Study: It Behooves IT Staff to Sharpen Business Skills

Business, project management and client-facing skills are the most desirable in in-house IT workers, finds a new study of senior IT managers.

A study released last week by SIM (the Society for Information Management), a professional society of IT executives, identified business capabilities as five of the top 10 skills that are critical to keep in-house between now and 2008.

"The study was motivated to find out just what is going out in organizations in terms of IT workforce," Kevin Gallagher, a professor with Florida State University and a developer of the report, told eWEEK.

"Potential retirements of baby boomers at one end, and decreasing enrollments of students in IT related fields on the other end, and somewhere in between the shift toward business sourcing and offshoring instead of development. But there isnt a whole lot to tell us what is actually going on."

The report cites these factors as prompting "fundamental changes in IT skills and capabilities desired by employers." Project management skills—from project planning to leadership and risk management—were also in the top 10 priorities to keep in-house. The remaining two were client-facing skills: systems analysis and design.

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"Skills that were determined least critical were the least technical. They are probably a little supportive in nature: voice data communication, mainframe legacy, server hosting," said Gallagher. "The pattern is that technical skills are less critical and being outsourced, while the business management, project management, and client-facing skills are staying in."

The largest companies interviewed said they expect to have fewer in-house FTEs (full time equivalents) in 2008 than they do today, but small and midsize enterprises expected to slightly increase their FTEs.

"When we looked at the data as to whether companies would be increasing or decreasing their headcount—more said they would be increasing, but several large companies are decreasing their staff quite a bit. Meanwhile, we have many more companies hiring, but theyre not as big. These are contradictory trends," said Gallagher.

While concerns over offshoring have flourished in the last few years, this study finds that while the number of FTEs supplied by offshore 3PPs (third-party providers) is expected to increase from 14 to 21 percent by 2008, the increase will mostly be seen in Fortune 500 companies, balanced out by a decreased need for 3PPs by SMBs (small and midsize businesses).

Gallagher adds that, "in addition, these companies that are increasing their utilization of third-party providers are doing so with domestically headquartered companies with domestic staff."

The study, released March 27, was conducted in a series of structured interviews with 100 American and European senior IT managers between May and October 2005.

A summary can be downloaded here as a PDF.

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