Some of today's hottest IT jobs are virtually unknown. By Mathew Schwartz | November 2008
Do you feel like just another body in the IT herd? Is information security losing its excitement? Do network management, infrastructure architecture and risk assessment seem so yesterday? Perhaps you crave a change - something out of the IT ordinary. If so, you're in luck. Based on a recent study from Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research, some of today's hottest emerging jobs are lesser-known, or virtually unknown. So, with apologies to existing desktop virtualization practitioners, here are the 10 best jobs you've never heard of, ranked by hotness. [youtube] 1. Information/Data Architect Today's hottest emerging IT role manages an organization's "approach to shared information" and maintaining "the enterprise data model," says Forrester analyst Marc Cecere. Also expect to work closely with in-house storage professionals to refine these models. "If this is done poorly, the storage manager will always be scrambling," explains John Stevenson, a "serial CIO" who's now president of JG Stevenson Associates in Dallas. "Whereas if you have a gifted information/data architect, then the storage manager will be successful." 2. Content-Oriented Business Analyst These analysts set the rules for creating, classifying and accessing unstructured data.  This is vital because the sheer amount of unstructured data - e-mails, instant messages, SharePoint, intranets, collaboration tools, images, video - overwhelms many enterprises. According to Brian D. Jaffe, a New York-based IT director and co-author of IT Manager's Handbook: Getting Your New Job Done (Morgan Kaufmann, 2006), "a lot of companies are discovering now that wow, they have this incredible volume of data - from general shared data on servers, to extranets and intranets - and some of it's being duplicated ... or (exists) in different architectures or interfaces, which creates a lot of redundant work." To prevent or eliminate such inefficiencies, he says, enterprises are asking: "How do we organize our content?" 3. Business Architect This position, which "define(s) business processes at a high level, how they fit together and how they should be supported by technology," according to Cecere - is not new. But these professionals are tasked with handling some of today's newest and most business-critical responsibilities. "Business architects will be hot due to the growth in enterprise applications such as SAP, new business/IT technologies such as business process management, and the increased risk of changing business processes." 4. Vendor Management Expert Vendor management is likewise not a new pastime, but it's increasingly important. "Vendors, if they're good at their game, can do things more in the vendor's interest than in the client's interest," notes Stevenson. Call it human nature. Accordingly, companies need someone to monitor and manage vendors and outsourcing providers, and on occasion maybe even go good cop/bad cop. Unfortunately, "successful experts may be short in supply," says Stevenson. "How do you train for it - other than being at the elbow of someone who has been good at it?" 5. Enterprise Project Manager What warrants adding "enterprise" to the well-known PM role? According to Cecere, it's the outsized job description:Enterprise PMs "define the project management ethodology, determine their scope, review business cases, oversee projects run by outsourcers and, most importantly, manage the largest and most complex projects." Call them cyber-project managers. 6. Account/Relationship Manager CIOs need trusted intermediaries to interface between IT and business operations. "A CIO lives or dies by the success of his or her account managers," says Stevenson. Of course, while in demand, the role is far from new - and in many organizations, the CIO is account manager number one. But this role needn't operate at just the strategic level. "The account manager role could be at the elbow of the CIO, or buried down in the organization and successful in a far more (tactical) role," he notes. 7. Desktop Virtualization Expert Companies want desktop virtualization experts - IT professionals with a deep understanding of "back-end infrastructure operations elements including servers, storage, and the network," reports Cecere. According to Jaffe, "this is certainly one to keep an eye on, as virtualization has become very hot in the data center." However, he wonders if it will materialize as a standalone position. "People are still trying to figure out what to do with desktop virtualization - is it something that will take hold? Also I'm not sure there will be a title of 'desktop virtualization expert.' It will probably fall under the desktop virtualization team." 8. IT Service Manager Organizations want IT service managers who can define and monitor IT service levels, and streamline IT operations, using the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL). Yet, while ITIL  knowledge is undoubtedly in demand, Jaffe again predicts dedicated "IT service managers" will be rare. "Unfortunately, in this economic climate, are people going to be able to afford someone specifically focused on doing that? More likely, it gets broken up between the help desk manager, network manager, and application development people." Still, it's worth noting Missouri State University and Carnegie Mellon University have created degree programs in the area. 9. Business Process Analyst This role targets the business/IT divide by translating business requirements into "specifications that technical people can use," says Cecere. The ideal candidate will mix technical acumen and business smarts, including the ability to work not only with business-side stakeholders but also developers, as well as knowledge of business process modeling. 10. Storage Director As enterprises struggle with storage, its often arcane underpinnings beg for an experienced manager - a storage program director. "(You've got) the incredible volume of data growth and nobody wanting to delete anything - except for legal who just wants to  delete everything," remarks Jaffe. Next, add in "the cost of storage and backing it up, the cost of replicating it for disaster recovery, not to mention the  different tiers of storage, as well as virtual storage - managing indiscriminate pools of storage." No wonder "larger organizations (already) have people focused exclusively on storage," he says. Hot Skills in Demand Hot or not, will these IT roles often go by different names? Undoubtedly. And remember, they may not end up being standalone jobs at all. But regardless of whether or not you get to be called "Desktop Virtualization Expert," the underlying skills are what's in demand - and often in short supply. Mathew Schwartz writes about business and technology from Pennsylvania