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Time for New Skills: People Readiness for the Second Digital Revolution

Stephen J. Andriole

We expect a lot from leadership, from our vendors, from ourselves, from our customers, and even from our investors. We need skills in specific new areas (as well as some of the same old skills).

So what are the skills we'll all need in the early twenty-first century? What skills are necessary to optimize the business technology relationship? Let's return to the distinction between strategic and operational technology that we discussed previously and the layers of each-as suggested by Figure 1. Let's use this picture to identify the skill sets necessary for business technology convergence.

Figure 1. Technology layers.

Business Strategy Skills
Here's a list of business strategy skills we'll need:

  • Collaboration: Knowledge about the interconnected marketplace and internetworked companies; knowledge about what happens inside and outside of companies-the collaborative mind-set; knowledge about how customers, employees, partners, and suppliers interconnect.
  • Customization and Personalization: Knowledge about mass personalization, behavioral models to correlate online and offline behaviors, wireless personalization, and personal and professional CRM, among other related areas.
  • Supply Chain Management (SCM) : Knowledge that includes supply chain concepts, models, and tools. Integrated SCM (by vertical industry) would be a central focus here along with the technologies that enable SCM as well as SCM standards, technologies (such as exchanges), and some of the leading SCM platforms.
  • Business <> Technology Convergence Strategy: Knowledge that examines methods for developing and assessing collaborative/integrated business technology strategies; knowledge about the current scenario that's driving your collaborative business strategy and the plan for integrating computing and communications technology in your company.
  • Competitor Intelligence: Knowledge about specific competitors including information about their sales, marketing, profitability, key employees, strategy, tactics, and so forth.

    Business Applications Skills
    Here's a list of business applications skills we'll need:

  • Business Application Optimization: Knowledge that looks at major technology and business processes and how they can be optimized with a variety of business applications, like CRM, ERP, and other applications.
  • Core Business Applications Management: Knowledge that identifies the applications that make money for the company, as well as the applications that define the company's competitive advantages; knowledge about how to make them perform optimally together.
  • Business Analytics: Knowledge about the processes and technologies that yield insight from sales, marketing, customer service, finance, accounting, technology infrastructure, and competitor data; knowledge about the forms that analyses can take.

Enterprise Business Technology Architecture Skills
Here's a list of enterprise business technology architecture skills we'll need:

  • Applications Architectures: Knowledge that looks at how mainframe (single tier), client-server (two tier), and Internet/Intranet (three tier > n tier) applications have changed and what the trade-offs among the architectures (defined around flexibility, scalability, reliability, etc.).
  • Business Scenario Development: Knowledge about current and emerging business models and processes and the ability to map them in current and future competitive contexts.
  • Communications Architectures: Knowledge that focuses on existing and emerging communications networks especially including the role that wireless access and transaction processing will play in emerging collaborative, business models and processes.
  • Data Architectures: Knowledge about the role that data, information, and knowledge will play in collaborative transaction processing; knowledge about existing database management platforms, data warehousing, data mining and knowledge management, especially as they contribute to business intelligence.
  • Enterprise Architectures: Knowledge about the overall business-technology architecture, especially how it's defined and how it adapts to changes in business and technology; the overall blueprint for business technology optimization.
  • Enterprise Technology Architecture Modeling: Knowledge about the overall organization of technology that supports overall business goals, especially as all of this integrates and works as seamlessly as possible.
  • Security Architectures: Knowledge about security and privacy inside and outside of corporate firewalls; knowledge about authentication, authorization, and administration technologies and tools; knowledge about security integration and interoperability.

Infrastructure Skills
Here's a list of infrastructure skills we'll need:

  • Messaging and Workflow: Knowledge that examines the platforms that support all varieties of communication and how communications technology enables communication and transactions among employees, customers, and suppliers inside and outside of the corporate firewall.
  • Automation: Knowledge about intelligent systems technology and the application of that technology to personal and professional automated transaction processing, monitoring, E-billing, and the like, including methods (neural nets, fuzzy logic, expert systems) and how these methodologies can be embedded in tools and applications.
  • Database Management and Analysis: Knowledge that positions data, information, knowledge, and content-of all varieties (static, dynamic, text, video)-and how it can be managed for alternative purposes, as well as data, knowledge, and content management platforms, next-generation database management applications, especially object-oriented DBMS.
  • Integration and Interoperability: Knowledge that describes the technical requirements for making disparate, incompatible applications, standards, data, platforms, and architectures communicate with one another, focusing on enterprise applications integration (EAI) and Internet applications integration (IAI), wrapper/glue technologies like XML, as well as more conventional middleware. The knowledge should focus on the need for-and objectives of-integration and interoperability including cross-selling, up-selling, customer service, alliance building, and so forth.

Support Skills
Here's a list of support skills we'll need:

  • Business Technology Metrics: Knowledge designed to introduce professionals to ROI, expected value analysis (EVA), TCO (and other) models for assessing business technology effectiveness. Business case development and due diligence should also be included here.
  • Security and Privacy: Knowledge that examines the concepts, models, tools, and technologies that enable security architectures, authentication, authorization, administration, and business resumption planning. The technologies would include encryption, biometrics, PKI (public key infrastructure), and smart cards, among others.
  • Project and Program Management: Knowledge about project management processes, methods, and tools as well as program management processes, methods, and tools. The range of areas would include several varieties of business technology project management and several varieties of program management, including business technology acquisition strategies, managing outsourcing, service level agreements, and so forth.
  • Procurement and Asset Management: Knowledge about how to optimally procure and manage computing and communications assets.
  • Partner Management: Knowledge that includes approaches, methods, and tools for managing relationships with distributors, resellers, service providers, and so forth.
  • Vendor Management: Knowledge that includes approaches, methods, and tools for managing relationships with distributors, resellers, service providers, and so forth.
  • Regulatory Trends: Knowledge about regulations and regulatory trends in specific industries and hit lists for tracking legislation that could have a significant impact on business policies, processes, and procedures.
  • Business Technology Acquisition Strategy: Knowledge that examines all aspects of the technology procurement and support process, especially including in-sourcing, co-sourcing, and outsourcing.
  • Professional Communications: Knowledge that helps people understand the form and content of professional written and verbal communication, especially as it involves the communication of business technology.

How much do we know about all this? When we talk about education and training, this is the range of knowledge you want your people to have. When we talk about skill sets for the second digital revolution, these skills are front and center. What kind of progress are we making?

Excerpt from Stephen J. Andriole, Best Practices in Business Technology Management, Auerbach Publications, 2008.

© Copyright 2008 Auerbach Publications