Hiring the Right / Wrong IT People to Achieve Alignment Mon 19 May 08
Dr. George E. Strouse had a great article recently on CIO.com entitled "Are You Hiring the Wrong IT Staff to Achieve Your Alignment Goals?" Strouse contends that the major cause of business and IT mis-alignment is that IT is not hiring the right kind of people. He states "The right people need strong backgrounds in both business and technology. Most IT hiring managers place too much emphasis on strong technology backgrounds." Although I cannot comment on whether or not this is the major reason for the misalignment I wholeheartedly agree with his comment on the needed background nonetheless.
The most popular post I've made (accounting for about 20+% of site visits) is one that contains what I thought was a good business analyst job description. While this job description does contains some technical requirements as you might expect it also contains skills that are not often found in traditionally trained IT folks. These are the types of skills that are needed for an business analyst to understand business.
Dr. Strouse contends that the reason business can not get the right people is that we are asking for people with a Computer Science degree rather than an Information Systems degree. As a professor of information systems at York College in Pennsylvania he is eminently qualified to layout the distinction and makes a strong case. Now before anyone with a Computer Science degree gets upset please read his article carefully. As he points out there is a need for both types of degrees but each is better suited for different functions.
The "business" will not ask us specifically to hire someone with a Computer Science degree or a Information System degree just as they don't specify to the head of engineering to hire a structural engineer vs. a mechanical engineer. Specifying the right qualifications is left to us. Because as Strouse points out there is a difference it is important that we think carefully about it and also that we not leave it to Human Resources to write the job spec.
I like the aspects of an Information System degree that include business factors, e.g. accounting, finance, strategy & policy. I once had a CEO tell me that one of the things she wanted in IT was people that "talk like us" meaning they understand business issues and can explain things in business terms rather than just business terms. Admittedly you can learn this skill through business experience but an formal education in this area greatly aids it.
Do you distinguish between a Computer Science degree and an Information Systems degree when writing job specs? What other things do you look for?
"Need A Job?" photo by saffanna
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