IT / Technology
Information Technology Skills
As a leader or manager, one of our key roles is to ensure that we have the right information for the right people at the right time. This means that we need to establish and then carefully manage effective information systems at many levels. In order to do this well, we first need to understand what is available (especially as it relates to technological solutions in this fast changing area). In the modern day, this means that every leader needs to have some information technology skills. This is not to build the system, write code or fix technical problems on computers, but to understand enough to ask intelligent questions and know how to deploy technology in appropriate ways. The following list therefore describes ten of these broad information technology skill sets that are most valuable to have.
1. Application Development skills
Application development skills involve a leader being able to think about how a process can be modified, made more efficient or effective or changed for the better by technology and then coming up with the broad approach needed to build the application in terms of the new system. This is often called general “systems architecture” and at a minimum consists of the ability to lay out how a new system might work (so that programmers can build a robust specification, which ensures the new system is fit-for-purpose).
2. Project Management skills
A good project manager will coordinate people and processes (both with and without functional authority). Making greater use of available information technology and developing and implementing new systems is very much a process skills set and therefore requires these project management skills of juggling priorities and getting things done within a fixed time frame and often within a fixed budget.
3. Networking skills
Networking has a very specific meaning in the information technology world (where devices need to “talk” to each other on a “wired” or “wireless” basis). Leaders need to not only have a basic understanding of how this can be done and what is possible to achieve but also need to have the more human networking and relationship building skills in order to bring in the right kind of expertise when it is required.
4. Data Security awareness
In today’s world of ubiquitous electronic data, every leader needs to pay close attention to manage prevailing and possible future risks. This means that leaders need some expertise in identity and access management, threat and vulnerability assessment, encryption, data loss prevention, system incident analysis, governance, compliance and auditing, biometrics, web content filtering, safeguards for voice-over-IP systems etc.
5. Data Management and Mining
A database is no longer just a passive or flat repository of stored data in case we need it one day. Instead, we have many databases, which should not only be intelligently stored (and backed up) but also “mined” for the additional relational data that they can provide. This means that leaders should have an appreciation of where to store data (on local PCs, on a central server, on the Internet or in the “cloud”) and a knowledge of which queries and reports they want a system to provide and how a database should be set up to provide them.
6. Web 2.0 skills
Although web 2.0 has been around for more than 10 years now, many leaders still see web sites as only relatively static pages. Leaders therefore need the skills to appreciate that web 2.0 sites allow users to interact and collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators of user-generated content in a virtual community, thereby opening up many new business opportunities. Social networking sites, blogs, wikis, video sharing sites are all examples of web 2.0 sites and these can either be used directly for business purposes or similar sites can be created by businesses.
7. Telecommunication/Mobile skills
Telecommunication and mobile technology has come on in leaps and bounds in the last decade and today’s leader therefore needs to have a range of skills to ensure that he or she is up to date. This means that leaders should have a basic appreciation of the core functionality of smart phones, tablets and other electronic hand held devices that can operate on 3G and 4G networks and on a wireless connection to the Internet. Once again, this technology can change business process dramatically, open up new markets and create new revenue opportunities.
8. Business Intelligence skills
Business intelligence is fundamentally about taking a plethora of data and being able to collate, analyze, sift and interpret it so as to spot opportunities to contribute to enterprise profitability or success. This means that a leader needs to intelligently present the information that is being captured (and use technology to do this as much as possible). This involves being able to assemble spreadsheets and directly put together compelling electronic presentations.
9. Technology Collaboration skills
So much of today’s technology, especially on the Internet relies on collaboration across departments, divisions and even between different companies (such as between a company and its suppliers, for example). A leader therefore needs to appreciate when an existing system can be improved or built within internal team resources or when wider collaboration is needed (and how this might be achieved).
10. Business Acumen and Communication skills
Although not restricted to the use of technology the ability to think about technology as a potential contributor to overall business efficiency and effectiveness is a key skill-set in this realm. Leaders who therefore understand the business of which they are a part and can communicate technical concepts to all parts of the enterprise are extremely valuable. In this area, leaders should ideally have four types of competencies: business and financial acumen, good functional knowledge, effective communication skill and a global mind-set.