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Finding employees with the right skills has become a major issue for employers in South Africa. Madelise Grobler, MD of Bytes People Solutions, a company in the Bytes Technology Group, identifies the top 10 IT skills that will be in demand in the new year.

In the economic climate of the last two years, many organisations stopped spending on new technology. To add to this, many skilled people moved into different roles in the same organisation as an outcome of restructuring, resulting in role and job confusion. Now, many new technology products are becoming available once again and it’s clear that the skills gap will become increasingly wide. Here are some of the predictions of where the most pressing needs will lie:

  1. Windows 7: Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system is becoming popular with enterprise customers and it’s likely that the migration from XP to Windows 7 will pick up speed over the next few years, particularly as support for XP comes to an end in 2014. Research firm Gartner predicts that the demand for IT pros with Windows 7 migration skills will go through the roof.
  2. Office 2010: The same applies to Microsoft Office 2010. The Office applications and productivity applications in particular, will come under the spotlight as organisations migrate users to Office 2010. There is likely to be a strong focus on enabling people to use these applications more efficiently. At present, many users leverage about 10% of the capabilities of the applications on their desktops. If we really want to embrace the benefits of technology, productivity interventions across the entire enterprise will serve to make users more productive.
  3. SharePoint: SharePoint IT professionals who are able to administer the software will be in increasingly  great demand as he business collaboration platform takes off in the local market. There will also be strong demand for SharePoint developers with the required .Net development skills. In tandem with SharePoint skills, we are likely to see a spike in the demand for Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data platform developers as this supports the advanced functionality of SharePoint, with the two products working together to enhance business intelligence across organisations.
  4. Virtualisation: The virtualisation industry is constantly evolving as the business impact of virtualisation becomes clearer. Vendors such as VMware, Citrix and Microsoft are making it possible for companies to improve the efficiency and availability of IT resources and applications through virtualisation. This is an interesting space to watch because of the dynamics between these three vendors. There is no doubt that the demand for skills in this arena will grow exponantially.
  5. SaaS: Software as a service (SaaS), which refers to the applications that users access over the Web and which reside on physical servers hosted by the software vendors or a third party, not servers owned and cared for by an in-house IT department. The rise of SaaS is forcing many IT professionals across the world to re-evaluate the skills sets and the value they bring to their organisations. It’s not yet certain how big the demand for SaaS skills will be in South Africa, but it’s already in huge demand as a technology offering.
  6. Cloud computing: The buzz phrase of the moment, cloud computing provides what IT always needs: a way to increase capacity or add capabilities without investing in new infrastructure, training new people or  licensing new software. Cloud computing encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per-use service that, in real time over the internet, extends IT’s existing capabilities. Like SaaS, it’s still at an early stage but the demand for skills is emerging.
  7. Web security: IT staff with security skills are in short supply. There is sure to be an increasing demand for security specialists , especially Web security, given the massive increase in the number of Web-based application users.
  8. Business process analysis and improvement: There is likely to be an increased in demand for people in the business process segmant. Generic business process understanding is low and it’s becoming increasingly important, particularly as business seeks to optimise the supply chain. Included here are process improvement, workflow and rules engines – commonlu called “what if” tools and techniques.
  9. Project management: Skills in IT project management and project management including IT are both in demand. The latter is even more critical, as it implies the understanding of business on a broader scale. The fact is that IT still functions in isolation and there will be an even greater drive to integrate technologies in order to optomise business. Just about every organisation has bought various IT systems over the years which do not talk to one another. Integration skills will be key.
  10. Silverlight: Silverlight and WPF skills are going to be in great demand as the Web application framework becomes ubiquitous. It intergrates multimedia, computer graphics, animation and interactivity into a single runtime environment. It also support both Windows and Mac operating systems, making it increasingly popular.
While there are many options on where the real skills shortages lie, technology and skills migration will become a priority in the next 12 months. In line with a work skills plan for employees, now is the time for organisations to reassess the specialised skills they have on board, leverage those specialised skills that may have been redeployed, and bring in new people to fill the positions for more generic skills.
Article by Karen Heydenrych from Predictive Communications