Critical skills and knowledge requirements of IS professionals: A joint academic/industry investigation

D. M S Lee, Eileen M. Trauth, Douglas Farwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

608 Scopus citations


This study was initiated in response to concerns expressed by the membership of the Boston Chapter of the Society for Information Management (Boston SIM) to investigate anticipated changes in the information systems (IS) profession, to study the impact of these changes on the skills and knowledge requirements, and to relate these requirements to the academic preparation of future IS professionals. To provide as broad a perspective as possible, the study was conducted by a joint industry/academic group of investigators. A series of focus group meetings was conducted first with representatives of the profession's different stakeholder groups (i.e., IS managers, user managers, and IS consultants) for issue generation. A survey instrument was then designed for data collection on computing trends and changing knowledge and skills requirements. Overall, our study suggests that industry will demand a cadre of IS professionals with knowledge and skills in technology, business operations, management, and interpersonal skills to effectively lead organizational integration and process reengineering activities. The lower-level IS jobs are rapidly disappearing, and the requirements for IS professionals are becoming more demanding in multiple dimensions, particularly in the areas of business functional knowledge and interpersonal/management skills. Our results also found some clear patterns in IS staffing and activity trends that point to the shift in emphasis from a traditional, central IS organization toward a more decentralized, end-user-focused business orientation. Aligning IS solutions with business goals and needs as well as building the infrastructure for technological integration are becoming the top priorities for IS activities. Our results indicate these changes will likely lead to different career tracks with differing emphasis on the multi-dimensional knowledge/skills for IS professionals. The realignment of IS activities in organizations will require corresponding re-structuring of IS curricula at universities. Our findings suggest that current IS curricula are often ill-matched with business needs. Many subjects emphasized in the typical IS curricula are assigned low priorities by practitioners, while there is pressing need to add both breadth and depth to the education of IS professionals. We argue further that the concept of a generic curriculum to meet the educational needs of all future IS professionals is obsolete, and different IS curricula must be tailored to meet the needs of different IS careers. These career-driven IS programs will require the adoption of multi-disciplinary approaches and educational innovations for adding breadth, depth, and relevance to the curriculum in accordance with the focused mission of each specific program.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-337
Number of pages25
JournalMIS Quarterly: Management Information Systems
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Information Systems and Management


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