IT professionals need business skills

by Editor 9/25/2008 4:36:00 PM
The IT job market today does not guarantee success to IT professionals who only have technical skills to offer to their potential employers. Company leaders now want their IT staff to have a solid grasp on the company business as well as the firm's customers and clients. Chief information officers are no longer the only IT staff who need to understand the business. Other IT professionals, especially those who wish to progress in their field, must know how to align the IT to business goals and clients’ needs.

Ian Ide, partner at the New York technology unit of recruitment firm Winter, Wyman, says: “It’s not technology first, business second anymore.”

“If you’re working on e-commerce for Gucci or Amazon, you have to understand how that world works; if you’re building an accounting or other type of internal application you have to be able to interface with the business units to know what to build; if you’re building the company website you need to understand the consumer and the interface… we see the need for business knowledge across the board for IT professionals.”

Recruiters in industries that use their own specific business processes and jargon are more likely to look for job candidates who possess the necessary industry-specific knowledge. It is this growing integration of business and technology that keeps a number of IT jobs from being sent offshore. Finding the right IT professionals for these positions, however, can be quite a challenge.

“There’s been a trend over of the last couple of years to leave the IT positions open, sometimes for three to six months, in order to find the right person,” says Peter Woolford, market manager at Kforce Inc., a staffing firm in Boston.

Some companies even go so far as to ask all their employees to educate themselves about each department. Litle & Co., a payment processing firm in Massachusetts, for instance, requires that all of its employees attend Litle University so that they are able to move between IT and business operations effortlessly. 

“We train our developers on both the business side and the engineering side. We mandate that our engineers understand our business so they build better code,” says Jason Pavona, vice president of product management at Litle. “But it means our engineers must have an understanding of our business, our merchants and our customers.”

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