A recent survey of chief information officers conducted by Robert Half Technology (RHT) suggests that an increasing emphasis is being placed on business knowledge when assessing IT professionals’ qualifications. About 41 percent of the 1,400-plus executives surveyed said they’re more interested in technology job candidates’ aptitude in non-technical areas such as finance, marketing and communication than they were five years ago.
“I don’t think it’s new,” said Ryan Gilmore, branch manager of RHT’s Silicon Valley office. “I think it’s been happening for a while, but it’s becoming more prevalent. They’re looking for individuals who can make an impact in the organization, not just in technology. When you’re talking about a developer, project manager or high-end networking professional involved with implementing new software, it’s pretty important to have an understanding of the end user, the culture of the organization and what the company does.”
Most CIOs weren’t as concerned with getting the most from their technology investments in either people or systems at the end of the economic boom five years ago, Gilmore explained. “Back in the dot-com bubble, you had people spending money on applications that didn’t understand the end user,” he said. “There were—and still are—a lot of bad products out there on the market. There are numerous examples of things that flopped and were a complete waste of company resources.”
However, a recession, a slow recovery and rising competition globally have produced an outlook of maximizing one’s financial and workforce resources, he added. This means IT professionals not only have to raise their technical proficiency, but also add business knowledge. “Today, companies are looking for people who are little more well-rounded and can do more. It’s highly competitive, and the people who win are not just the ones with good technical skills. It’s the people who can communicate effectively and make good recommendations to management across difference functional areas of the organization. It’s the people who understand the industry that they’re in, the vision of the company, who their customers are and who their competitors are.”
Familiarity with basic business concepts can be achieved in a few different ways. For future IT pros still in school, this might mean signing up for a business elective or two. Yet for IT pros already in the working world, this might not be necessary. All they have to do is carefully and proactively observe their work environment and glean lessons from it that they can apply to the tools and techniques they employ. “They don’t have to be an expert in marketing, accounting or finance. They don’t need to understand debits and credits. What they need to understand is the systems that their accounting department is using. They’ve got to make that system work within that environment, that company and that industry,” Gilmore said.
For more information, see http://www.roberthalftechnology.com.