H. Kock

HAAGA-HELIA University of Applied Sciences (FINLAND)
This article aims to identify sales and interaction competency levels relevant to future ICT professionals’ working in Finnish companies. In a field study of 60 interviewed companies and organizations from various fields representing both suppliers and customer organizations, we investigated what kind of skills and competencies future ICT professionals need in order to meet the demands of industry. The findings suggest that besides technical skills, there is a radically increased need for sales and interaction skills for all ICT professionals due to the transformation of the business environment. There is a clear indication of organizations seeking for ICT professionals who are able to successfully interact in a sales-oriented way with customers and within their own companies. However, the sales skills needed have a different emphasis than traditional sales education, thus, sales education for IT specialists should be adjusted to match their needs. To cope with the evolved demands of business companies and organizations, universities need to consider how to implement approriate sales and interaction skills in ICT specialists’ education. In contrast to earlier studies, this article proposes that other than technical competencies gain importance already at a very early stage of an ICT professional’s career.

The research work presents a combination of three initiatives. The first step constitutes a review of the literature related to the characterization of transformations of sales. The subsequent step consists of a qualitative study of 60 organizations, and lastly, this is followed by an attempt to introduce a new set of sales and interaction skills in a renewed ICT Education curriculum in a University of Applied Sciences with close industry cooperation.

The results of the study:
The findings of the study stress the need to broaden ICT specialists’ skills beyond sole technical skills. First, the need for sales and interaction skills has radically increased due to the the transformation of the business environment. Second, the emphasis of needed skills differs from skills taught in traditional sales education, thus, sales education has to be adjusted. Finally, an attempt to integrate sales and interaction skills into ICT specialists’ curriculum in close industry cooperation is made based on the findings of the study.