When future employers examine your resume, they won't just look at job titles: the projects you worked on will be a key issue. Which ones will give you the best chance of being noticed and advancing in your IT career? We picked the brains of Gartner senior vice president and head of research Peter Sondergaard for some ideas.
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Sondergaard's key point is a familiar one: ultimately you need to demonstrate how what you do has enhanced the business you worked for, not just your technical savvy. Even if you're happy working in a hands-on IT role, you still need to be able to show an understanding of how your work fits into the overall company. "Gather experience in terms of how the business operates and be knowledgeable in terms of how you connect that into technology," he suggested.
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"You want to be able to say 'I was involved in the multi-channel strategy for my business or my organisation'. What's not as attractive anymore is to say 'I implemented an SAP ERP system'. I mean, it's good — we're not trying to degrade the fact that is a complex thing to do — but I think it's a question of multi-channel strategy, revenue enablement, innovation in terms of products and how those drive value. Those are the things will get you ahead.
"Projects that have to do with revenue, enhance customer service and introduce more innovation into the business — those are the types of projects you want to be involved in. Second tier would be things like enterprise risk management, enterprise information strategy or business architecture as opposed to some of the traditional enterprise architecture which is more IT-focused. Then you get to more traditional projects: 'I ran a large-scale ERP project, I did supply chain optimisation' I'm not saying these are bad, but don't be too specific. If you ran a COBOL development shop, that's not worth talking about.
By the same token, highly specific job titles aren't necessarily relevant, especially as roles are often not standardised. "If you went five years out into the future and did a search on LinkedIn, you'd find a lot of different position names that mean the same thing," Sondergaard said.
That doesn't mean you can't emphasise specific technologies, but make sure that you focus on options that are in-demand. We noted big data yesterday as one potentially lucrative area for employment and advancement. Other solid growth areas are mobile strategies and cloud systems.
"Mobility has eclipsed the cloud as being the most important project people have interest in right now," Sondergaard said. "Mobility has become something that is of enterprise interest. It has shifted from being a pilot project to being something mission critical. Tablets will continue to shake up the business world. In less than two years, iPads will be more common than BlackBerries."
That doesn't mean cloud projects have disappeared. One obvious area for improvement is in realising the flexibility that cloud systems promise, but often fail to deliver. "90 per cent of services are still subscription, not pay as you go. We are just realising the beginning of the cost benefits of the cloud."
While quoting specific improvement metrics in a resume is always useful, you need to keep that bigger picture in mind. "Manage and incentivise in a manner that is linked to what you try to do from a business perspective," Sondergaard advised. "What you're not measuring is the quality of software development or the uptime of infrastructure. Your key metric is whether things are profitable or external customer satisfaction, rather than internal customer satisfaction which has tended to be typical for IT."
Evolve is a weekly column at Lifehacker looking at trends and technologies IT workers need to know about to stay employed and improve their careers.