4 Soft Skills IT Consultants Must Have to Be Successful
The hunt for top IT talent is going full force nation-wide and tech-heavy cities in the Northeast are helping drive that demand. The Boston Business Journal recently reported that technology companies across the Bay State are feeling the competition when it comes to hiring qualified IT consultants to help meet the demand for services.1 Meanwhile, New York City is ramping up its education initiatives to keep up with one of the city’s fastest growing sectors: technology.
As more and more resumes hit the desks of our HR department, it becomes critical for candidates to stand apart – differentiate themselves and prove that they are not just an IT guru, but that they have some demonstrated soft skills that will allow them to be successful across a range of client industries and business scenarios. Competitive IT companies don’t want any IT consultant they can find… they want talent, the best of the best, the crème de la crème. Because, frankly, client satisfaction depends on it.
This is not to minimize the importance of sharp technical skills. Should an IT consultant know Windows Server like the back of their hand? You bet. Technical expertise, certifications and competencies still dominate the criteria list. No one wants a smooth talker that can’t effectively troubleshoot their email problem, for example.
BUT, technical expertise is not enough. Not anymore. Research over the past two years has demonstrated the “death of traditional IT” and the rise of a partnership model that ties IT to business success.2 As more growing businesses look to achieve that symbiosis by outsourcing their IT functions to Managed Services Providers (MSPs), they want a partner that can help them align IT to their business goals.
In simple terms: Business and IT have become best buds.
And so to really “make it” in the IT consulting world, strategic IT and business skills must go hand-in-hand. The following are four soft skills that IT consultants should strive to strengthen to be seen as a strong candidate in this competitive IT consulting space:
Problems get solved (and often more quickly) with good communication. The effective IT consultant is aware that non-technical staff members and most business leaders don’t speak IT. He or she finds a way to translate technical issues and solutions into terms that can be understood by their clients, no matter the end user. Are your clients going to get under your skin once in a while? Probably. But a vague, snarky or demeaning response and attitude will get you nowhere fast.
IT consultants are on double-duty when it comes to teamwork. Unlike an internal IT admin, they must build relationships with their clients’ staff as well as their fellow IT consultants. Having a professional and helpful rapport with your clients allows them to see you as their trusted advisor. On the flip side, taking advantage of the relationships with your peers helps you gain knowledge and experience about their clients’ industries and how to handle situations you may have never been in. If you’re not a team player, we’d argue that IT consulting is probably not for you.
Each company’s IT situation and each industry’s technology demands are unique. The best IT consultants know how to apply their expertise to their clients’ environment and situation in a professional way. This is not to say that every IT consultant should be able to thrive in every business scenario – your IT firm should work to apply your strengths where they make the most sense. But adaptability requires patience, constant learning and reliance on your peers. This is also where your team comes into play: the more you learn from their experiences, the more you’ll be able to adapt to different challenges or scenarios that come your way.
4. Strategic Thinking.
As a heads-up, we admit this is not an easy one. Many IT experts didn’t go to business school and are not naturally thinking about the growth path of their clients’ businesses. But as mentioned earlier, IT and business have become so aligned that IT consultants must think past the day-to-day firefighting. Being seen as a trusted advisor means being able to help your clients see the big picture and ask important questions: are they taking advantage of the business benefits of the cloud? Do they have a business continuity and disaster recovery plan in place? In the end, this one is not as hard as it sounds and is something you can grow into if you hone the first three soft skills. If you are keeping up on technology and adapting to your clients’ business climates, it becomes more natural to see and communicate the ways that technology can drive their business forward.
With more than two decades of experience, the iCorps IT consulting team is dedicated to delivering excellence to our customers by staying ahead of market trends and understanding new technologies that could impact their business. iCorps delivers superior IT outsourcing, IT support and technology solutions implemented by the best consultants in the Boston, Philadelphia and New York (NY) areas.
1 Demand for IT talent rises in the Bay State, Joe Halpern, Boston Business Journal, August 2015
2 The death of traditional IT: And the rise of the new partnership model