Hiring SME IT Leaders: Results Or Skills?

October 20, 2009

As small to medium business Owners or Managers, at some point you realize that the time has come to look for some leadership to take control of your IT  team.

Like most businesses, in your early stages of growth you probably hired your IT staff based on particular skill sets that you needed. Perhaps those skills were with certain Point of Sale systems, database software or email servers, etc.

While skills and experience are critically important when supporting and fixing your existing technology and software tools, that requirement for a particular skill level begins to change as you begin looking for higher levels of IT leadership. Those exact skill sets can become less relevant than business results.

That is not to say that there can be zero technology skills!

As SME managers, we need to wear many hats. That includes your IT managers. We need (‘we’ meaning  business technology leaders) to maintain our technical skills, but we also need to grow the more business results oriented strategic planning, relationship, and project skills.

Skills, Results: Let me paint an example

As a growing business lets imagine that you have reached the point where you have decided that you need to invest in a larger resource planning (ERP) or financial application.

This can be a huge investment, so after many discussions with your peers, and maybe a consultant or two from your local Chamber of Commerce, you think that a particular product will be perfect for you. Lets also assume that those same discussions convinced you that to support this type of technology initiative, you will need to go beyond your current break/fix  tech geeks to a true business technology leader who can be responsible for delivering the value you need for this investment.

Answer this question;

When you call the placement agency, or publish the advertisement, what importance do you think skill with the product you chose should carry in your hiring decision?

The answer is not necessarily much!

Next, lets assume you are now interviewing a few candidates for that IT leadership position.

One particular candidate looks excellent. She has great recommendations, and has successfully implemented ERP or financial software a few times already!

But! she has never used, or even seen that particular ERP or financial vendor’s product that you want to implement. Do you think that matters? Do you write her off the short list?

Here is a tip!

A strong business technology candidate will pick up different software skills easily. Example; I was once flown in to fix a problem with software environments I had never seen before, it was less than two days until I understood enough to fix the issue.

It is the skills to discuss, negotiate and implement the processes behind the software are the harder ones!

Your candidate can demonstrate that he or she has obtained the results that you are looking for several times, it is only because each time she was using products that are competitive to the product you have chosen that you are considering knocking her off the short list.

So in this example, the demonstrated results this candidate can show far outweighs their lack of skill with your chosen software package.

The SMB Takeaway

Skill and experience with a particular product can be critical when you are hiring someone to babysit a particular tool or product, but demonstrated results is the critical metric when you need leadership to provide business benefits from your IT investments.

Hire Well!

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6 Responses to “Hiring SME IT Leaders: Results Or Skills?”

  1. Thanks for your article by the way If you want to consider ERP system. Free Learning SAP R/3 in a step-by-step online and we provide SAP document and ABAP/4 training online everything we provide free for you. visit saptraineronline.com

  2. Very true Elliot, good to see that there are people out there that realise this!

  3. elliotross Says:

    Arun, thanks so much for dropping by!

    That one came from a discussion with the COO of a larger SME manufacturing firm.

    With the exception of the ‘interview’ part – that is what was happening!


  4. […] Hiring SME IT Leaders: Results Or Skills? « A Dime a Dozen Small Business, Tech and Talk elliotross.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/hiring-sme-it-leaders-results-or-skills – view page – cached As small to medium business Owners or Managers, at some point you realize that the time has come to look for some leadership to take control of your IT team. — From the page […]

  5. Elliot,
    Great post. You have an excellent example that shows the difference between skills and results.

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