Why non-IT skills will be vital to IT success in 2020

Why non-IT skills will be vital to IT success in 2020 Patrick Hubbard is Head Geek at SolarWinds. An accomplished technologist with over 20 years of experience, Hubbard’s career includes software development, operations, product management and marketing, technology strategy, and advocacy. An unapologetic market-hype deconstructionist, Hubbard is passionate about arming technology professionals with the tools and skills to deliver services that delight, not just satisfy, users. Hubbard’s current focus is helping enterprises adopt cloud-native and DevOps techniques that deliver the business transformation CIOs increasingly demand.

Today, the value of our IT departments has expanded far beyond operations and technical support. This means the role of the IT pro is evolving to include wrangling the overlapping growing demands for technology across all departments within businesses. Traditional IT siloes have been broken down, radically changing how budgets are allocated and the types of skills IT pros now cite as essential to carry out their work. And in recent months this has been exemplified by a pandemic that has forced business to transform with unprecedented speed to simultaneously support both customers and employees at home.

Enterprises no longer see becoming digital as an option, or a plan—it’s now a competitive necessity. And with a digital transformation programme, comes a greater emphasis on cloud and hybrid IT architecture. At the same time employees expect business applications to be accessible from any device, anywhere, at any time, in almost all elements of the enterprise. As IT becomes even more ingrained in the fabric of the enterprise, spurred on by the development of digital workspaces, the IT pro can become a key player and influencer in plotting the strategy and direction for the business.

In today’s technology-rich environments, IT pros are expected to be experts in the field of new and emerging technologies and to speak the language of business. Today, being limited to implementing requirements in a silo can mean critical business needs aren’t met by the technology they manage.

Talking the language of business

In this seventh annual study of the trends impacting the IT industry—SolarWinds® IT Trends Report 2020: The Universal Language of IT—IT pros cited the need to upskill in nontechnical skills where cross-functional and business-level communication is necessary. Driving this is a need to push past the hype cycle, moving away from chasing emerging technologies to readdressing the focus on core strategies.

Organisations are reassessing priorities in the shadow of an oncoming recession, and if IT pros are to ensure the enterprise’s IT requirements are not neglected, they must learn to communicate at a business level and routinely ask management to define the core competencies of the business as they relate to technology. The IT pro should be aware if the organisation is prioritising digital transformation, and if it is, what the key performance metrics are for evaluating its true impact.

It’s the job of the IT pro to act as a credible voice of authority in this situation, providing clarity and guidance around the functional details of the technologies themselves. Bridging the gap in understanding between organisational leadership and the critical operations role of technology, will empower the IT pro through renewed access to the appropriate resources and budgets for new skills training.

Making IT (inter)personal

While developing tech skills is often informed by current areas of expertise, it’s not just about traditional IT technical skills, and the lines between siloed workload and application delivery are increasingly blurring. As a result, this year’s survey of IT professionals revealed one skill set has become key to develop: interpersonal skills. Under this umbrella, the skills cited as most critical for the management of today’s modern IT environments were project management (61%), interpersonal communication (57%), and people management (54%).

Interpersonal skills are sometimes unfortunately relegated to the category of soft skills, which is misleading. Particularly considering their overall importance to leadership and management, soft skills are not optional. They’re human skills that break though jargon to better address business challenges by relating to other people and speaking in a clear way. Whether it’s strong written and verbal skills, open-mindedness, or flexibility, interpersonal skills are crucial to working collaboratively in teams. It allows them to efficiently address new challenges and ultimately, quickly learn how best to apply their technical expertise.

IT pros don’t just speak to other IT pros; they’re increasingly talking to customers, cross-functional teams, and other business stakeholders. Good communication and personal understanding is the mastery of any of those domains. And as an IT pro, being involved in projects and initiatives with the capability to drive the business forward makes effective communication critical.

Globally, there’s the realisation of the “new normal”—a seismic culture and environment that will affect almost every business in unprecedented ways. If the IT pro is to help facilitate the evolution towards a more flexible, IT lead work environment, they must be able to adjust communication to meet stakeholders at their level. Providing support to both individuals—and the entire company—will be crucial. IT will have a critical role to play in easing frustrations met by employees as they adopt new technologies. All while ensuring the infrastructure performs well, and business productivity remains high.

With technology now so immersed in almost every element of an enterprise, the way technologists communicate affects the fabric of business operations. It’s no longer enough to deliver great services, understanding both technical requirements and business needs is required. Teams are increasingly successful by effectively learning a new language. They’re not letting go of their primary technical focus, but they’re expanding their skillsets to become even more versatile. IT isn’t so much under a spotlight as it is beginning to become a star in successful organisations. Business operations are likely changing forever, and as IT department the world over have recently aptly demonstrated, they’re earning their spot at the forefront of transformation.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.

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