"IT professionals need to focus on areas which either drive down costs, such as virtualization, cloud computing, and converged networking, or on areas that help to generate revenue, such as social media, mobile marketing, and SEO," notes Rick Mancinelli, managing partner for IT consultants Cloud Computing Concepts. "Ultimately, those IT professionals that have a positive impact on the bottom line will be the most valuable to their employer."
Because so many traditional IT functions are moving to the cloud, which any business user can procure with a phone call and a credit card, your company may no longer need you to flip switches, connect cables, or troubleshoot machines. But they will still need someone who can tell them what services are available, which ones are worth looking at, and which ones they should avoid.
"If your organization plans to rely more on public cloud providers, especially for basic infrastructure needs, you may find you need fewer in-house operations people to maintain, patch, and upgrade systems," says Mark White, chief technology officer of Deloitte Consulting's technology practice. "But you'll still require people with expertise in managing a catalog of cloud services, handling subscribers, brokering agreements with cloud providers, and intervening when problems arise.
"The cloud puts greater demands on both your technical and your business-of-IT skills. If you're CIO, it's an opportunity to take your capabilities up to the next level."
Besides mastering their own tech domains, savvy IT pros broaden their skill sets to include other areas of expertise. If a crisis arises in one of those areas -- and the persons responsible for handling it aren't available -- you may be able to step in and save the day.
"This helps employers view them as valuable team players who can easily branch out to handle other jobs," says Dr. Issac Herskowitz, dean of the Graduate School of Technology at Touro College. "And an employee who has more than one area of expertise is more valuable when a department is downsizing."
The easiest way to develop new skills (and impress your boss) is by volunteering your services to other areas of IT and to stay on top of emerging tech trends, Herskowitz adds. The more you know about the latest and greatest tech, the more likely you'll be invited into the conversation when those technologies are being considered for adoption.
Want to break down the walls between IT and the business side, as well as earn a little goodwill in the process? Start a series of casual teaching sessions where you bring less savvy coworkers up to speed about the latest in tech, suggests Ben Dunay, founder of Sixthree Technology Marketing, a consulting firm that helps facilitate sales of technology to the military. You might also learn a thing or two about the business along the way.