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Digital business transformation demands soft skills

Nowadays, digital business transformation is a common goal of IT projects, but the harsh reality is many of the projects fail. It turns out technology isn't one of the top reasons -- even though digital business transformation usually requires software.

The findings come from a survey of 100 IT leaders by Forrester Research and summarized in a report titled "Business Transformation in a Digital Age." The study was commissioned by Tata Consultancy Services, a global firm based in Mumbai, India.

"We found the top six common reasons alluded to the same reason," says Akhilesh Tiwari, global head of the SAP practice at Tata, in an interview at the 2015 Sapphire Now conference in Orlando, Fla. "Projects fail because of the lack of soft skills in teams who are engaged in doing these projects. It was not about the hard technical skills, but the soft skills."

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Tiwari says one soft skill is organizational change management: "Getting people to do things differently, being able to understand what they want, and then respond to them in a language that they understand."

The ability to listen to IT users is key in accomplishing organizational change, according to Tiwari, and Tata consultants have been retrained to have better listening skills.

"When they're saying a system is slow, it's not necessarily the performance they are talking about," Tiwari says. "It's the whole thing of them trying to do a transaction, and the whole process is slow. It's not about just adding up some more firepower or fine tuning the programs."

The same lessons apply to both consultants and internal IT staff. "It's very important to have your language very simple and keep it very business oriented," he says.

Tiwari goes on to explain how his organization imparts these skills to its employees.

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