Do Soft Skills Really Matter in IT?

IT is viewed by many people as being something technical. They have a vision of managers with lot’s of plans, documents and spreadsheets, and nerds that are sitting behind their computer doing the “real work”.  It may be out there, but I don’t see it that often.

What I see are people working together to deliver software solutions that work, which help their customers in their daily work, and deliver business value to the company. Communication and collaboration are essential to make people and teams successful.  So for me, soft skills really matter in IT!

I see every day how Soft Skills often make the difference between teams that are successful, and those who have problems. The ability the communicate, collaborate, reflect and give feedback, and continuously improve the way of working is crucial for team members to deliver value to their customers. Soft skills help to discuss and solve issues that come up, get rid of anything that frustrates team members. It is more fun to work in such a team, and yes, you can even measure how happy your professionals are with the Happiness Metric.

The evidence is there!

What convinces me that soft skills really matter? My Experiences! Most of the Root Causes that I have found when examining defects or project problems have to do with knowledge and soft skills. In agile retrospectives that I facilitate, people discuss how they communicate collaborate, and look for strengths in those areas that can be used to further increase team performance.

Books like Peopleware and The Mythical Man Month make sense. Methods from the positive psychology, like Solution Focus, Theory U, and Appreciative Inquiry have evidence that recognizing and developing soft skills makes a difference (see my Golden Rules for Agile Process Improvement).

The People-CMM, an accompanying model for the CMMI, has a level 2 process area on Communication and Coordination and can be used to empower your people. For me, that’s enough evidence!

What do you think?

What is your experience? Do soft skills really matter in IT? Have you seen benefits when professionals improved their soft skills? Is it worth investing time and money to make it possible that people can develop themselves? Please share your experiences!

Ben Linders

I help organizations with effective software development and management practices. Active member of several networks on Agile, Lean and Quality, and a frequent speaker and writer.

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