FROM SKILLS TO EXPERTISE: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING AN ACCURATE INFORMANT FOR ICT PROFESSIONALS
Even in the more operationally oriented jobs such as system administration and user support, ICT professionals indicate that a sizeable portion of their time is allocated to giving consultancy to other professionals on ICT issues. This can range from helping with the right purchase of personal ICT equipment, to advise on research database setup over network design to ICT organization.
However, even as most ICT professionals are highly regarded as experts in their work environment, this doesn’t imply that their education or previous work experience actually has prepared them to take on an expert role. Due to the ever accelerating pace of technological evolution, much of the knowledge of seasoned ICT professionals is not acquired through vetted research procedures and formal education, but is acquired on-the-job, more often than not through trial-and-error, where the succeeded practice becomes the “best practice”. Although this knowledge is very valuable, it also has inherent limitations and can mask context-induced bias. Underestimating this possible liability can prove to put businesses at risk, when they incorrectly assume that their hired ICT people have the required competencies to fully understand the differences between being capable of solving a problem oneself and the ability to give adequate advise to others. An ICT expert should be capable to provide other professionals with timely, accurate and precise information that meets accepted industry standards and practices, avoids idiosyncrasy and personal bias and takes into account dimensions of scalability and sustainability.
In this paper, we will give an overview on the generic competencies involved in being able to fully function as an ICT expert, based on literature research, survey results and current insights in more theoretical fields such as social epistemology and theories of learning combined with personal expertise in ICT HR management. We will introduce the notion of being accurate and the importance of standards of accuracy in today’s networked knowledge environment. The article will end with some guidelines for ICT managers to assess whether ICT workers keep current in the relevant competencies that allow them to take up their important role as expert advisors, and give examples on how ICT education can better prepare future or retrained ICT professionals for these aspects of their job. And as it happens, the web and its manifold applications like social software offer tools to help in this context as it does in many others.