By Charles Araujo
In 1992, General Motors and the United Auto Workers (UAW) set up about three dozen “skill centers” across the country to train auto workers in new skills. These workers were not displaced–at least not yet. The union and GM had negotiated this training because they saw the industry was changing and it would likely lead to fewer jobs and a lot of displaced workers. So they proactively established these training centers to prepare workers for what was to come.
Eventually, more than 100 of these skill centers were established and chartered to fill a gap. GM and the UAW recognized that autoworkers were going to need new skills to compete in an evolving economy. They realized that the very skills that had served the workers well–in some cases for more than 40 years–would no longer be sufficient in their rapidly changing industry.
We are in a similar situation in the IT industry today. The technical skills that have been in such great demand for IT professionals over the last 10 or 20 years are rapidly being devalued. As technology becomes commoditized, standardized and globalized, the technical skills that were in such short supply just a few years ago are now becoming marginalized. And like the auto industry a generation ago, IT professionals need to rapidly learn new skills to compete as the IT industry transitions to a new era.
New Skills For a New Age
Previously, I explored the forces driving fundamental changes to the IT business model. This is leading to what is being called the Quantum Age of IT–an era in which IT success and value is driven less by technology and more by relationships and interactions. We examined how this is leading IT organizations to develop five organizational traits to become learning organizations, disciplined organizations, transparent organizations, intimate organizations and, finally, dynamic organizations.
But these organizational traits can only be fueled by people. It is IT professionals who must come to embody these traits. To do so, a new set of skills is required. A set of skills that will help IT professionals reorient themselves toward the demands of this new age. These skills are:
• Financial management
• Critical thinking and analytical skills
• Marketing and communication
• Innovation and collaboration
These skills are often called “soft skills.” But that term is a misnomer. They are actually much more difficult to acquire than technical skills and, in many cases, will come much less naturally to IT professionals. But successfully acquiring them will be the difference between irrelevance and thriving in the Quantum Age of IT.
The Five Skills of the Quantum IT Professional
The five skills of the quantum IT professional are aligned across a spectrum from more technical to more creative and from more concrete to more abstract. They do not necessarily build upon one another, nor are they arranged in a hierarchy, but this structure may help you organize the most effective approach to developing them. Whatever approach you take, what is important is that you develop them and apply them to what you do every day–and that you start now.