Professionals are looking for individuals who are not only academically or professionally trained, but are also equipped with IT “soft skills”—the general skills needed to be a successful employee. Mark Shacklett of TechRepublic says “…human interaction and soft skills areas are as much in demand in IT as they were ten years ago. It is why, when I talk with CIOs, that they point to several key areas where they want to see soft skills from their managers and their new hires.” Four important skill areas include, according to Shackle, strong written and oral communication skills, the ability to recognize the human element of projects, the ability to collaborate and the skills to provide project visibility.
Eric P. Bloom, former CIO and president of Manager Mechanics LLC, offers 10 soft skills for those in the IT industry:
1. Negotiation skills: This will be of value when facilitating negotiations between IT and business users, you and IT regarding development resources, and you and the business users trying to minimize project scope creep.
2. Active listening: This will be of great value when trying to collect business requirements, provide quality internal client service, and when gathering information for status reports.
3. Dealing with conflict: This will be of value when IT and users disagree and/or when deadlines are being missed and tensions are running high.
4. Quality client service techniques: As a representative of the IT community, providing quality client service to the business users you support is critical to your job performance and career advancement.
5. Decision making: There are many formalized decision making techniques, such as a decision matrix, that can help you make quality, business appropriate, and defendable decisions that can help you to best service your internal clients and maximize your job performance.
6. Problem solving: Like decision making, there are formalized problem solving techniques, such as Five Whys and Brainstorming that can help you discover a problem’s root cause and define potential solutions.
7. Strategic thinking: Very often a business analyst must think outside-the-box to find innovative business solutions that meet their internal client’s needs. An understanding of strategic thinking techniques can help facilitate this process.
8. Technical writing: A key role of business analysis is the creation of business requirement specifications and other forms of documentation. Your ability to develop coherent, informative, and usable documents is a requirement for professional success.
9. Presentation and public speaking: Don’t underestimate the value of creating and delivering quality presentations on topics such as application designs, project status, and business requirements. Generally speaking, the people listening to your presentations are senior IT and business management people. Your ability to impress them with your presentation could have a significant effect on your career growth.
10. Team building: As a business analyst, you may be required to lead formalized and/or ad hoc teams. Your ability to structure, coordination, and lead these teams can not only make you more successful in your current role, but position you for future IT senior positions.
Developing these skills can enhance your appeal as a job candidate and increase productivity once employed.