Why SaaS could make your IT skills irrelevant. Headlines like this are scary, right?

Well, that article was from back in 2008. Do you feel irrelevant? No, you say? That’s what I thought… There’s no binary transition point when a skill becomes totally irrelevant.

IT is always evolving. This shouldn’t be scary. Imagine if you hadn’t evolved your skills since 2000. Or 2010. What are the things you’d be behind on now?

For some system and network admins, the answer may be nothing, while for others it might be everything. Businesses move at different speeds, and the transition to SaaS applications is happening at different paces for everyone.

If you’re looking around and starting to feel behind on your skill development, don’t fret. There are a number of things you can start to do to evolve your skills as the adoption of SaaS—and XaaS (everything as a service)—continues.

If you’re looking for a quick easy answer, like “learn vendor X,” then I’m afraid I have some bad news. While there will definitely be a need for new technical skills, it’s clear that many of the critical skills for an IT professional in the years to come are soft skills.

Let’s take a look.

Familiarize yourself with cloud architectures

There’s no better place to learn the basics of cloud architecture than from the cloud platform providers. Take a look at various cloud solutions architect courses, like those from Amazon, Microsoft, and Google.

Prepare for the blurred lines of admin and developer

Many system and network administrator roles are now expecting some familiarity with application development and customization. The ability to leverage both SaaS and on-premises APIs to provide a customized experience to your users will continue to be an in-demand skill. While I often put less emphasis on learning specific languages, TechRepublic has highlighted Python and JavaScript as a couple of top languages to know in 2021.

Become a data expert

Data is becoming ubiquitous. As you refine your application development skills, another opportunity for you to refine your skills will become obvious: data management. Not only can you improve your familiarity with how data is stored and accessed, but also the policies around that data. Defining, implementing, and auditing policies on data access, data integration, and data analytics will become an in-demand skill, so get in front of it and brush up now.

Learn to be agile

SaaS applications and cloud services can move much quicker than traditional on-premises networks and applications. Annual product releases? Not anymore. For some SaaS applications, it could be multiple releases daily. Be ready for change and adapt to that change.

Prepare to see new vendors on a regular basis: new hardware vendors, new software applications, and even new monitoring platforms for cloud applications and SaaS services.

Being agile could also mean being ready to help the business switch SaaS applications on a dime. Or it could mean getting used to a new network vendor that automatically pushes weekly firmware updates.

Improve your security and compliance skills

As the boundaries of the business continue to expand, taking a data-centric approach to compliance and security is becoming increasingly important. Understanding and testing the compliance of your SaaS vendors and having the skills and knowledge to improve your SaaS security posture will continue to be critical skills in the coming years.

Get out of your cubicle

Whether you’re in a physical cubicle in the office, or a virtual cubicle in this new distributed work world many of us find ourselves in, you need to be visible and present to the rest of the business. This means increased and improved communication.

When there are application access and performance problems in today’s SaaS and cloud world, you often can’t fix the problem. But your user base, unfamiliar with how the applications they rely on are managed and monitored, still look to you to ensure the performance and availability of their critical applications. Now, your role during an outage has become one of a messenger.

Work on your communication process and your personal communication skills to effectively talk to your user base about the current status of their issue and the path to resolution.

While the skills required to be successful in IT tomorrow aren’t identical to those required yesterday, this should be regarded as an opportunity, not a threat. The main reason many of us got into IT was the pace of change. I, for one, look forward to the challenges of tomorrow.

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