SIM study emphasizes importance of skills

* Project management and business skills are critical for successful IT careers

Project management and business skills are critical for successful IT careers. That's the finding of a white paper from the Society for Information Management (SIM).

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The study, “The Information Technology Workforce: IT Provider Trends and Implications 2006 – 2009,” shows companies view both of the above skills as must-haves. They also appreciate customer-facing skills, such as systems analysis and system design, as well as testing. This holds true whether IT pros are employed by companies or their IT providers.

“People need these skills to succeed in IT regardless of the state of the economy,” says Kate Kaiser of Marquette University, and coordinator of the study. “Academia and practice need to work together to meet the challenges of changing business needs, increased business awareness of the value of IT, and the evolution of tools that shift the focus of technical skills.”

For entry to mid-level employees, firms seek project management, systems analysis, and general business awareness. Entry-level workers are also expected to possess foundational technical skills.

The skills employers seek differ somewhat by company size. Smaller units emphasize the technical skills of systems analysis and systems design for mid-level hires, while bigger companies emphasize project management and business skills at this level. For mid-level hires in lower-wage areas, companies put greater value on skills in system analysis, system design and working virtually and globally than do units in high-wage areas.

Emerging skills include working with virtual teams, working globally, business process re-engineering, managing third-party providers, change management, and project risk management, among others.

The SIM study finds that university IT curriculum must take these skills into account as they develop programs.

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