January 22, 2019

Technical Ability vs. Domain Expertise: Which is More Important for the Resourcing Function?

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With the increasing use and importance of reporting and analytics as a key component of a resourcing function, how to resource the delivery and management of reporting capabilities becomes a key consideration. When looking at the required skills, however, this is not as straightforward as it may seem.

Recognising that there are relatively few candidates on the market that have both deep domain resourcing expertise and the strong technical ability necessary to build and manage reports, some compromise is likely required. So, is domain expertise more important than technical ability? Honestly, a level of capability in both is required, but it’s important to weigh the relative importance of each facet.

Technical Ability Can be Taught

There is no question that great subject matter expertise is of little benefit without understanding what can and cannot be achieved technically. The sophistication of tools these days is such that the technology is much less often a barrier than it has been in the past. Technical aptitude is, of course, a prerequisite, but given a technical aptitude, the ability to use different tools, understand different data schemas, and general mastery of the technicalities required for such a role can be relatively easily taught in a short space of time with no significant negative impact on productivity.

The other very important consideration is an understanding of the importance of the ever-evolving data protection legislation. A great deal is invested in ensuring the compliance of core systems such as VMS, ATS, FMS, CRM, etc. Moving data outside of these systems in the form of reports is an area where it is very easy to unwittingly fall foul of the legislation and expose an organisation to legislative risk.

Domain Expertise Means Understanding Business Impact

Domain expertise is a lot harder to teach and is typically born out of experience and having worked in an operational role of some description. The importance of domain expertise is to ensure that reporting and analytics both deliver and drive value by not only understanding technically what is being asked for, but also the motivation behind it and questioning if greater value can be delivered, results can be visualised in better ways, and stakeholders’ expectations can be exceeded. In other words, true domain expertise is really about having a true appreciation for the potential business impact of data management.

Taking the above into consideration, my personal view is that domain expertise is more important than highly developed technical expertise. Of course, as previously mentioned, a minimum level of technical ability is required, but technical skills can be taught and acquired far easier and quicker than garnering a true understanding of the subject matter.

Ironically, we see many examples of the opposite decision being made by many organisations. No criticism at all intended of the individuals involved as there are many very talented people working in our industry doing a very good job of delivering what is being asked of them. Without the depth of insights to challenge the requirements, though, or consideration of different ways of delivering value and pushing the boundaries of what can be delivered, the bar is not being raised.

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