People skills outrank tech skills, researcher says

At Gartner's Business Process Management Summit, research VP Diane Morello said tech skills will always be needed, but they'll take a back seat to relationship management.

SAN DIEGO -- Technical know-how isn't what it used to be.

Within the next few years, businesses will demand an entirely new mix of expertise within their IT organizations -- but tech skills aren't likely to top the list.

In fact, by 2010, the demand for IT infrastructure and services expertise will shrink by 30% or more, said Diane Morello, research vice president at Gartner Inc., during the 2007 Gartner Business Process Management Summit Monday. Meanwhile, demand for business process and relationship management skills will double.

IT organizations will suffer an imbalance.
Diane Morelloresearch vice president, Gartner Inc.

Morello said that by 2010 40% of staff members within IT organizations will have substantial business and non-IT experience. This prediction was foreshadowed by the makeup of attendees at this year's BPM Summit, 40% of whom were from business units rather than IT organizations.

"IT organizations will suffer an imbalance," Morello said. "They will have too few commercial and business-oriented skills and too many technical skills."

Morello said IT organizations will have to redefine how they measure their most crucial assets.

"Organizing around your hardware and software as if they are your most crucial assets is going to be a weakness," Morello said. "Those IT organizations will be ill-prepared. Your most crucial assets will be the services, processes and relationships that you create. Business process management improvement is in the center of this."

Morello said IT organizations will become increasingly automated and outsourced. As a result, IT employees will be asked to fill multiple roles, rather than just focus on a single job. And one of their most important roles will be managing "points of interface" with other parts of the business.

IT employees will need to speak the same language as business stakeholders. This means less demand for specialists (IT employees with a deep understanding of specific technology) and generalists (IT employees who have a broad set of relatively shallow technology skills). IT will still need technical skills, but the most valuable technical employees will know how they can apply those skills to different situations in different parts of the business.

Morello said IT organizations will cultivate versatile employees, what Gartner has coined as "versatilists." These versatile employees will have "broad experience in the business and they will be well-known and recognized as credible high performers by other people outside that specific business domain."

Morello said IT professionals will need exposure to commercial activities and specific business-domain processes in order to fulfill this need.

Karen V. Ruiz, chief of the Technology Foundation Services Division of California's Employment Development Department, agreed with Morello's warnings.

"It's really not about knowing how Cisco works or other systems work," she said. "It's about having more imagination and innovation and connecting business and technology. I think we're getting there, but we have a long way to go."

Ruiz said her organization already has a stable of "versatilists," but it needs to find more.

"In government we're a bit ahead of the curve," she said. "We have been moving people into the IT arena with business experience for a long time now."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Writer

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