It is clear that the expectations for information and communications technology (ICT) practitioners are shifting. When there was a significant gap between demand and supply for ICT skills, understanding the nuts and bolts of your chosen field was enough to get started and do well. In future, however, the practitioner will need to bring more to the table – not just technical depth, but also a more rounded set of skills that extend to meeting customers at their level.

Someone once told me this joke: “Question: What’s the difference between an introverted programmer and an extroverted one? Answer: The extroverted one looks at the other person’s shoes when talking.”

The sad part about this stereotype is that it is sometimes true, and furthers the notion of IT practitioners as geeky, talking eloquently about DLLs and algorithms but unable to talk to customers in dollars and cents.

Customers want to understand the business impact of technology decisions – and this is exactly where the skills shortage is becoming apparent.

Although there is a healthy demand for skills in current technologies, organizations are looking more and more for skills in higher-value areas like architecture, business analysis and management. Regulatory requirements have emphasized the need to implement more oversight of information systems, especially those that support financial operations, and ensure that those systems are more effectively managed.

The skills needed to meet these requirements go beyond programming or system administration, and organizations are often scrambling to find or develop them.

Recently, a provincial task force sought input on skills shortages and preparing the workforce for the future. One of the most interesting questions asked by the task force was: What can be used to recognize past work experience? It is ironic that in an industry with a prevalence of keyword-based hiring, many of our more experienced practitioners do not have an opportunity to work in current technologies, yet they possess many of the skills in management, leadership and understanding the business that enable the effective implementation of those same technologies.

The Information Systems Professional of Canada (ISP) designation is a means of recognizing those higher-level skills and – independently of technology – speaks to the depth and breadth of experience that ISP holders possess, as well as their commitment to professional development.

CIPS, as the voice of professionalism in the ICT industry, advocates the licensing of software professionals through the ISP designation and promotes continued professional development of practitioners.

CIPS develops practitioners who don’t look at customers’ feet, but rather look them in the face.

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