Government CIOs Urged to Hire IT Workers with Soft Skills

Most people would agree that the government could use a more human touch. This notion is permeating government IT as well, and Kenneth Corbin writes for about why soft skills are suddenly a high priority for new IT hiring.

The Rise of Outsourcing

Cost-cutting measures are the theme of the day, and so it is becoming increasingly common to outsource IT functions to the private-sector cloud and to other agencies through a shared-service model. This requires the IT workers that the government retains to collaborate effectively with all the players involved, which of course calls for soft skills. According to Scott Cameron, executive advisor at R3 Government Solutions, this shift has been a long time coming. Basically, from the 90s and into the 2000s, the federal CIO was established, and federal IT subsequently grew in various, not entirely harmonious directions. An inability of federal IT to function effectively at such a large level is what is triggering the shift to shared-service now.

What follows is now a familiar story in IT—federal IT is taking a more service-oriented form. What does this mean? Corbin cites Cameron and Darren Ash, CIO at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission:

“You as a project manager in the IT organization have to understand more about the entities that are providing the service,” Ash says. That argues for hiring managers with a more diverse mix of experience that could include time spent in the private sector, along with stints at the federal, state or local levels of government.

“If you're a CIO and you want to get the most out of your contractors, it really helps to understand how contractors think,” Cameron says. He suggests that CIOs focus on succession planning and building a pipeline of junior managers – an effort that can be furthered by formalizing professionally enriching career paths.

The article concludes that the best tech experts are generally the ones in the 25-40 range who, because they are not busy with administrative work in supervisory roles, have the most free time to stay on the cutting edge. What federal IT needs to do is find the people in this group who can strike a balance between killer coding and killer people skills. You can read the full article here:

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