Which IT contractor skills are warming up

Global macro-economic uncertainties might have increased since our previous trading update but here in the UK, as the days start to heat up; so too are certain IT contractor skills, writes Andy Hallet, commercial partner at STEM staffing specialists SThree.

Of the three or four areas helping the performance of our IT staffing business to be “particularly pleasing,” the most dominant and exciting is Big Data. The impetus is clear. Companies are focusing their efforts on finding new ways of analysing big data, which means their recruitment needs are reflecting their move away from Excel-based front-end reporting and data tables towards Microsoft Power BI, as well as other dashboarding tools, with QlikView and Tableau leading the way.

Data is being disruptive (continued)

It’s all largely thanks to corporations’ senior stakeholders demanding more reliable and better quality reporting from their businesses in formats that go beyond Microsoft Excel and simple bar charts. In short, what was once a simplified process to assess performance and results is getting more sophisticated and richer in the meaning it needs to offer.

Throw in the exponential growth of IT companies, and the need to streamline the customer experience, and these more involved stakeholders know that they can now insist upon easy access and fast analysis. Having the very latest in interactive data visualisation is no longer just a ‘nice-to-have.’

In addition, companies are increasingly looking for ways to monetise the huge amounts of data that they now get through their systems and as such, the skills of freelance data analysts have become a ‘hot’ commodity. Companies still need to scale data to build meaningful insight and implement action to drive company growth. Most notable at present are logistics and e-commerce firms, where big data is being asterisked as a ‘high priority’ and a DevOps mentality is taking hold in this area.

VR, Cloud and Security

Meanwhile, we noticed at the recent Business Rocks conference, a hotbed for IT innovation, that more than one in five of the exhibiting companies were touting Virtual Reality products. The unprecedented growth of VR is intensifying the skills shortage in this area, as IT and tech companies jostle to be their preferred sector’s innovator.

But the current appetite for skills to enable the scalability of analysing data is not alone in today’s high demand stakes; the skills for scalable cloud computing are very palatable to end-users too. And it’s not just the 'big guns' -- start-up companies are the ones saying they don’t want the worry of hosting infrastructure and prefer instead to concentrate on core development. They’re therefore looking to cloud services such as Amazon Web Services. This preference allows them to upscale infrastructure within hours and ‘pay as they grow.’

Of course, where there is value in the conclusions that an analyst draws, the downside is that would-be cyber attackers will be attempting to access, and in some cases liberate, important, sensitive, and business-critical information. Tools typically used for big data analysis are important for the defence of information, with certain vendors more typically known for their work outside of security now adapting their products for the cyber-sphere.  

On the money

So there we have it. Big data; virtual reality; cloud computing and security are helping ensure that 2016 (even at this not even mid-way point), is primed to give 2015 a run for its money -- a year that saw a record contract book for us. Contractors skilled in any of these technical areas won’t have to run anywhere for their money; staying put will be just the ticket.

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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