Soft skills and IT - the weakest link?

It’s been said that effective communication is one of the most important and critical skills that a software developer can have today.  The Project Management Institute’s Project Management Body of Knowledge professes that communication takes up over 80% of a project manager’s time.

Yet, what percentage of your training in college or as an IT professional is devoted to soft skills and communication?  It is critical to project success and a core pre-requisit to discovering your customer’s expectations. Yet soft skills and communication are often considered to be a natural skill of technical professionals. No so!

When I speak to technical audiences, most share my viewpoint that few people go into engineering or computer science professionals with people skills in mind – yet those are the most crucial to project success.  Certainly technical prowess is important, but no more so than effective negotiation, communication, empathy, understanding, presentation skills, and the ability to speak in business terms.

At CoolTech (a Tampa Bay Technology Forum event) lastweak link week, Disney luncheon speaker Frank Furness stated, “Don’t let technical people talk to non-technical people.”  In today’s technologically advanced world, it is unfortunate that this is still the norm (technical people predominantly talk techno-talk).  I believe that that poor communication is the weakest link in software development today! Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so too is software development only as strong as IT’s weakest link!

Many of the required soft skills are part of the Certified Scope Manager (CSM) training program coming to Tampa, FL in late August 2010. Here’s a short list of the soft skills we cover:

– Talking to customers and non-technical users about their functional requirements for software;

– Talking to customers and non-technical users about their quality and performance needs for software product(s);

– Negotiating with customers about how to write a “good” Request for Proposal;

– Communicating with suppliers about unit pricing of software projects;

– Communicating with suppliers and customers about the progress of projects to-date;

– Communicating the baseline sizes of the software at the end of requirements phase(s) to both suppliers and customers;

– Communicating the impact of proposed changes (in size, schedule and cost) with customers and suppliers;

– Collecting, analyzing, and storing lessons learned in a corporate knowledge base for use on future projects.

Very communication and soft skills intensive!  Why not consider attending one or all days of Certified Scope Manager (CSM) training August 23-27, 2010 in Tampa, FL.  Send me an email at for further information or visit our website at for a training brochure and registration information.

To your successful projects!


Carol Dekkers

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Tampa, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Helsinki and other locations in 2010, visit
=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

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Comments (4)

  1. Communication, cooperation and collaboration require the strength of knowing even though customers, developers, project managers, et al when speaking the same language do not necessarily understand what each means. Sensitivity to embrace this reality is not a human failing but a definite sign of human strength. Unfortunately, it is something that requires a learned behavior. Most of all it takes practice to become adept at it.

    I once told an audience that successful Quality Engineers, whether hardware or software, working on a project(s) in short order will know more of the character of the project and people involved than those who are involved. It is analogous to a marriage: a wife will know more of her husband in 3 years than he will in 30 years of her. Not that one is more open but that the one is so centered as to not listen with depth to what the other is conveying.
    They think they are but, they are oblivious as to how much they are not receiving the communication.

  2. Hi Carol,
    This is an *outstanding article whose thoughts I echo and have been teaching for 20+ years. I will tweet it on Twitter.

    Technical professionals are quite capable of improving their people-skills — spotting/adapting to personality types of their peers and clients, listening, communication, etc… as are any group of people.

    The key is desire and willingness to incorporate it into their daily life. Here are two posts that expand what you have written. I welcome your
    comments and insights on these posts!

    Best wishes,
    Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach in This Technical World

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