Knowledge, skills and abilities of information systems professionals: past, present, and future

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<ul><li><p>Information &amp; Management 19 (1990) 237-247 North-Holland </p><p>237 </p><p>Research </p><p>Knowledge, skills and abilities of information systems professionals: past, present, and future * </p><p>Paul H. Cheney, David P. Hale and George M. Kasper Information Syytems and Quan%tatioe Sciences, College of Busi- ness Administration, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas 79409, LSA </p><p>This study provides information and direction regarding the skills needed by current and future information systems (IS) professionals. Based on information gathered in 1978, 1987, and 1988 through structured interviews with a total of one-hundred-eighty senior information systems managers re- sponsible for planning, training, and hiring IS personnel, the trends in the current and future usefulness to project managers, systems analysts/designers, and programmers of twenty di- mensions of knowledge, skill, and ability are evaluated. The results indicate that senior IS managers believe that human factors and managerial knowledge, skills, and abilities have and will continue to increase in importance for all IS profes- sionals, particularly for project managers. The findings also confirm the increasing need to personnel with knowledge of advanced technologies and an increased awareness of the value of information as a corporate resource. Collectively, the results suggests a clearer division of labor among IS professionals, precipitated by advances in technology and their application to ever increasingly complex and ill-structured problems. </p><p>Keywords; Information science education, Curriculum, Project and people management, Training, Staffing, Information sys- tems occupations, Information systems skills, ACM model curriculum, Information systems personnel management. </p><p>* Some of the data presented in this paper is reported in Information Systems Professions: Skills for the 1990s. in the Proceedings of the Twenty-Second Annual Hawaii Inrer- national Conference on System Sciences, January 3-6, (1989). Vol. 1, 331-336. </p><p>Paul Cheney is currently the Area Co- ordinator and Professor of Manage- ment Information Systems in the Col- lege of Business Administration at Texas Tech University. He received his Ph.D. in MIS from the University of Minnesota in 1977 and had taught at Iowa State and the University of Georgia prior to joining Texas Tech University in the summer of 1988. He has published over 30 articles in such journals as Decision Sciences, MIS Quarterly, and Information and Man- </p><p>agement. He has also conducted numerous professional devel- opment seminars and consulted widely for firms such as FORD, IBM, AT&amp;T, and EXXON. </p><p>David P. Hale is Assistant Professor of Information Systems and Quantitative Sciences at Texas Tech Universitys College of Business Administration. He received his Ph.D. in Management Information Systems from the Univer- sity of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1986. His research interests include col- laborative problem-solving systems and software engineering. His papers on joint human-computer problem- solving systems, data base manage- ment systems design, decision-group </p><p>connectivity, and software maintenance have appeared in Management Information Quarterley, Journal of Management Informafion Systems, and several conference proceedings. </p><p>George M. Kasper is Associate Profes- sor of Information Systems and Quantitative Sciences at Texas Tech University College of Business Admin- istration. He received the Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo. His primary research interests are decision support systems and ex- pert system-aided decision making. His research has been published in such journals as Decision Support Sys- tems, Journal of Management Informa- tion Systems, Information and Manage- </p><p>ment, Decision Sciences, and others. Dr. Kasper has also served as a visiting member of the Faculty of Informatics, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands, and has worked and consulted for both government and private in- dustry. </p><p>0378-7206/90/$03.50 0 1990 - Elsevier Science Publishers B.V. (North-Holland) </p></li><li><p>238 Research Information &amp; Management </p><p>1. Introduction </p><p>Although employment in the information sys- tems (IS) field is expected to continue to grow rapidly through the mid-nineteen-nineties, much of the work currently done in these professions is changing. The changes force IS educators and practitioners to constantly evaluate and upgrade their professional skills. Much uncertainty sur- rounds these decisions. Individuals must decide, almost daily, what seminars and tutorials will best position them for career advancement. Managers must make the same decision for groups of workers, as well as match tasks with the skills of personnel and make long-term resource allocation decisions based on their perception of tomorrows IS environment. In addition, educators must monitor curricula to ensure that students have the skills needed to meet the expected challenges of tomorrows work environment. </p><p>The purpose of this article is to provide infor- mation and direction regarding the skills needed by current and future IS professionals. Informa- tion was gathered in 1978, 1987, in 1988 through structured interviews with a total of one-hundred- eighty senior IS managers responsible for plan- ning, training, and hiring IS personnel. Although the data gathered in 1978 [4] and 1987 [5] has been reported, neither a comparison of this data (show- ing the change in skills required of project managers, systems analyst/ designers, and pro- grammers over the last decade - collectively, these three categories are referred to as IS workers in the remainder of this article), nor the 1988 data showing labor force and skill requirement projec- tions for these professionals in the future (1995) has been published. </p><p>2. Previous Job Skills Research </p><p>For more than 30 years, job skills obsolescence has been a recurring theme in the human resource management literature, often achieving promi- nence in the wake of major changes in the en- vironment (such as technological leaps, economic globalization, and energy shortages). Some authors have investigated the organizational and personal factors that contribute to skills obsolescence [10,12]. Others have studied several methods for counteracting skill obsolescence, such as: job rede- </p><p>sign [9], continuing education, and retraining. However, little of this work has been empirical. </p><p>Obsolescence occurs when personnel and job requirements that were congruent at one time no longer match, due to a change in the job, a change or lack of change in the individual, or both. In most staffing and selection models, jobs require particular knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) for the effective performance of tasks and duties. Knowledge refers to the content or technical infor- mation needed to perform adequately in a job and is normally obtained through formal education, on-the-job training, and information media, such as manuals [18]. Skiffs are the specific psychomo- tor processes necessary to meet the current re- quirements of a specific job. They are manifested through behaviors such as conducting an effective information gathering interview, writing a well- structured COBOL program, or developing a structured system specification. Skills also include the facility to select from among a repertoire of possible actions those that are most appropriate for a particular situation. Abilities refer to the cognitive factors that represent present capabili- ties or achievement levels [18]. The productive potential of employees varies through differences in the types and levels of acquired KSAs. </p><p>Although jobs are most often defined in terms of tasks, duties, elements, responsibilities, or be- haviors that are necessary to obtain an organiza- tions goals, they have also been characterized by the KSAs that are inferred as necessary to per- form the required behaviors [12]. Given that the employees KSAs were at one time congruent with the demands of the job, obsolescence occurs when the jobs current demands, duties, and responsibil- ities are no longer supported by the stock of KSAs of the job holder. The driving force behind chang- ing job requirements is most often change in the external environment; for the IS industry, this typically means change in technology. Likewise, the job holder changes by making re-training deci- sions and gaining experience that result in ad- ditional KSAs that are more or less congruent with the demands of technological development. </p><p>3. The Study </p><p>The specific KSAs that will be needed in the future are unknown, however, the purpose of this </p></li><li><p>Information &amp; Managemeni P. H. Cheney et al. / IS Siaffing Requirements 239 </p><p>study is to help individuals, managers, and educa- tors make more informed decisions as to what may be needed. This requires an examination of technological trends and projections. To provide IS personnel, managers, and educators with infor- mation on which to base their professional deci- sions, a total of one-hundred-eighty senior IS managers were interviewed at three times during a ten year period (1978, 1987 and 1988). The closed-form structured interviews collectively re- flect changes in the perception of senior IS managers about the KSAs needed by IS workers. The job categories of project managers, systems analysts/designers, and programmers were select- ed because of their predominance in terms of their numeric size and KSA requirements. Senior IS managers were interviewed because they are re- sponsible for planning and hiring these IS workers, and are arguably best positioned to predict future personnel needs and requirements. </p><p>3. I. Interviewees </p><p>By design, the demographics of those inter- viewed (position title, years of IS experience, and industry) did not differ substantially across the sample periods. Table 1 presents an analysis of the senior IS managers interviewed in this study by title for each of the three sample periods. </p><p>As these data show, a majority of the inter- viewees are senior level MIS executives. Although the term chief information officer (CIO) was not common in 1978, when the first phase of the study was initiated, most of those interviewed are senior IS executives in their company, and report directly </p><p>Table 1 Interviewees by Job Title </p><p>Job Title Number of Interviewees by Job Title per Sample </p><p>1 2 3 1978 1987 1988 </p><p>VP of IS 8 5 24 Director of IS 6 9 28 Data Center Manager 9 6 2 Director of IS Development 22 14 15 Information Center Manager 0 10 0 Technical Support Manager 0 12 10 </p><p>Total 45 56 79 </p><p>Table 2 Percent of Industries Represented by Sample Period </p><p>Industry Percent of Industries by Sample a </p><p>Manufacturing Service Government Retailing/Wholesaling Banking/Insurance </p><p>1 2 3 1978 1987 1988 </p><p>54% 27% 17% 13% 29% 40% 19% 18% 10% 9% 14% 17% 6% 13% 17% </p><p>a Due to rounding, to columns do not sum to 100%. </p><p>to the chief executive officer, an executive vice president, or a group vice president. Regardless of their specific title, the interviewees are heavily involved in determining the strategic direction and goals for MIS within their respective organiza- tions. </p><p>In terms of the distribution by professional experience, there was little difference among those interviewed across the three sample periods. Col- lectively, seventy-four percent of the interviewees had over ten years of IS experience. In fact, forty- three percent of those interviewed had in excess of fifteen years of IS experience. This extensive expe- rience within the IS field was consistent with the position and responsibilities of senior IS managers. </p><p>To prevent the results from being dominated by the needs of any one industry, at the exclusion of others, an attempt was made to interview managers from a diverse set of industries. Table 2 shows the percentage of different films per industry repre- sented in each of the sample years. </p><p>Although availability necessarily influenced in- terviewee participation, the data show that a broad cross-section of business is represented, including the service, manufacturing, and not-for-profit sec- tors. The interviewees were employed by corpora- tions with national and international offices and distribution channels. It should also be noted that as a percentage of the sample, the participation of IS managers representing manufacturing organiza- tions has decreased over time . </p><p>r This reflects the 25% decrease between 1976 [6] and 1988 [7] in the percent of the work force employed by the manufac- turing sector in the American economy. </p></li><li><p>240 Research Information &amp; Management </p><p>3.2. Identification of Knowledge, Skills, and Abili- ties </p><p>The set of knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) selected for the first (1978) interviews was derived from the recommendations made by the first two ACM model IS curricula (1972 [l] and 1973 [S]). Based on the major topics in these curricula, thirty-six KSAs were identified. These were then distributed to five IS faculty to confirm that they accurately reflected the intent of the recommendations. Based on responses, twelve KSAs were dropped from the original list and two were added, resulting in a total of twenty-six for the first (1978) sample. In 1982, the ACM revised their model IS curriculum report [17] to reflect a decrease in the role of quantitative management KSAs for many job classifications. Based on this report, no new KSAs were added, but six of the original twenty-six KSAs were eliminated. The remaining twenty KSAs were evaluated by the participants in the interviews conducted in 1987 and 1988. A complete list of these KSAs is pre- sented in Appendix A. A more complete descrip- tion of the interview instrument can be found in [4] and [5]. </p><p>3.3. The Interviews </p><p>At the beginning of the structured interviews, senior IS managers were asked how many em- ployees they had in each of several areas. For the interviews conducted in 1988, respondents were also asked to estimate the anticipated number of employees needed in 1995. Next, they rated the importance of the twenty specific KSAs on a Lickert scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning not useful and 5 meaning essential for each of the three major IS worker job categories. These are: </p><p>Project Manager - one who coordinates the teams effort and determines how the teams resources should be allocated to produce a working system that complies with a given set of specifications on time and within budget; </p><p>Systems Analyst/Designer - one who defines the users information needs and designs systems to generate the required information, including defi- ning the content and structure of input forms, output reports, and files; and </p><p>Programmer - one who is responsible for program creation (development and documentation). </p><p>The interviewees responses were recorded by the interviewer, and, when necessary, questions were clarified. Following the structured portion of the interview, the interviewee was given an open- ended opportunity to suggest additional KSAs and to rate these on the same 1 to 5 scale. </p><p>Througho...</p></li></ul>


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