Knowledge, skills and abilities of information systems professionals: past, present, and future

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  • Information & Management 19 (1990) 237-247 North-Holland



    Knowledge, skills and abilities of information systems professionals: past, present, and future *

    Paul H. Cheney, David P. Hale and George M. Kasper Information Syytems and Quan%tatioe Sciences, College of Busi- ness Administration, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas 79409, LSA

    This study provides information and direction regarding the skills needed by current and future information systems (IS) professionals. Based on information gathered in 1978, 1987, and 1988 through structured interviews with a total of one-hundred-eighty senior information systems managers re- sponsible for planning, training, and hiring IS personnel, the trends in the current and future usefulness to project managers, systems analysts/designers, and programmers of twenty di- mensions of knowledge, skill, and ability are evaluated. The results indicate that senior IS managers believe that human factors and managerial knowledge, skills, and abilities have and will continue to increase in importance for all IS profes- sionals, particularly for project managers. The findings also confirm the increasing need to personnel with knowledge of advanced technologies and an increased awareness of the value of information as a corporate resource. Collectively, the results suggests a clearer division of labor among IS professionals, precipitated by advances in technology and their application to ever increasingly complex and ill-structured problems.

    Keywords; Information science education, Curriculum, Project and people management, Training, Staffing, Information sys- tems occupations, Information systems skills, ACM model curriculum, Information systems personnel management.

    * Some of the data presented in this paper is reported in Information Systems Professions: Skills for the 1990s. in the Proceedings of the Twenty-Second Annual Hawaii Inrer- national Conference on System Sciences, January 3-6, (1989). Vol. 1, 331-336.

    Paul Cheney is currently the Area Co- ordinator and Professor of Manage- ment Information Systems in the Col- lege of Business Administration at Texas Tech University. He received his Ph.D. in MIS from the University of Minnesota in 1977 and had taught at Iowa State and the University of Georgia prior to joining Texas Tech University in the summer of 1988. He has published over 30 articles in such journals as Decision Sciences, MIS Quarterly, and Information and Man-

    agement. He has also conducted numerous professional devel- opment seminars and consulted widely for firms such as FORD, IBM, AT&T, and EXXON.

    David P. Hale is Assistant Professor of Information Systems and Quantitative Sciences at Texas Tech Universitys College of Business Administration. He received his Ph.D. in Management Information Systems from the Univer- sity of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1986. His research interests include col- laborative problem-solving systems and software engineering. His papers on joint human-computer problem- solving systems, data base manage- ment systems design, decision-group

    connectivity, and software maintenance have appeared in Management Information Quarterley, Journal of Management Informafion Systems, and several conference proceedings.

    George M. Kasper is Associate Profes- sor of Information Systems and Quantitative Sciences at Texas Tech University College of Business Admin- istration. He received the Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo. His primary research interests are decision support systems and ex- pert system-aided decision making. His research has been published in such journals as Decision Support Sys- tems, Journal of Management Informa- tion Systems, Information and Manage-

    ment, Decision Sciences, and others. Dr. Kasper has also served as a visiting member of the Faculty of Informatics, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands, and has worked and consulted for both government and private in- dustry.

    0378-7206/90/$03.50 0 1990 - Elsevier Science Publishers B.V. (North-Holland)

  • 238 Research Information & Management

    1. Introduction

    Although employment in the information sys- tems (IS) field is expected to continue to grow rapidly through the mid-nineteen-nineties, much of the work currently done in these professions is changing. The changes force IS educators and practitioners to constantly evaluate and upgrade their professional skills. Much uncertainty sur- rounds these decisions. Individuals must decide, almost daily, what seminars and tutorials will best position them for career advancement. Managers must make the same decision for groups of workers, as well as match tasks with the skills of personnel and make long-term resource allocation decisions based on their perception of tomorrows IS environment. In addition, educators must monitor curricula to ensure that students have the skills needed to meet the expected challenges of tomorrows work environment.

    The purpose of this article is to provide infor- mation and direction regarding the skills needed by current and future IS professionals. Informa- tion was gathered in 1978, 1987, in 1988 through structured interviews with a total of one-hundred- eighty senior IS managers responsible for plan- ning, training, and hiring IS personnel. Although the data gathered in 1978 [4] and 1987 [5] has been reported, neither a comparison of this data (show- ing the change in skills required of project managers, systems analyst/ designers, and pro- grammers over the last decade - collectively, these three categories are referred to as IS workers in the remainder of this article), nor the 1988 data showing labor force and skill requirement projec- tions for these professionals in the future (1995) has been published.

    2. Previous Job Skills Research

    For more than 30 years, job skills obsolescence has been a recurring theme in the human resource management literature, often achieving promi- nence in the wake of major changes in the en- vironment (such as technological leaps, economic globalization, and energy shortages). Some authors have investigated the organizational and personal factors that contribute to skills obsolescence [10,12]. Others have studied several methods for counteracting skill obsolescence, such as: job rede-

    sign [9], continuing education, and retraining. However, little of this work has been empirical.

    Obsolescence occurs when personnel and job requirements that were congruent at one time no longer match, due to a change in the job, a change or lack of change in the individual, or both. In most staffing and selection models, jobs require particular knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) for the effective performance of tasks and duties. Knowledge refers to the content or technical infor- mation needed to perform adequately in a job and is normally obtained through formal education, on-the-job training, and information media, such as manuals [18]. Skiffs are the specific psychomo- tor processes necessary to meet the current re- quirements of a specific job. They are manifested through behaviors such as conducting an effective information gathering interview, writing a well- structured COBOL program, or developing a structured system specification. Skills also include the facility to select from among a repertoire of possible actions those that are most appropriate for a particular situation. Abilities refer to the cognitive factors that represent present capabili- ties or achievement levels [18]. The productive potential of employees varies through differences in the types and levels of acquired KSAs.

    Although jobs are most often defined in terms of tasks, duties, elements, responsibilities, or be- haviors that are necessary to obtain an organiza- tions goals, they have also been characterized by the KSAs that are inferred as necessary to per- form the required behaviors [12]. Given that the employees KSAs were at one time congruent with the demands of the job, obsolescence occurs when the jobs current demands, duties, and responsibil- ities are no longer supported by the stock of KSAs of the job holder. The driving force behind chang- ing job requirements is most often change in the external environment; for the IS industry, this typically means change in technology. Likewise, the job holder changes by making re-training deci- sions and gaining experience that result in ad- ditional KSAs that are more or less congruent with the demands of technological development.

    3. The Study

    The specific KSAs that will be needed in the future are unknown, however, the purpose of this

  • Information & Managemeni P. H. Cheney et al. / IS Siaffing Requirements 239

    study is to help individuals, managers, and educa- tors make more informed decisions as to what may be needed. This requires an examination of technological trends and projections. To provide IS personnel, managers, and educators with infor- mation on which to base their professional deci- sions, a total of one-hundred-eighty senior IS managers were interviewed at three times during a ten year period (1978, 1987 and 1988). The closed-form structured interviews collectively re- flect changes in the perception of senior IS managers about the KSAs needed by IS workers. The job categories of project managers, systems analysts/designers, and programmers were select- ed because of their predominance in terms of their numeric size and KSA requirements. Senior IS managers were interviewed because they are re- sponsible for planning and hiring these IS workers, and are arguably best positioned to predict future personnel needs and requirements.

    3. I. Interviewees

    By design, the demographics of those inter- viewed (position title, years of IS experience, and industry) did not differ substantially across the sample periods. Table 1 presents an analysis of the senior IS managers interviewed in this study by title for each of the three sample periods.

    As these data show, a majority of the inter- viewees are senior level MIS executives. Although the term chief information officer (CIO) was not common in 1978, when the first phase of the study was initiated, most of those interviewed are senior IS executives in their company, and report directly

    Table 1 Interviewees by Job Title

    Job Title Number of Interviewees by Job Title per Sample

    1 2 3 1978 1987 1988

    VP of IS 8 5 24 Director of IS 6 9 28 Data Center Manager 9 6 2 Director of IS Development 22 14 15 Information Center Manager 0 10 0 Technical Support Manager 0 12 10

    Total 45 56 79

    Table 2 Percent of Industries Represented by Sample Period

    Industry Percent of Industries by Sample a

    Manufacturing Service Government Retailing/Wholesaling Banking/Insurance

    1 2 3 1978 1987 1988

    54% 27% 17% 13% 29% 40% 19% 18% 10% 9% 14% 17% 6% 13% 17%

    a Due to rounding, to columns do not sum to 100%.

    to the chief executive officer, an executive vice president, or a group vice president. Regardless of their specific title, the interviewees are heavily involved in determining the strategic direction and goals for MIS within their respective organiza- tions.

    In terms of the distribution by professional experience, there was little difference among those interviewed across the three sample periods. Col- lectively, seventy-four percent of the interviewees had over ten years of IS experience. In fact, forty- three percent of those interviewed had in excess of fifteen years of IS experience. This extensive expe- rience within the IS field was consistent with the position and responsibilities of senior IS managers.

    To prevent the results from being dominated by the needs of any one industry, at the exclusion of others, an attempt was made to interview managers from a diverse set of industries. Table 2 shows the percentage of different films per industry repre- sented in each of the sample years.

    Although availability necessarily influenced in- terviewee participation, the data show that a broad cross-section of business is represented, including the service, manufacturing, and not-for-profit sec- tors. The interviewees were employed by corpora- tions with national and international offices and distribution channels. It should also be noted that as a percentage of the sample, the participation of IS managers representing manufacturing organiza- tions has decreased over time .

    r This reflects the 25% decrease between 1976 [6] and 1988 [7] in the percent of the work force employed by the manufac- turing sector in the American economy.

  • 240 Research Information & Management

    3.2. Identification of Knowledge, Skills, and Abili- ties

    The set of knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) selected for the first (1978) interviews was derived from the recommendations made by the first two ACM model IS curricula (1972 [l] and 1973 [S]). Based on the major topics in these curricula, thirty-six KSAs were identified. These were then distributed to five IS faculty to confirm that they accurately reflected the intent of the recommendations. Based on responses, twelve KSAs were dropped from the original list and two were added, resulting in a total of twenty-six for the first (1978) sample. In 1982, the ACM revised their model IS curriculum report [17] to reflect a decrease in the role of quantitative management KSAs for many job classifications. Based on this report, no new KSAs were added, but six of the original twenty-six KSAs were eliminated. The remaining twenty KSAs were evaluated by the participants in the interviews conducted in 1987 and 1988. A complete list of these KSAs is pre- sented in Appendix A. A more complete descrip- tion of the interview instrument can be found in [4] and [5].

    3.3. The Interviews

    At the beginning of the structured interviews, senior IS managers were asked how many em- ployees they had in each of several areas. For the interviews conducted in 1988, respondents were also asked to estimate the anticipated number of employees needed in 1995. Next, they rated the importance of the twenty specific KSAs on a Lickert scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning not useful and 5 meaning essential for each of the three major IS worker job categories. These are:

    Project Manager - one who coordinates the teams effort and determines how the teams resources should be allocated to produce a working system that complies with a given set of specifications on time and within budget;

    Systems Analyst/Designer - one who defines the users information needs and designs systems to generate the required information, including defi- ning the content and structure of input forms, output reports, and files; and

    Programmer - one who is responsible for program creation (development and documentation).

    The interviewees responses were recorded by the interviewer, and, when necessary, questions were clarified. Following the structured portion of the interview, the interviewee was given an open- ended opportunity to suggest additional KSAs and to rate these on the same 1 to 5 scale.

    Throughout the three sample periods of the study, the actual job descriptions and duties asso- ciated with the job categories have remained fundamentally the same, despite slight changes in job titles. For example, in 1978, many systems analysts/designers were simply called systems analysts even though they performed technical design tasks along with analysis activities.

    4. Data Analysis

    The studys results are presented in two sec- tions. In the first section, the 1988 collected data showing current and projected labor force require- ments are presented. The second section reports the change in the perceived value of KSAs for IS workers over the 1978-1987 period and the 1987- 1995 projections, which were collected in the 1988 survey.

    4.1. Labor Force Requirements

    During the 1988 interviews, interviewees were asked the number of employees currently working

    Table 3 Current (1988) and Projected (1995) Work Force by Area

    IS Area 1988 a 1995 b % change

    COBOL Programmers 11,151 6,480 FORTRAN or BASIC 300 300

    PASCAL and C 2,050 4,180 Database Management 1,480 2,180 4th Generation Languages 1,105 7,401

    Systems Programmers 401 600 Data Communications 401 1,400 Systems Analysts/Designers 2,840 4,150

    Operators 850 400

    Data Entry 330 0

    Information Center Personnel 2,400 4,100 Total 23,308 31,191

    -43% 0%

    104% 41%

    570% 50%

    249% 46%

    - 53% - 100%

    71% 34%

    a Current employment figures. Projected employment figures.

  • Information & Managemeni P.H. Cheney et al. / IS Staffing Requirements 241

    in each of several areas and the project their personnel needs in these areas for 1995. Table 3 compares by area the current work force reported by the 1988 interviewees with those they projected for 1995.

    These results indicate that the senior IS managers except a net increase in demand for all areas of IS personnel with the exception of those with knowledge limited to traditional high-level languages (such as COBOL and FORTRAN), and computer operations, while data entry clerks are projected to be eliminated. They also expect the demand for workers with knowledge of more powerful procedural (Pascal and C) and non-pro- cedural languages to increase dramatically, and the aggregate number of programmers to in- crease because of a substantial growth in the pop- ularity of fourth generation languages (4GLs).

    The results also indicate that there will con- tinue to be a substantial demand for database and systems programmers. The advantages of database management systems have been known for years, but the cost of converting existing applications has prevented many companies from fully utilizing this technology. Many of the interviewees indi- cated that their firms use a phase-in/phase-out approach as the means of converting to database management system (DBMS) technology; that is, when new applications are designed to replace existing ones, DBMS technology is used, but mod- ification of existing programs to employ DBMS technology is not actively pursued. As more soft- ware applications are designed to utilize DBMS technology, the demand for database specialists will increase. Another factor affecting the demand for database specialists is the increasing and widespread use of DBMSs such as IBMs DB2.

    Many of the database specialists who support microcomputer-based products are located in the organizations end-user support centers (informa- tion centers) or in user departments. Consistent with this, the interviewees project an increased demand for information center personnel through 1995. However, because not all companies repre- sented by the interviewee had formally chartered information centers, the reported number of infor- mation center personnel includes resident end-user support experts in functional areas.

    IS personnel that specialize in the use of 4GLs are in demand, and the interviewees expect that this trend will accelerate dramatically. The need

    for 4GL specialists may be tied to the movement toward using microcomputers for an increasing number of small applications, and the use of database management systems, which facilitate the utilization of 4GLs. In addition, some 4GLs such as Applied Data Researchs Empire and Informa- tion Builders Focus are used as prototyping tools and are rapidly replacing procedural languages [13,15,19].

    Consistent with the trend in most organizations to integrate computer and communication facili- ties, those interviewed report a continued and an anticipated increase in the demand for data com- munication specialists. The dramatic increase in demand for this specialty is motivated in part by the economies-of-scale that integration affords, as well as the move toward distributed IS [3,8,11,14, 161. In fact, eighty-six percent of those interviewed in 1988 reported that their firms have extensive distributed IS networks.

    In general, these projections are remarkably consistent with those of the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For example, the BLS expects a seventy-two percent increase in the need for all types of computer programmers over the 1984-1995 2 time period, whereas those inter- viewed in this study expect a collective sixty-one percent increase in the demand for traditional (COBOL, FORTRAN, Pascal) programmers over the 1988-1995 time period. Likewise, the BLS predicts a sixty-eight percent increase in the de- mand for systems analysts over the 1984-1995 period and the senior IS managers interviewed in this study expect their demand to increase by forty-six percent from 1988 to 1995.

    4.2. Changes in KSAs by Job Category

    Based on the interviewees value ratings for each of the twenty KSAs within each of the three job categories, t-tests were calculated on the pooled sample variance and the significance of the change over time was determined using statistical significance alpha levels of 0.01 and 0.05. Signifi-

    * The BLS provides three projections for 1995 employment for each occupation. The 586,000 figure represents moderate growth in the employment of programmers, ranging from a low of 559,000 to a high of 609,000 workers by 1995 [2].

    3 The BLS expects the number of systems analysts to range from a low of 498,000 to a high of 539,000 by 1995.

  • 242 Research Information & Management

    cant t-values by KSA, within job category, are shown in Table 4 for the 1978 and 1987, and the 1987 and projected 1995 comparisons. Significant positive t-values indicate that the KSA has in- creased in importance (the 1978 and 1987 com- parison), or that it is expected to increase in importance (the 1987 and projections for 1995 comparison). Conversely, significant negative t- values suggest that the KSA hs or is expected to

    decrease in importance, depending upon the com- parison. For clarity of presentation, the specific values of non-significant changes are not given. For completeness, both the significant and non- significant t-values are presented for all KSAs in Appendix A.

    These results show that the current and future Introductory Computer and Information Systems Concepts is appropriate for IS workers. The value

    Table 4 Significant Changes in the Value of IS Workers KSAs

    KSA Categories Project Manager

    Systems Analyst/ Designer


    1. Information Gathering Techniques

    2. Systems Design Topics

    3. File Design 4. Planning and Control

    of System Projects 5. Human Relations in

    Systems Development 6. Human Factors in Equipment

    Design and Work Layout 7. Introductory Computer and

    Information Systems Concepts 8. Application Programming


    9. Job Control Language

    10. DBMS

    11. Operating Systems

    12. Mainframe Hardware

    13. Micro/Minicomputer Hardware

    14. Telecommunications

    Concepts 15. Computer Security

    Controls and Auditing 16. Software Package

    Analysis 17. Computer

    Operations 18. Legal Aspects

    of Computing 19. Computer

    Simulation 20. Statistical

    Decision Theory

    2.406 * * - 3.913 * -5.507 * 3.100 * _ _

    -5.415 * _ _ _ -4.010 *

    _ _ - 5.794 * _ -3.951 * - 3.211 * 2.011 * * -2.011 * * - 3.001 * _ _ -5.637 *

    _ _ _ -3.341 *

    2.801 * 3.111 * 2.998 * _ _ _ _ _ _

    _ - 2.042 * * -3.540 * - 3.814 * - 3.011 * _

    _ _ _ _ -2.011 * * _ _ _

    _ 7.140 * 6.145 * -4.263 * -7.180 * - 3.941 * -2.140 ** -3.101 * -3.847 * -2.142 ** _ -6.401 * -4.333 * _

    _ _ - 2.001 * * _ _ -2.952 * -2.650 * * _

    4.980 * 7.114 * 6.804 * -5.959 * -2.341 ** - 2.723 *

    3.801 * 4.900 * _

    -4.328 * 4.218 * 2.403 * * 3.881 * 7.100 * 2.080 * *

    - 2.080 * * 5.183 * _ _ _ _

    -5.107 * 2.039 * * -2.145 * 2.001 * * 3.853 * 2.011 * * 3.531 * 4.608 * 2.723 * 5.130 * 2.011 * * 2.001 * * 4.005 * 5.802 * _

    6.145 * 4.001 * 2.141 * *

    * alpha = 0.01; * * alpha = 0.05; For each KSA, the first row of t-test values is based on the range from 1978 to 1987 and the second

    row on the change from 1987 to that projected for 1995.

  • Information & Management

    of Operating Systems, however, has decreased and is predicted to decrease in importance for all categories. Likewise, Mainframe Hardware is ex- pected to be less valuable for both project managers and systems analysts/designers in the future, but the current level of Mainframe Hard- ware is expected to remain the same for pro- grammers. With the exception of project managers, Planning and Control of Systems Projects is cur- rently and is predicted to be a less valuable KSA for systems analysts/designers and programmers. Similarly, Systems Design Topics is currently and is predicted to be less valuable for programmers, but retain its current level of importance for pro- ject managers and systems analysts/designers.

    The need for ever increasing KSAs in Computer Simulation and Statistical Decision Theory is evi- denced by the consistently significant positive coefficients across IS worker categories. Although the value of Software Package Analysis decreased for project managers during the 1978-1987 time frame, the value of this KSA increased for both programmers and systems analysts/designers and is predicted to increase for all job categories. The most dramatic changes have occurred in the per- ceived value of Telecommunications Concepts, Computer Security Controls and Auditing, and Legal Aspects of Computing. The KSAs are not only expected to be very valuable in the future, but many of them represent complete reversals from what was perceived in the 1978-1987 com- parison.

    4.2.1. Project Manager Within the project manager job category, Infor-

    mation Gathering Techniques, Computer Simula- tion, and Statistical Decision Theory are and are expected to continue to be valuable. Conversely, Operating Systems and Mainframe Hardware are perceived to be of significantly less value for pro- ject managers now and in the future than they have been. Compared with the 1978-1987 results, dramatic positive reversals in the value of Tele- communications Concepts, Computer Security Con- trols and Auditing, Software Package Analysis, and Legal Aspects of Computing are expected. Those KSAs that are predicted to be less valuable to project managers are Application Programming Languages and Micro/Mini Hardware, although the reverse is true for Planning and Control of System Projects and Human Factors in Equipment

    P.H. Cheney ef al. / IS Staffing Requirements 243

    Design and Work Layout, which are expected to become more valuable.

    4.2.2. Systems Analyst/Designer Software Package Analysis, Legal Aspects of

    Computing, Computer Simulation, and Statistical Decision Theory are and should be valuable KSAs for the systems analyst/ designer. Conversely, Planning and Control of System Projects, Applica- tion Programming Languages, and Mainframe Hardware are and should be significantly less valuable. Compared with the 1978-1987 change, dramatic positive reversals in the value of Tele- communications Concepts and Computer Security Controls in Auditing are expected. One KSA should be less valuable in the future - Operating Systems. The opposite is true for File Design, Human Fac- tors in Equipment Design and Work Layout, and Database Management Systems.

    4.2.3. Programmer Software Package Analysis, Legal Aspects of

    Computing and Computer Simulation are and are expected to be valuable to programmers. Con- versely, Systems Design Topics, Planning and Con- trol of Systems Projects, and Operating Systems, are perceived to be significantly less valuable. Compared with the 1978-1987 changes, dramatic positive reversals in the expected value of File Design, Human Factors in Equipment Design and Work Layout, and Legal Aspects of Computing are anticipated. The KSA that is expected to become less valuable to programmers is Job Control Lan- guage, although the reverse is true for Telecom- munications Concepts and Statistical Decision The-

    oy .

    5. Discussion

    It must be emphasized that IS workers did not rate the importance of KSAs in their work; in- stead senior IS managers rates them. As a result, it is likely that IS workers would have answered these questions differently. However, as a practi- cal matter, the perceptions of senior IS managers are the most meaningful, because their judgment is most important in planning and hiring.

    In general, by 1995 the interviewees expect knowledge of telecommunications concepts, file and database design, human relations, and human

  • 244 Research Informdon & Management

    factors to be increasingly important. The continu- ing importance of telecommunications concepts is the product of advancements in data communica- tions, office automation, and network support. Based upon post-interview debriefings, file design was interpreted by the interviewees to mean database design, which (with the growing impor- tance of DBMS KSA) explains its increase in importance. Computer security controls and audit- ing are also viewed as being increasingly im- portant, indicating an increasing awareness of the need for improved controls. The increase in im- portance of telecommunications, file design, hu- man factors and relations, and computer security parallels the increasing demand for end-user com- puting; they may reflect the expertise needed to support this activity.

    5. I. Project Manager

    For project managers, Information Gathering Techniques were valued more and Computer Oper- ations less by the interviewees in 1987 than they were in 1978. Both shifts may have resulted from the fact that scheduling and computer operations were more of an issue for senior IS managers in 1978 than for their 1987 counterparts. In the 10 year period there has been an increased emphasis on the separation of operations and systems devel- opment functions; project managers are less in- volved in computer operations. The demands placed on information requirements analysis to- day may explain why the current senior IS managers consider Information Gathering Tech- niques more valuable for project managers than did their predecessors, and why the value of this KSA is expected to continue to increase.

    One of the most interesting results for project managers concerns the perceived declining impor- tance of several technically oriented KSAs (i.e., Operating Systems, Applications Programming Languages, Mainframe Hardware, and Micro/ Mini Hardware). Senior IS managers expected either no significant change, or a decline in their importance for future project managers. Perhaps project managers are, at last, being viewed more as managers and less as technicians. This may also reflect a division of labor and maturity within modern IS departments.

    The senior IS managers belief in the increasing importance of both Computer Simulation and

    Statistical Decision Theory for project managers is also informative. This may reflect an increasing emphasis on decision support systems (DSS) and expert systems (ES) in todays organizations. Con- sistent with the emergence of these technologies, Software Package Analysis is also expected to be- come increasingly important to the project manager. The latter is not surprising, because the movement toward purchasing rather than custom building software products has been the trend for two decades and has increased in the nineteen- eighties with the proliferation of personal com- puters. The interviewees predictions are consistent with a continuance of this trend.

    5.2. Systems Analyst/Designer

    According to the senior IS managers, the trend for systems analysts/designers is toward an in- creased knowledge of people and problem-solving KSAs (e.g., Statistical Decision Theoty, Human Factors in Equipment Design and Work Layout, Legal Aspects of Computing), and away from de- veloping application software. As the purchase of packaged software technology becomes the norm, Software Package Analysis is and is expected to become an extremely valuable KSA for systems analysts/designers. Consistent with the view of using technology to find solutions, Telecommuni- cations Concepts and Database Management Sys- tems are also increasingly more important now and in the future than they were in the past.

    5.3. Programmer

    For programmers, the interviewees believe that Telecommunication Concepts and Database Man- agement Systems are expected to have the greatest increases in importance. This may reflect the in- creasing emphasis on data communications, dis- tributed processing systems, and the utilization of DBMSs. As the division of labor among computer personnel increases, many basic KSAs are no longer the direct responsibility of computer pro- grammers; this includes Operating Systems. Per- haps this is the result of new operating systems and application development languages that rnini- rnize the programmers need for such knowledge, skills, and abilities.

  • Information & Managemenf P. H. Cheney et al. / IS Staffing Requirements 245

    6. ACM IS Model Curriculum Comparison

    The ACM IS model curriculum is used as a reference to identify possible discrepancies be- tween practitioner and academic perceptions of the KSAs needed by IS workers. Three editions of the IS model ACM curricula have been published: in 1972 [l], 1973 [8], and 1982 [17] *. Although the 1972 and 1973 curricula emphasize technologi- cal knowledge, they explicitly recognize the educa- tional requirements of two types of college graduates: (1) technically trained systems desig- ners, and (2) managerially oriented IS analysts. More detailed than its predecessors, the 1982 cur- riculum recommended that undergraduate and graduate programs emphasize the integration of people, management, and technological KSAs. The curriculum contains the following major changes:

    _. integration and increased emphasis of manage- ment and communications KSAs;

    _~ inclusion of data management and data com- munications courses;

    __ inclusion of the American Assembly of Col- legiate Schools of Business (AACSB) common body of knowledge as a foundation; and

    _ introduction of a capstone MIS policy course.

    The interview responses support many of the KSAs recommended in 1982. In general, the re- sults of interviews indicate that human factors and managerial KSAs have and will continue to in- crease in importance, especially for project managers. This suggests that senior IS managers are beginning to view the role of project managers as more managerial than technical in nature, re- quiring greater data gathering, planning and con- trol, and human relations. This change in perspec- tive is also occurring for systems analysts/ designers and even programmers, who are increas- ingly being viewed as the users of systems design and development technologies and prototyping tools. The advent of these powerful non-proce- dural tools has resulted in a shift from merely building systems to providing value and func- tionality. The interviewees suggest that all IS workers increase their software package analysis

    4 The ACM Model Curriculum for undergraduate education is currently under revision. An exposure draft of the third edition is expected to be released in the spring of 1990.

    KSAs. THe advent of these technologies and their application to increasingly complex and ill-struc- tured problems has resulted in both a greater division of labor among IS workers and the need for greater insight into the application domain and general management process.

    The desire to automate increasingly complex and ill-structured problems, and the additional demands that this places on project leaders may be reflected in the senior IS managers belief that project managers must have a greater exposure to planning and control techniques. These topics are normally included in an Information Resource Management course or some other management of MIS capstone course, as suggested by the ACM curriculum. Although these results may not con- firm the need for an individual course, the increas- ing importance of these topics suggests the need for more extensive coverage of these areas in the IS curricula and professional continuing educa- tion.

    The desire to automate increasingly complex problems may also account for the belief that more KSAs are needed for all IS workers in statis- tical decision theory, computer simulation, data- base management systems, and telecommunica- tion. This is consistent with the ACM curriculum recommendation to increase the emphasis on deci- sion-making and management techniques by in- cluding the AACSB common body of knowledge. These results are also consistent with the senior IS managers response to the open-ended portion of the interview, in which the most frequently sug- gested KSAs were the improvement of oral and written communication abilities and knowledge of business - accounting, marketing, finance, and manufacturing.

    These changing needs reflect a shift from centralized, single-mainframe systems to distrib- uted, heterogeneous computer clusters, and from procedural to non-procedural languages, possibly indicative of the emergence of end-user computing as a major form of IS usage. Consistent with this, those interviewed suggested that IS workers in- crease their KSAs in software package analysis, database management systems, telecommunica- tions, human relations, human factors, computer simulation, computer security, and statistical deci- sion theory. These are all critical to the success of any end-user support system.

  • 246 Research

    7. Summary and Conclusion

    The results of the study provide information and direction regarding the skills needed by cur- rent and future IS professionals. Based on infor- mation gathered from senior information systems managers in 1978, 1987, and 1988, the trends in the current and future usefulness to IS workers of twenty dimensions of knowledge, skill, and ability were evaluated.

    The results indicate that senior IS managers believe that human factors and managerial knowl- edge, skills, and abilities have and will continue to increase in importance for all IS workers, particu- larly project managers. The findings also confirm the increasing need for personnel with KSAs of advanced technologies, such as database manage- ment systems and data communications. This sug- gests an increasing belief of the value of informa- tion as a corporate resource. The emergence of more distinct sets of KSAs for information workers may indicate a clearer division of labor. The spe- cialization may also be attributable to the collec- tive advancements in technology, systems analysis, and systems design techniques; the development of project management procedures that exceed the KSAs of any single individual; and an apprecia- tion by senior IS managers of the increasingly complex nature of todays application areas.

    In conclusion, development and maintenance of the KSAs needed to meet job requirements are important topics for both the IS practitioner and educator. Due to rapid changes in IS technology, there is much uncertainty in selecting appropriate topics for professional development. This article provides insight into the evolution of KSAs for IS workers. The results suggest that although IS per- sonnel must remain abreast of technological ad- vancements, there is an increasing need for human factors, problem-solving, and business related KSAs. This evolution is also contributing to a clearer division of labor among IS professionals.


    [l] R.L. Ashenhurst (ed.), Curriculum Recommendations for Graduate Professional Programs in Information Sys- tems: A Report of the ACM Curriculum Committee on Computer Education for Management, Communications of the ACM, 15: 5 (May, 1972) 363-398.

    Information & Management

    [2] Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Projections and


















    Training Data, Bulletin 2251, Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 1986. J.I. Cash, Jr., F.W. McFarlan, and J.L. McKenney, Corpo- rate Information Systems Management: The Issues Facing Senior Executiues, 2nd edition, Irwin, Homewood, IL, 1988. P.H. Cheney, and N.R. Lyons, Information Systems Skill Requirements: A Survey, MIS Quarterly, 4: 1 (March 1980) 35-43. P.H. Cheney, and A. Lipp, Information Systems Skill Requirement: 1978 and 1987, University of Georgia Working Paper, 1988. Council of Economic Advisers, Economic Indicators, Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, Decem- ber 1980. Council of Economic Advisers, Economic Indicators, Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, Decem- ber 1989. J.D. Gouger, (ed.), Curriculum Recommendations for Undergraduate Programs in Information Systems, Com- munications of the ACM, 16: 12 (December 1973) 727-749. J.C. Crystal, and R.S. Deems, Redesigning Jobs, Train- ing and Development Journal, 37: 2 (March 1983) 44-46. S.S. Dubin, Defining Obsolescence and Updating, in Maintaining Professional and Technical Competence of the Ofder Worker, ed. S.S. Dubin, H. Sheldon, and J. McCon- nell, Washington American Society of Engineering Educa- tion, Washington, D.C. (July 1983) l-12. H. Frost, Time for a change - MIS expands its business role, Computerworld Focus, 22: 09A (March 2, 1988) 19+.

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  • Information & Management P. H. Chewy et al. / IS Staffing Requirements 247

    Appendix A

    KSA Categories Project Manager

    Systems Analyst/ Designer


    1. Information Gathering 2.406 * * - 3.973 * -5.507 *

    Techniques 3.100 * 1.441 1.004

    2. Systems Design 1.394 - 1.170 -5.475 *

    Topics 0.740 0.901 -4.010 *

    3. File Design 1.354 - 1.133 - * 5.794 1.805 3.140 * 3.114 *

    4. Planning and Control 1.248 - 3.951 * -3.211 *

    of System Projects 2.011 * * -2.011 ** -3.001 *

    5. Human Relations in 1.898 1.030 -5.637 *

    Systems Development 1.011 0.671 0.600

    6. Human Factors in Equipment - 0.847 0.012 -3.341 *

    Design and Work Layout 2.801 * 3.111 * 2.998 *

    7. Introductory Computer and - 0.042 - 0.641 -0.595

    Information Systems Concepts 0.601 0.401 -0.310

    8. Application Programming 1.015 - 2.042 * * -3.540 *

    Languages - 3.814 * -3.011 * 1.035

    9. Job Control - 0.486 0.276 - 1.131

    Language - 1.201 - 0.488 -2.011 **

    10. DBMS 1.402 1.865 - 0.051

    1.041 7.140 * 6.145 *

    11. Operating -4.263 * - 1.741 -7.180 *

    Systems - 3.941 * -2.140 * * -3.101 *

    12. Mainframe - 3.847 * -2.142 * * - 1.913

    Hardware - 6.401 * -4.333 * - 0.081

    13. Micro/Minicomputer 1.939 - 0.093 -0.781

    Hardware - 2.001 * * 0.080 0.040

    14. Telecommunications - 2.952 * - 2.650 * * 1.704

    Concepts 4.980 * 7.144 * 6.804 *

    15. Computer Security -5.959 * - 2.341 * * - * 2.723

    Controls and Auditing 3.801 * 4.900 * 1.800

    16. Software Package -4.328 * 4.218 * 2.403 * *

    Analysis 3.881 * 7.100 * 2.080 * *

    17. Computer - 2.080 * * 5.183 * 1.771

    Operations 0.433 - 1.047 0.444

    18. Legal Aspects -5.107 * 2.039 * * -2.745 *

    of Computing 2.001 * * 3.853 * 2.011 * *

    19. Computer 3.531 * 4.608 * 2.723 *

    Simulation 5.130 * 2.011 ** 2.001 **

    20. Statistical 4.005 * 5.802 * 1.883

    Decision Theory 6.145 * 4.001 * 2.141 * *

    * alpha = 0.01; * * alpha = 0.05; T-test Results Showing Differences in the KSAs. For each KSA, the first row of f-tests is based on the change from 1978 to 1987 and the second row the change from 1987 to that projected for 1995.