Thursday, June 22, 2006

June 26, 2006


As I visit corporate clients, I am always amazed to see how out of touch IT managers are in terms of knowing the talents and abilities of their staff. Such ignorance makes it difficult to properly assign staff to project assignments. Consequently, there is a tendency for companies to hire too many outside consultants or purchase training programs unnecessarily. Why? Because most IT organization refuse to take the time to develop and maintain a simple "Skills Inventory" which catalogs and rates the skills of their human resources. You cannot capitalize on the talents of your staff if you do not know what they are.


A skill is a developed aptitude or ability for performing a certain task. It represents specific knowledge or talents as developed by education and/or experience. Skills relate to the type of work we do and the tools and techniques we use. We can define skills as vaguely or as precisely as we so desire, but the real value of a Skills Inventory lies in precision. The following are categories of skills we have developed for IT organizations:

Basic Business Skills: e.g., Conducting a meeting, Interviewing, Speaking/presentations, Writing, E-Mail, Word Processing, etc.

Business Functions: knowledge of a specific corporate function, e.g., Marketing, Sales, Manufacturing, Inventory, etc.

Degrees & Certifications: e.g., Associates Degree, Bachelors, Masters, Doctoral, and trade certifications.

Languages: foreign - e.g., French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, etc. Programming - e.g., Basic, C++, COBOL, Java, Pascal, etc.

Methodology: Listing the Phases and Activities of in-house methodologies, such as the "PRIDE" Methodologies for IRM.

Standards: corporate policies, writing standards, design and development, etc.

Tools & techniques: programming techniques (e.g., OOP), data base design, DBMS, CASE tools, program generators, workbenches, Office Suites, Graphics Packages, etc.

Some companies also use a Skills Inventory to track the talents of machine resources. Some have found it of value to inventory such things on a computer as languages supported, memory, program utilities, compilers, backup programs, and various other attributes about the operating system. This is useful for tracking hardware resources and determining when it is necessary to upgrade equipment.

Knowing a resource's skill is one thing, knowing its level of proficiency is another.


Skills and proficiencies are not synonymous, although they are complementary. Proficiency refers to the degree of knowledge or experience someone or something (a machine) possesses for performing the task.

Proficiency is normally based on some sort of scale, such as 1 (low) to 9 (high). In many organizations, the establishment of any proficiency rating is a highly sensitive subject as it is believed it is used for job performance review. In this situation, most people will use an "average" proficiency rating (5). Unfortunately, this will not help in analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of our human and machine resources.

After the list of skills has been prepared, they should be developed into a survey for each resource. Although the survey could be circulated, it is recommended human resources be interviewed individually to clarify intent and responses. Here, the resource is not asked how well they know a specific skill (good or bad). Instead, they are asked to qualify their response. For example:

A. Could qualify as an INSTRUCTOR or EXPERT in this area (9)
B. Could act as an ASSISTANT INSTRUCTOR (6)
C. Has had formal training or experience (STUDENT) (3)
D. Is aware of the CONCEPT or OBJECT (1)

This approach is much less intimidating to employees and tends to produce honest results. From this, a Skills Inventory can be developed to show the skills and proficiencies of each resource. Also, an average resource proficiency rating can be calculated for each skill which may indicate the need for additional training.

Determining the proficiency of machine skills can be far less painstaking. Depending on the equipment, an operator or product manual can usually describe the capabilities of the equipment.


There are many ways to create and maintain a Skills Inventory; e.g., a simple card catalog/index, commercial software, or even a simple data base package as found on most of today's PC's can be used. For a basic Skills Inventory, only two reports are needed:

1. Resource Profile - describing the skills of a single resource.

2. Skill Description - describing all of the resources with a specific skill.

An optional third report can also be prepared, a "Resource/Skill Matrix" which gives a more global view of resources-to-skills.

By analyzing these reports, it may become obvious there is a lack of talent for a particular skill or set of skills. Consequently, this may trigger the need for either some training to develop the skill or recruiting new resources with such talent, or both.

If the Skills Inventory has been implemented with computer software, be sure there are some adequate search facilities to quickly reference a particular skill or resource. Also be sure data entry is simple and clean. One last caveat if creating a computerized Skills Inventory, be sure it does not interfere or overlap with anything a Human Resources department might be doing. Ideally, there should be an interface between the two.


Whether human or machine related, skills and proficiencies will change over time; they will not stagnate. Because of this, they should be reviewed on a routine basis to keep them up to date. Maintenance of the Skills Inventory should be delegated to a qualified person who can safeguard such records.


Up to now, we have described a Skills Inventory in its most fundamental form. However, if done properly, it can be used as a tactical corporate tool, such as providing assistance when performing an "Organizational Analysis." Under this scenario, skills can be related to business functions (such as Marketing, Administration, Manufacturing, etc.). As such, assigned proficiencies should denote the minimum level required to perform the function. When compared to the average skill proficiency of resources implementing the function, it may be discovered that a function may not be adequately fulfilled. For example, a Sales function may require skills such as "Contract Preparation," "Product Presentation," etc. If we examine the personnel ultimately implementing the function, we may find they either have the wrong skill set, or are not as proficient as they need to be.

To implement something like this, we need something a little more sophisticated than the basic Skills Inventory described above. Instead, we need an enterprise-wide mechanism to track such things as business functions, organizational entities (jobs/titles/positions). For this, you will need an "IRM Repository" to catalog and cross-reference such objects as well as other information resources.

For information on how to create an IRM Repository, please see:


A simple Skills Inventory is easy to implement, yet offers tremendous assistance in terms of:

  • Selecting suitable personnel for project assignments.
  • Determining the need for additional training or recruiting new people.
  • Evaluating the need to upgrade hardware.
  • Career path planning - this is particularly useful when a resource masters one part of a methodology, and is ready to graduate to another.
  • Interfaces with Human Resource Management.
  • Holds future potential for performing such service as an "Organizational Analysis."

Try it, you will either be pleasantly surprised to know the talents your staff possesses, or come to the realization your staff needs help. Either way, you will be taking a pro-active approach to managing your department.

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is...
"You cannot capitalize on your workers' talents if you do not know their skills and proficiencies."


Folks, if you liked this week's essay, you'll love a new eBook we released last week entitled, "The Bryce is Right! Empowering Managers in today's Corporate Culture." This is a frank and candid description of the state of the art in management and includes essays on the problems in management today, along with some pragmatic advice on how to deal with them. Basically, this is a condensed course in management. As such, it is suited for managers, either those aspiring to become a manager or for those who need a refresher course. It will also be of interest to young people entering the work force, and is excellent for college curriculums.

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The price is just $20 plus tax. For more information on our book or to order on-line, see:


In addition to my podcast, you can catch me this week on the "Middle Management Lobotomy Podcast" where I am interviewed regarding my new eBook, "THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! Empowering Manager's in Today's Corporate Culture." Check it out at:


The Society for Information Management will be holding their SIMposium 2006 on September 17-20 at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas, Texas. For information, contact SIM headquarters in Chicago at 312/527-6734

If you have got an upcoming IRM related event you want mentioned, please e-mail the date, time and location of the event to


Friends, I don't know if you've seen it yet, but we've added a Frapper map to the "Management Visions" web site. Frapper is a free mapping service offered by the folks at Rising Concepts, LLC, and allows you to plot yourself on a worldwide map. This is a great way to keep track of our listeners and I encourage you to try it out through our web page or by clicking HERE.


I've been seeing a lot of "Support the Troops" auto decals on cars lately. Although there are several variations, its the twisted ribbon version I'm primarily talking about. These are nice patriotic gestures by car owners but I've observed something else, whoever displays these decals on their car tends to be a horrible driver. I don't know why this is, but I can tell when I have a lousy driver in front of me simply by spotting one of those ribbons. And it seems if they have multiple ribbons, they get even worse. Now I want you to understand that I am as patriotic as the next guy and I also support our troops, but this phenomenon happens way too often for it to be a coincidence. I guess I'm really not irritated that people are proudly displaying these stickers. In fact, I think they are performing a public service. Its kind of like having a "Slow Driver" sign attached to a car so you know how to drive around it. I hope this series of decals doesn't go away anytime soon as I have found them invaluable when driving around town.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.


I received an e-mail from a Kurt Davis in Cincinnati who wrote me regarding last week's Pet Peeve entitled, "More on Agile Methodologies."
Kurt writes:

"Wow, you're pretty down on the Agile movement. Why is that?"

Thanks Kurt for your note,

I've been in the industry a long time now and have seen many things. I've seen some real imaginative innovations as well as a lot of schlock. Frankly, I think Agile Methodologies fall under the latter. Basically, I see it as an admission that they no longer have the talent and ability to do big things, like make major enterprise-wide systems.

And as I mentioned last week, there is really nothing new in Agile Methodologies. Programmers have been trying to cut corners for years. I guess its the nature of the beast. But I draw the line when they try to tout it as a new philosophy that should be implemented in other parts of a business. Agile Methodologies may be great for selling books and seminars, but they haven't proven themselves to be a viable alternative for development.

Again, Thanks for your e-mail. Keep those cards and letters coming.


We're pleased to announce the release of a new book on our "PRIDE" Methodologies for IRM. Actually, we've created two versions of the same book, an eBook version (in PDF format), and an Audio Book (in MP3 format). Both compliment the Internet version available through our corporate web site. The eBook version is 363 pages in length and includes full tutorials on Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, and Project Management, complete with examples and a quick navigation to guide you through the book. The Audio Book is an abridged version which includes over nine hours of audio. The eBook version is priced at $49 plus tax, the Audio Book is priced at $54 plus tax, and a discounted packaged price for both is $93 plus tax. The book is excellent for both corporate developers as well as at the university level where it complements a college curriculum.

Summers Hagerman of Cincinnati says, "This book provides management with a complete set of powerful tools for managing the largest information systems projects."

Check it out at:

MBA is an international management consulting firm specializing in Information Resource Management. We offer training, consulting, and writing services in the areas of Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, Project Management, Methodologies and Repositories. For information, call us at 727/786-4567. For a complete listing of my essays, see the "PRIDE" Special Subject Bulletins section of our corporate web site.

Our corporate web page is at:

Management Visions is a presentation of M. Bryce & Associates, a division of M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. The program is produced on a weekly basis and updated on Sundays. It is available in versions for RealPlayer, Microsoft Media Player, and MP3 suitable for Podcasting. See our web site for details. You'll find our broadcast listed in several Podcast and Internet Search engines, as well as Apples' iTunes.

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Copyright © 2006 by M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. All rights reserved. "PRIDE" is the registered trademark of M&JB Investment Company.

This is Tim Bryce reporting.

Since 1971: "Software for the finest computer - the Mind."



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