Soft Work In Hard Times

Soft Skills Are Important For IT Workers
Soft Skills Are Important For IT Workers

It would appear as though the U.S. economy is starting to pull out of it’s recent downturn; however, for those of us in the IT industry, this should serve as yet another wake-up call for both ourselves and our teams: technical skills alone are not going to cut it anymore.

Generally when I say that, heads start to nod. However, nobody seems to know that answer to the very next question: so what to do about it? For IT departments to transform themselves from where they are today to where they need to be tomorrow, there are a whole new set of skills that everyone needs to learn and the quicker, the better. You’ve heard this phrase before and you’re going to hear it one more time: soft skills.

More head nodding should be occurring right now. The big question is what soft skills do IT departments need to get good at? There are lots of these skills, but I believe that for IT they can be placed into five groups:

  1. Negotiation Skills: proving once again that its not what you know, but what you know how to get done that is most valuable to the company. As IT departments start to rely on outside vendors more and more, the ability to properly negotiate agreements becomes a must have skill.
  2. Communication Skills: being the best technical worker is of almost no value to the company if you can’t communicate what you are working on and the challenges that you are facing. Putting together a 100+ page PowerPoint deck does not mean that you can communicate. Using a three page PowerPoint deck to clearly communicate your point does.
  3. Your Business Knowledge: knowing what your business does, how it does it, and why it does it has become critical knowledge for all IT workers. Ultimately the goal is to align what IT does with where the company wants to go and knowing what the business side of the house is trying to do is key to being able to do this.
  4. Team Motivation Skills: knowing how to get a group of people to work together towards a shared goal has always been important and now it is a required skill. Everybody is understaffed and overworked. Having the ability to cut through all of the clutter and get folks to accomplish an objective makes you worth your weight in gold to the company.
  5. IT Product Management Skills: even if everyone is not a product manager, having the basic product management skills of scheduling, planning, and coordinating are critical to making sure that the project that you are working on is a success. Once the IT department is aligned with the rest of the business, missing delivery dates can have significant impacts on the company’s bottom line.

These are my picks for the top five must-have IT department soft skills, what do you think?