IT professionals must develop good interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence if they are to succeed, according to experts at a recent IDC technology forum in Paris.
Chief information officers (CIOs) attending the event were told that companies that ignore the human factors in IT projects leave themselves at greater risk of failure.
While innovation and technology enhancements have the potential dramatically to improve business processes, speakers at the conference stressed that failing to recognise the impact of IT on people could render investments at best wasted and at worse counterproductive.
Soumitra Dutta, dean of executive education at Paris-based business school Insead, told delegates that the time had come for industry to realise the perils of a heavy-handed, top-down approach to technology implementations.
"We both benefit from, and suffer from, being in a profession that is high in IQ but low in EQ [emotional intelligence]," he said.
"We're typically not very good at managing emotions. But technology is an emotional issue. You've only got to look at all the outcry surrounding offshore outsourcing to realise this."
A survey conducted earlier this year by Insead found that one of the most pressing issues facing CIOs is how to use technology to improve productivity.
"Yet scratch below the surface and managing change is the biggest [factor in] improving productivity. It's rarely technology," warned Dutta.
He is adamant that failing to take human factors into consideration, in terms of the way systems are designed through to the way new technologies are implemented and 'sold' to internal 'customers', is nothing less than a recipe for disaster.
Far more than a nice to have, there are compelling business reasons why IT managers should take people's feelings into consideration.
Failure to communicate the rationale behind a new technology will leave employees unable to understand why it is there and why they should use it.
If staff feel in the loop in terms of the benefits of the technology for them as individuals and the company as a whole, they are more likely to use and embrace the change more readily.
The bottom line is that the rollout is much more likely to be successful.
And it is not just the feelings and perceptions of internal users that IT professionals need to take into account.
"Customers are taking control," said Patricia Seybold, chief executive of Patricia Seybold Group, a US-based e-commerce consulting company.
"Thanks to the internet and mobile devices customers can be much more demanding about comparing products. Customers are voting with their feet in that they have not all chosen to do business direct."
Searching for information and purchasing products, whether face-to-face, over the phone or online, can be challenging for customers.
Seybold insisted that IT departments must have the customers' experience uppermost in their minds when developing channels to market.
In an increasingly competitive environment, where customer allegiance lasts only as long as the experience is positive, the risks for firms that don't account for customers' needs and wants are obvious.
Seybold believes that this approach should also be applied to internal staff.
"In a knowledge economy: the quality of talent firms employ and the ability to retain 'knowledge assets' become critical to success," she argued. "Helping staff do their jobs by offering easy access to data is a key step."
Aside from these attributes, IT chiefs also need to give other staff a chance to get used to new technology, according to the head of an Indian IT services company.
He suggested that the key to successful IT leadership is a combination of inspiration, aspiration, perspiration and respiration, and that giving people the space to take in all the latest technology developments and innovations is vital.
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