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Digital Keystone Skills

by Chris Curran on September 11, 2013 [email] [twitter]

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One of my clients is faced with retooling its IT workforce as a wave of employees approach retirement. Our conversations about how they should shape their recruitment strategy got me thinking about the post I wrote back in 2009 “IT’s Keystone Skills,” and how I would refresh it for today. The idea behind IT keystone skills was to identify the core skills required regardless of the level of outsourcing an organization undertakes.  The four featured in the original post remain crucial:

  1. Architecture links the business objectives to the systems design
  2. Business Requirements Management links the business design to the business and technical requirements
  3. Quality Assurance links the business and technical requirements to the delivered solutions
  4. Project Management links the project plan to the project business case, costs and benefits

I put these four in the bucket of “managing IT from the inside out.” The initial list was a reminder to not outsource your brain along with some of the project and maintenance labor as organizations sorted thru their first wave or two of significant sourcing arrangements.

In the era of digital transformation, we have to embrace the opportunities outside our four walls too – from big data to public cloud services. This adds a critical requirement for “outside in” thinking. Customers, employees and partners are pressing enterprises to innovate. IT departments need the strategies, skills and relationships to take on more forward-facing innovation, rather than focusing only on internal improvements. That being said, here are the three skills I would add to the initial list, updating the set to 7 digital keystone skills:

5.  Technology Evaluation/Prototyping

Companies are faced with a parade of emerging technologies and live under the constant threat of potential disruption from no-name competitors armed with inexpensive technology. It’s imperative corporations have staff who can quickly pilot emerging technologies and assess success or failure to ensure IT investments are aligned with business goals.

6.  User Experience Design

Too much user-design work is getting outsourced to design agencies. This is an opportunity to develop a rich understanding of how your customers and employees experience their technology across platforms to develop deeper relationships with them and to benefit from their technology investments.

7.  Vendor/Partner Management

The IT department must scout the marketplace for strategic partners that can help them advance the business’s agenda. That requires the capability to link technology initiatives with business goals and to manage relationships with third parties to enhance project execution and increase return on investment.

What would you add to the list?

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