In her Personality Matters series, Leslie Sachs examines the personalities and people issues that are found in technology groups from cross-functional, high-performance teams to dysfunctional matrix organizations.
The year behind us was certainly very challenging. Between the tough economy, and even tougher technical challenges, many companies struggled to stay afloat—and some didn’t. Technical skills were in hot demand, but people skills were—as they usually are—equally important. The ability to collaborate with colleagues from very different backgrounds, and speak different languages with people from different locations and time zones, presented a remarkable set of challenges that were not new to IT, but quite difficult nonetheless. Companies shed thousands of workers to satisfy their shareholders only to discover that they could not find qualified and experienced subject matter experts (SMEs) when they were needed. As the COO of a consulting practice, my phone rang off the hook with both companies and other consulting firms looking for skilled candidates. I see 2012 as the year when companies will rediscover the importance of holding on to and developing their human resources like never before.
Agile CM Gurus Needed
Did we have a recession? Throughout 2011, there was a strong demand for qualified CM resources who understand continuous integration, know how to build software, and can handle the conflicting priorities of release management and deployment in a mission-critical, 24/7 business environment. The demand for skilled CM experts was very high, and it was often difficult to quickly locate the right people who possess the specific set of skills required.
You Get What You Pay For
One trend that I saw frequently in 2011 was companies trying to find experts at what amounted to “offshore” prices. There is nothing wrong with offering a great trainee position to someone straight out of school at a lower salary than someone who has ten years of experience, but I found a remarkable number of unrealistic searches for candidates who might be willing to take lower than market rates. Some consulting firms actually required that their employees accept lower pay or see their positions eliminated. I predict that 2012 will see more organizations get realistic about the compensation for skilled resources and the importance of developing and holding onto experienced subject matter experts.
I believe that skills related to coordinating work and projects will be another essential factor valued by employers in the coming year. Many companies are putting a strong focus on enhanced project management skills to ensure that tasks are completed on time and within budget, providing an opportunity for skilled project managers to show their value. The CM space is already being impacted by this trend, and 2012 will see many configuration and release management professionals rolling up their sleeves and managing their work with formal project management methods. Don’t forget the importance of your people skills as you help to manage your organization’s CM projects. It might feel akin to herding sheep for many techies unaccustomed to having to coordinate the work of others.
2012 in the Cloud
This upcoming year is sure to challenge CM experts as they try to manage effectively when cloud providers often control significant resources. Learning how to deal with the enforcement of service level agreements will be critical to your success when your productivity is linked to other people’s performances. In a recent issue of the CM Journal, I wrote about why personality matters in cloud computing and described how your interpersonal skills will impact your ability to collaborate successfully with vital resources at external vendors. Similarly, many companies are purchasing systems that require that CM folks work with packages that are actually written by product vendors. You will probably find yourself being held responsible for managing work that is not fully under your control. State your assumptions, identify risks, and then become good at collaborating with the folks who will ultimately impact your success or failure. While you are doing this, relax and enjoy telecommuting, as many more companies will use technology to allow workers to skip the daily grind of actually coming into the office to work. This sounds great, but it is not without its own set of challenges.
Who Am I Working With
With the rising popularity of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and other social media, the dominance of in-person human interaction seems to be a thing of the past. Direct communication hasn’t disappeared altogether, but you will certainly have to be able to smooth out conflicts without always being able to meet face to face. Many technology professionals are working with colleagues all over the world in non-traditional office settings, often telecommuting from home. This creates a whole new set of protocols to be mastered in order to work comfortably and efficiently with others who not only aren’t physically present but also may be individuals one has never even met in person. It can be quite challenging to collaborate with unfamiliar people when the relationship develops without any actual face-to-face encounters. However, if you haven’t had this experience yet, it is fairly certain that you will find yourself navigating such situations in the near future.
The year ahead will most likely present some difficult challenges, and CM techies need to be aware of the importance of personality in their interpersonal interactions. Finely honed communication skills are always essential and serve as the support for other critical activities that must be performed in order for organizations to be successful. The good news is that we’ll continue to provide the tips and coaching to help you understand the challenges related to personality and human interaction that will help you to improve your people quotient (PQ) in the year ahead!