Looking for an IT staffer with skills to relate to business users? There are a number of Canadian institutions teaching them what they need to know

It seems these days that there are many articles advising IT Management on the type of people they need.

Often they advocate business- savvy people who can talk to business clients in terms they understand and have the ability to innovate with them. In essence, they are internal consultants who can unearth business problems and opportunities, and design solutions that improve business processes through information technology.

Recently a few clients have asked me, “Where do I find professionals like that?” Typically they don’t emerge from computer science or engineering faculties. Usually IT Leaders don’t think of the viability of researching business faculties because they believe the technical skills would be lacking.

There are Canadian business schools that not only offer the “classic” disciplines of finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, etc., but also offer an MIS stream. Their graduates are, first and foremost, business men and women; however, they also have been trained on business process analysis and improvement, as well as many aspects of using both mainstream and emerging technologies. If you were to ask them to write a C++ program, they would be lost; but turn them loose on a business problem with full access to your business clients, and you may be surprised at the results.

Although the curriculum will vary among business schools, there are some basic skills that will be learned: understanding financial statements, analyzing a business case through a net present value calculation, understanding market segmentation, simulating a process using Queuing Theory, managing business change and a host of other subjects in the areas of finance, marketing, operations management, human resource management and so on.

In addition, however, these students will learn the fundamentals of IT — at least enough so that the techies can’t “snow them” They will be introduced to innovative solutions to business opportunities using proven and emerging technologies.

No doubt, through case studies and project work, these graduates will understand the entire “solutioning” process: identifying business problems and opportunities, developing high level analyses and designs, developing the business case, working with the business to understand requirements, and working with the business and IT professionals on implementing quality, robust solutions based on reliable technologies.

Such graduates would be ideal candidates for entry level business analyst positions, perhaps migrating to the “on site” IT representative co- located in a business unit. From there, who knows  — the portfolio management office, manager of solution delivery or the CIO position itself!

So, the next time you are wondering how to attract, grow and develop good “change catalysts” in your organization, look no further than the business schools in Canadian universities.

If you have a leadership problem that’s keeping you awake at night, try documenting it and submitting it in confidence to:

friendlycopilot@yahoo.ca.

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