Adapting IT Skill Sets for Business Success
By: Nancy Newkirk | 09/22/2015
As we move different aspects of the business to the cloud and as technologies get more diverse, numerous and complex, IT skill sets need to adapt. When a position opens up, we try to be forward thinking and hire the skill set we need for the future, whether it is looking within the team and utilizing current staff skill sets more fully or hiring for new initiatives. Two important skills we’ve identified for our group and emphasize during the hiring process are vendor management and understanding business use cases.
Vendor management is no longer limited to IT managers leading a selection process for a technology and negotiating great contracts. It has grown to be a daily relationship communicating on issues, features, and use cases. Sales people may be experts at using CRM, but it’s not always the right use of their time and skills to have them working with the vendor on an issue or idea. That’s where the opportunity arises for IT to step in and be the liaison between the business and the vendor. For our IT team, we saw the opportunity for growth in this area, which is why currently about 20% of my group has a vendor relationship they are responsible for, whereas 8 -10 years ago, it was closer to 5%.
While acting as the liaison in the vendor-business relationship, the key to being effective is understanding the business use cases. This skill and role has gone thru many iterations. At first, we hired ‘business’ people to work in IT to be the liaison or business analyst. Their job was to translate the business to the IT staff working behind the scenes. The vendor wasn’t really in the picture. Then, it shifted so that IT staff worked on aligning with the business – getting IT priorities in line with the business priorities and getting IT staff out into the business. Many positions throughout an organization have a technology element – whether it’s using a point of sale (POS) system or inventory system, email, CRM, and more. We have systems licensed and in use without any involvement by IT. In many companies, that is called rogue or shadow IT. At IDG, it is how we do business. And in IT, everyone now has a business analyst component to their job. They need to understand why a small thing from a technology perspective is a big thing from a business perspective. They need to know enough about the business to be able to think of new things that will help the business. They need to think of small changes that will make a big difference in efficiency.
As we move to fewer on premise systems, and fewer physical servers to manage, the ability to work with vendors AND work with the business become defining factors in a successful IT career.