey, big data/analytics was No. 1 on the list of technologies that survey respondents said they were currently beta-testing or using in pilot projects, with 23% saying they were engaged in such initiatives.

When it comes to big data initiatives, “companies are typically looking for someone who can help them manage data and package that data,” says Reed, of Robert Half Technology. “[They want] people who can interpret and then help bring that data to life visually – building dashboards and things of that nature, so the executive suite can push through techspeak and understand what the data is telling them.”

5. Business intelligence/analytics

* 34% of respondents with hiring plans said they will be seeking people with this skill in the next 12 months.

* Last year’s ranking: No. 7

Holding steady in the top 10 skills list is another data-related area of specialization: BI and analytics.

Jeff Remis, a manager at IT staffing and recruiting firm Addison Group, says demand for IT professionals with these skill is strong, particularly in healthcare, insurance, financial services and retail—industries where the use of BI and analytics is more mature than it is in other sectors.

Remis says hiring managers are looking for recruits with technical expertise, but they also want BI specialists who understand the business and the industry. Such requirements put a premium on good candidates.

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