3 Business “Soft Skills” That Show an IT MSP is a Cut Above the Crowd


IT Prof MeetingSeveral months ago, we shared the “top 10 critical skills” technology professionals will need to succeed in today and continue to thrive in the future. The list came from a keynote address given by Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of CompTIA, the world’s leading IT association, to technical students at a community college.

We recently encountered a similar list offered by technology writer Paul Heltzel in a column for CIO magazine. Heltzel focuses on business “soft skills” and cites a LinkedIn study that found more employers (nearly 60 percent) believe their organizations lack soft skills than hard technical skills (about 50 percent.)

Other researchers corroborate the LinkedIn report. A poll of more than 500 senior executives at U.S. organizations by the staffing firm Adecco showed almost half the respondents believe American workers lack soft skills in general. Moreover, esteemed institutions such as Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center calculate that as much as 85 percent of job success springs from soft skills.

We agree with pundits who feel soft skills should be an imperative for today’s businesses. The escalating trend toward digital transformation is pushing many companies beyond their technical comfort zones, generating increasing demand for IT managed services. Yet, for business leaders developing their tech savvy, the process of differentiating providers according to technical standards can be challenging and confusing, as emerging technologies evolve at rapid pace.

New dimensions are necessary for determining the best fit for your IT services support. So, we reviewed Heltzel’s list of soft skills “every IT pro needs.” Here are three critical abilities we gleaned from Heltzel’s work that demonstrate an IT Managed Services Provider (MSP) is a cut above the crowd:

  • Translating Tech Speak
    James Stanger, chief technology evangelist at the global IT trade association CompTIA, told Heltzel: “I have two valued co-workers who have the uncanny way of boiling things down to a perfect, pithy statement… It really helps everyone level set and move on to discuss both technical and business requirements. You can’t move forward with only one — business lingo — or the other — geek speak.”
  • Building Context
    Karen Hebert-Maccaro, chief content officer at O’Reilly Media, advises Heltzel: “The important thing is that technical and nontechnical leaders alike understand the context in which their teams work, the individuals on those teams, and the challenges and motivators of those individuals. The context will be different, but the need to inspire, build trust, instill passion for the work and be a change agent is important regardless of function.”
  • Exercising Curiosity
    Conventional wisdom in the IT world suggests technology users and business leaders rarely know what they want in a system. But Hettie Tabor, of SMU’s Cox School of Business, debunks this notion: “My response is that the business people do their job every day — they know what they want, and need, but you’re not asking them the right questions… Understanding how to translate business ideas into technical design and being able to discuss this with both the IT and business people is a valuable and necessary skill.”