No matter whether you’re managing an IT team or striking out on your own as an tech specialist, these seven must-have business skills will always up your value.
As IT professionals, we often like to think of ourselves as set apart from business. IT pros major in computer science, networking, or software – not business management. IT pros concern themselves with machines, devices, and the invisible movement of data. Business’ less-tangible skills aren’t their thing.
But is this true? No. As we’ll see, even the most brilliant IT genius can, at times, take a page from the playbooks of managers, salespeople, and their own moms.
The Seven Essential Business Skills IT People Need
In no particular order, we’ve listed the seven business skills that anyone – from tech writers to software testers to network gurus – needs to succeed. They’re not at all high-tech, but chance are you’ll use them every day of your career.
- Understanding. Call it listening, information processing, or whatever suits you. By understanding, we’re talking about your grasp of what people are telling you. Sometimes, this extends to what they don’t tell you, as well.
Why This Is Important: Understanding your organization’s overall business goals is crucial, because they’ll need the support of their IT department to reach them. If you’re on the front lines of IT (help desk, IT business owner, etc.), you’ll need understanding to help you figure out what your client (caller) needs you to do.
This is a foundation skill – you can add others to it, but you can’t very well do without it.
- Communication. Good communication is more than just spewing information out at random. While listening and understanding bring important information to you, outgoing communication is where the action happens. Think about all you do by means of communication:
- Get background on IT problems
- Collaborate with team members to solve problems
- Acquire additional needed details to complete a project
Why This Is Important: Poor communication skills can be your downfall. You’ll be hard to work for and with> Plus, things will take much longer than they really should – all because no one is exactly sure about what they’re doing.
Like understanding, strong communication skills are crucial for any IT person.
- Organization. Being a good organizer isn’t just about making a list and checking it twice. Organizational skills mean you’ve discussed the goal, you’ve thought out a logical series of steps to reach it, and you’re going to follow through.
This is where you can learn a thing or two from your mom. How did she do it all – take you to soccer practice, keep everyone fed and clothed, and hold down a job? Easy. She was organized.
Why This Is Important: The opposite of organized is chaos. And chaos costs time and money – not to mention stress. An organized IT person is a great person to have around, and a valuable one, because he or she is efficient.
- Time management. This ties in closely with organization. An organized person might be able to make a logical plan, but they will still need good time management skills to pull it off. Why? Because good time management allows you to have a realistic schedule. It also keeps you from getting sidetracked as you work. The best time management strategies include a contingency for when things go wrong. And, as any IT person knows, that’s always a possibility.
Why This Is Important: Ever hear the phrase ‘Time is money’? In the business world, time is also success, and finishing a project on schedule is right up there with finishing it on budget.
- Research. Nobody knows all the answers, so it’s a good thing to be able to find them. Being adept at research is a must for IT professionals. Your go-to source can be the Internet, a desk reference, a colleague, a manual, or whatever else you need, but don’t let it be your only source. Keep your mind – and options – open.
Why This Is Important: Your worth isn’t solely based on what you know; it’s also based on how quickly you can find and assimilate new information.
- People skills. You may not be the manager of your department. Heck, you may be the entire IT department. But you’re still going to need people skills. You know them when you see them; they’re the art of getting along. This means being polite and courteous, but it can also entail some of the finer points of social interactions: delegating, negotiating, showing empathy and compassion when your co-worker wants to put their fist through the monitor, even though you know the real problem is their fault.
Why This Is Important: People skills are the oil that keeps the social machine running smoothly. Let your company culture take a turn for the worse, and you’ll see productivity drop and profits fall.
- Sales / Persuasion/ Presentation. You’re in IT, not Sales and Marketing. What’s with all the persuasion and presentation stuff? The truth is, at some point in your career you’re going to want to convince others, motivate them, and influence their behavior. And that’s what sales, persuasion, and presentation skills are all about.
A good presenter doesn’t just state their ideas and explain concepts. They don’t just rattle off facts. They get people on board. They showcase benefits and highlight upsides. In other words, they sell. It may not be in your job description, but every IT person needs a touch of salesmanship in their bag of tricks.
Why This Is Important: Being able to motivate people will actually help you accomplish your goals, whether that’s getting someone to sign up for your services or convincing them not to randomly restart their computer every time they want to exit a program.
Success in IT is predicated on your success as a business team member. These seven essential business skills will make you a truly valuable resource for customers, clients, or co-workers.