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Skills Needed for UC Implementation

In a way, IT needs to audit what it does and categorize the work and corresponding knowledge and experience needed for successful UC implementation. The present technology IT silo structure needs to have the barriers among the silos softened and eventually disappear. Although the IT staff may be small, there needs to be a method for analyzing the knowledge and skills required for the converged organization. Such a method does exist:

Global Skills X-change (GSX) designs and evaluates customized implementation strategies of standards-based tools and protocols that can be used to realize a "national" system of standards and certifications. GSX, as a successor organization of the National Skill Standards Board (NSSB), is adopting and adapting the work of the NSSB to meet the needs of the knowledge-based economy.

GSX currently provides technical leadership and assistance to the ICT (Information and Communications Technology) Voluntary Partnership in the completion of the ICT skill standards. This skill standards development project, started under the auspices of the NSSB, has as its fundamental premise the convergence of two worlds - Information Technology (IT) and Telecommunications.

GSX has reviewed hundreds of existing "job analyses" and "role delineation" studies, the results of which were verified using focus groups of industry thought leaders and senior subject matter experts. They have identified seven concentrations of front-line work in this converged world:

(1) Database Development and Administration, (2) Web Development and Administration, (3) Technical Writing, (4) Network Devices, (5) Network Infrastructure, (6) Programming, and (7) Digital Media. Network Infrastructure, Network Devices and some Web Development were necessary concentrations for implementing VoIP and IP Telephony. The move into UC adds Database Development and Administration, Programming and Digital Media to the mix. In other words, nearly every concentration will be required for producing the collaboration, conferencing and presence functions so much a part of UC.

GSX has identified critical work functions (major roles and responsibilities), key activities (major tasks associated with the performance of each critical work function), and performance indicators (provide evaluative information on how to determine when someone is performing each key activity competently). In total, there are 37 critical work functions and 250 key activities. Each key activity includes, on average, six to eight performance indicators.

Enterprises can use this information to fully define the knowledge and skill requirements of targeted ICT jobs. The enterprise can use the critical work function information to define the jobs. Instead of focusing on the different technologies (such as voice vs. video vs. networks vs. applications) as the defining characteristics of their work force, enterprises should focus on the work that needs to be done. The ICT skill standards can provide information about the knowledge and skills required to perform that work in a converged world. Although this will mean potential cross training of the work force, it will prevent them from having two or more distinct work forces performing overlapping functions or who compete for jobs and resources.

GSX has verified the initial results of this study through four sets of regional focus groups with ICT subject matter experts. It also included enumeration of the "worker" component of the skill standards. The project has identified 68 categories of technical knowledge and skills relevant to the converged world. These 68 categories consist of knowledge and skills (a total of 557 specific and relevant to the converged world) as defined in the seven concentrations of work.

Enterprises should not assume that certifications will produce the desired results. Certifications are primarily in one vendor's technology and products. UC crosses vendor boundaries. Certifications should not be confused with skill standards. Skill standards are performance specifications that identify the knowledge and skills an individual needs to succeed in the workplace. They delineate what a person must know and be able to do in order to perform related work successfully at a specific job, within an occupational cluster or across an industry sector. Quality certifications are based on skill standards, but they are not the skill standards per se. Instead, certifications provide formal documentation that an individual, by successfully passing an assessment (or a battery of assessments), has met the performance specifications identified in the skill standards.

The IT organization that does look at the long term staffing and organizational issues will have a better chance for a successful UC implementation. This will also benefit the move to SOA.