Industrialization in any sector is initially driven by people with specialist, technical skills and knowledge in that area.
With maturity, the sector becomes more mainstream, with the need for other generic business skills. IT is a perfect example of this – as our industry develops, so we must widen our capabilities.
As technology analyst, Charles Araujo, wrote in The Quantum Age of IT, his 2012 book: “IT is now entering the retail phase.” His ideas remain valid today, with a greater focus on customer experience, the reinvention of technical roles and even the value stream idea developed through ITIL 4.
To draw an analogy, most people’s experience of flying doesn’t directly involve the pilot; they engage with customer service and security people who are part of the value stream but not technical experts in aerospace.
Today, IT needs people in addition to technicians with skills in business, finance, relationship management and communications among others. Covid-19 has highlighted this and also prompted a major requirement for everyone to engage with IT again. The function is now at the forefront of supporting the experience of the remote workforce – at a technical, personal and business level.
So, what are the skills needed for IT to engage effectively at a human level?
Broader skills than technology
The changing world of work needs people with a wider perspective and a range of both generic and specific skills:
Customer experience (CX)
CX needs a willingness to look at your organization from the outside and act on external feedback necessary to improve. In the retail and hospitality industries, the importance of the customer perspective is already accepted, as is customer journey mapping.
The level of awareness of CX has increased across internal IT and managed service providers, with the latter often better at its mechanics, especially the transition into new services and understanding data.
While this understanding of human level experience is often better understood in internal IT, the best managed service providers are also adjusting their approach and asking what organizations need beyond what the IT function thinks it needs.
Resilience in IT is about how to maintain consistent levels of service delivery in the face of huge disruption. This requires thinking about core needs and how to survive and thrive in changing and challenging circumstances.
Covid-19 has been a great test of this for many IT and ITSM organisations, moving themselves and their supported workforce to mobile/remote working virtually overnight.
For many service desks and IT support teams – leading the way on resilience and managing in a crisis – this has actually helped improve their standing and value with users, who are relying on them far more.
Resilience is an attitude and way of being as much as a skill or competency and requires people who are capable of adapting to increasing amounts of change.
Where people might see this as grey and dull control, it’s actually about setting the strategy and plan for an organization, with active governance ensuring it’s delivered.
Beginning with C-level involvement – including IT – it’s a more active process for looking at performance, re-setting expectations or implementing new actions. It relies on people management – communications, engagement and servant leadership –
and using data for guidance, direction and checking progress.
- Security and cyber skills
Security presents a massive risk because organizations with remote employees have changed security to levels that wouldn’t have been entertained previously.
In essence, organizations can’t have someone working at home on a laptop without secure VPN and two-factor authentication.
In the IT world, setting up and fully testing AI is still at an embryonic stage and the change involved needs organizational change management.
This means selling the concept and benefits of AI to people who don’t understand it, especially those at the business end who are risk averse.
The real opportunities in automation are still to be realized. This also requires accuracy and currency in data – i.e., up-to-date knowledge and configuration systems and relevant, regularly-used processes.
Acquisition of skills
Most organizations remain behind the curve with talent management, although this is improving with progress on developing career pathways in service management with more investment in roles, skills and competencies.
This involves managing a broader and different type of workforce, now also including (due to Covid-19) hiring people you’ve never met, which brings many new challenges for people management, recruitment and retention.
Success in the IT industry – for leaders and technicians – now requires broader, generic and more business-related skills.
Therefore, we need to look critically at our current capabilities and identify how we can develop and expand into new areas, going beyond our technical comfort zone.