Soft Skills, Hard Times

By Martha Heller, CIO |  Software

IT'S DIFFICULT TO LEAD I.S. engineers into a new mode of performance. The value systems aren't always aligned between the IS expert and the business analyst. Both are experts in their areas of interest, but unless proper guidance is provided it's often difficult for the two types to build a lasting partnership. This partnership, however, is how the organization as a whole can really be successful.

We are looking to internal customer relationship management (CRM) specialists for IT to begin this activity and carry the mantra to the rest of the organization outside IT. We take senior IS speccialists who understand some of the dynamics and provide them with CRM training and a charter to be a business advocate and single point of contact for IT. The engineers become engaged by the internal CRM people in meetings with clients and this begins the training/mentoring process for the IS engineers. It can also become a career path. As IS engineers achieve project management expertise and customer service skills they can move into higher positions of management including the IT CRM function.

Steve Passer

VP of IT

C2Media.com

steve.passer@c2media.com

WE HAVE MADE A CONCERTED EFFORT TO HIRE I.S. user services people with both hard technical skills and the softer people skills. It has a direct impact on customer satisfaction. A customer will be much more patient if the IS person is personable and patient with him. Our customers want to feel that IS is not treating them like "just another dumb user."

Roxanne Reynolds-Lair

CIO

FIDM

rrlair@fidm.com

I BELIEVE SOFT SKILLS ARE VERY IMPORTANT. However, you need to take a look at the entire company before placing the burden of good relationships on the IS staff. What if the management above the IS department frowns on the use of soft skills. What if the management has a "just get the job done" attitude and actually comes down on the IS staff for using their soft skills? The soft skills are very important, but remember that the IS department may not have a free hand.

John Sestak

MIS Manager

Interstate Chemical

jsestak@interstatechemical.com

FOR THE VERY REASONS MENTIONED in the article, we have established a fourth team in our technical support branch. These are people who are strong in soft skills but need a little training for the IT skills. This is our "farm team." We find people who are eager learners, have some IT background and strong customer service skills. After a year of developing the concept, we received approval to implement it. In a few months, we will see if it pays off.

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