Survey Reveals CIOs Favor High-Touch over High-Tech

The phrase "works well with others" has long been a staple on grade school report cards, and now in the IT world, it's the number one criteria for senior management candidates. In a recent nationwide survey, 27 percent of chief information officers (CIOs) polled cited strong interpersonal skills as the single most important quality for reaching management levels. Advanced technical skills came in second, receiving 23 percent of the response.

Executives also said that by the year 2005, project teams will become more pervasive, placing further emphasis on interpersonal and communication skills.

The survey was developed by RHI Consulting, a leading specialized consulting firm that provides information technology professionals on a project basis. Conducted by an independent research firm, the survey includes responses from 1,400 CIOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with more than 100 employees.

CIOs were asked, "Which one of the following is most important for reaching management levels in the information technology profession?" Their responses:

Interpersonal skills
Advanced technical skills
Customer service orientation
Business acumen
Ability to meet deadlines
Other/don't know

27%
23%
17%
16%
11%
6%
100%

CIOs were also asked, "In 2005, how frequently will employees in your information technology department work on project-based teams with members of other departments throughout the company?" Their responses:

Very frequently
Somewhat frequently
Somewhat infrequently
Very infrequently
Never

57%
26%
10%
6%
1%
100%

"IT staff are often unprepared for the transition from technology specialist to team leader," said Greg Scileppi, Executive Director of RHI Consulting. "While technical skills remain critical, once an individual assumes management responsibilities such issues as employee productivity, morale and retention become priorities."

Scileppi recommends that IT professionals develop their interpersonal skills early in their careers. "The predominance of project teams has created a corresponding need for strong communication and team-player abilities. Technical staff put these skills to the test daily as they work with employees at all levels to create and implement IT solutions ranging from simple troubleshooting to corporate Web initiatives and systemwide upgrades."

A 1998 survey by RHI Consulting confirmed the importance of soft skills in IT candidates. In that poll, 97 percent of 1,400 CIOs said they look for well-developed "soft skills" -- such as communication abilities and business acumen -- when hiring technology staff.

For more information, visit RHI Consulting at www.rhic.com.