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Five Non-Technical, Yet Essential, Skills Your IT Team Needs

Successful technology deployments in government require technical know-how as well as non-technical skill sets. Here is what to look for when building your team.

People walking away from the camera.
Our world is full of many complex relationships. The Sharks battled the Jets in West Side Story, and in the sports world, Tiger Woods was consistently in a pitched battle with Phil Mickelson for golf superiority. Government has its own internal tensions like those between assessors and treasurers or between the police and fire departments. In technology, there is tension between priority placed on technical versus non-technical resources. It’s a difficult balance that can cause stress for government CIOs. In truth, teams need both technical and non-technical skills to be successful.

As government shifted focus over the years from building operational applications to building digital services for citizen engagement, the mix of resources needed in technology organizations shifted as well. Governments now had to understand what citizens needed as opposed to what technology could deliver. It was also critical to be able to “tell the story” about the value of technology to justify funding needs. As CIOs move forward, issues like usability, access, and consumer-based communications portals like social media are increasingly important. What does government need now and in the future? What mix of technical and non-technical resources will help deliver on those needs?

Most technology organizations know that they must look at their services through the lens of the user, not through the lens of the agencies and departments. And technology projects must also have a business owner who can make hard business decisions. This takes people that have soft skills to work with end users to define needs and project managers to keep the technology and business sides together. The recent pandemic also pushed government into remote work environments and pushed government to deliver more services digitally. The fact is that there are technologies that can pretty much do whatever we want them to. The real struggle is getting people to use the technologies made available to them. This reality has prompted many to employ user experience and customer/citizen experience professionals. These key people can focus on the experience of the end user, setting technology projects up for success. Here’s what to look for in non-technical staff:

End-User Focus: It has been and always will be about the people that use technologies to either get services or get things done for others. Individuals who can successfully decipher a customer or citizen need are critical for governments. UX, or user experience, and CX, or customer experience, are disciplines that are needed more than ever. Surveys, feedback loops, and customer-centric thinking are a must.

Business Process First: With the shift from a pure technology focus to evaluating technology in terms of how it meets business needs, the role of the business analyst grows in importance. It doesn’t matter how elegant the technical solution if it doesn’t fit the needs of the citizen. But this role also involves convincing agencies and departments that they must evolve their current approach to technology. The role as a change manager is critical.

Soft Skills: This new world of government technology requires people who can tell a good story while bringing people together to get things done. Communication skills are crucial for the new technology professional. The ability to bring people together is imperative to delivering the best product possible — from both a technology and business process perspective.

Project Management: In many cases, technology people will do what they do best: technology. The role of the project manager requires a delicate balance between satisfying the customer while ensuring that the project continues to move forward. There are times when a non-technical person is needed to manage the business of getting things done.

Data Driven: We all remember the saying “fish where the fish are” when trying to target your audience. Governments must find people who are experts in how to use data to ensure you are reaching the right citizens for the right purpose. Data is a foundational component of government’s future success. Data-driven strategies increase the chances of being successful.

It may have been a stretch to draw analogies between sports battles and the difference between technical and non-technical resources in government. But we were also explaining how, in the end, they all needed each other to be successful (except maybe the Sharks and the Jets). Technology is no different. Technical people need skilled non-technical people to successfully deploy technology that meets citizen needs. It/IT is all about the team. As always, we are here to help.