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Why soft skills outweigh hard skills for IT-business collaboration

Sarah K. White | Dec. 15, 2016
There's a growing demand for more cross-collaboration with IT and other departments, which means IT workers not only need technical skills, but also the soft skills to serve as the authority on all-things-tech.

Oftentimes, department heads will go through the process of implementing new software, without consulting IT. Wren says that IT can not only help departments find the right tools, but also identify which ones work best with networks and systems already in place. Or, they might even know of a similar tool that is already in use and licensed by the company, which can save everyone money. But IT needs to instill a culture where employees know they should check in first before installing new apps.

"Though technology preferences and habits differ across departments, it's still important for IT to establish standard solutions and policies for all employees to use and abide by. And the team's job doesn't stop at implementation," says Wren.

Opening the lines of communication

Wren says it's important for IT to build its relationship with the rest of the company -- especially with remote workers. The first step is to ensure everyone has an easy, simple way to get in touch with IT if they need help or advice -- whether it's an internal platform or a more popular service, like Slack. Departments can even establish a point person to work with IT to communicate their needs, but it's up to IT to make the first move.

"Employees must see IT as a partner to solving their challenges. To that end, IT leaders must be easily accessible to all employees," says Wren.

Opening communication is one of the best ways to get more insight into -- and to avoid -- "shadow IT," says Wren. Shadow IT might sound sinister, but it's usually something as simple as an employee innocently skirting an IT-approved app or service to use one that they like better. But, if employees are participating in shadow IT, it suggests that it's never been properly communicated to them that they should check in with IT first.

Palm says that it takes time to build this rapport between IT and employees, but there are steps to help make the transition easier. She suggests taking it one step at a time, to unify everyone under a common goal and then have management over-see cross-collaborative projects until everyone finds their groove.

"One mistake many businesses make is throwing employees in the water, so to speak, and hoping they will automatically self-organize. Especially with employees working across departments, this presents a lot of risk," says Palm.

Communicating cybersecurity threats

Collaboration is going to become especially important moving forward at concerns around cybersecurity increase around the globe. Employees are often the biggest security threat at any company, as demonstrated by shadow or rogue IT, so leaders need to figure out ways to educate workers on security protocol in the company, says Wren.


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