Software Skills List: The How-to Guide to Improving Them

Nowadays, we all use a huge list of software at work or at home on a daily basis. So, having and improving our software skills can make or break our career and/or business.

On this page, you will find information:

What are software skills?

In short, the answer is obvious – your knowledge and abilities in different types of software. And although this is true, it is not the full picture.

Software skills should include your ability to learn new computer systems in a short period of time plus your previous experience. For example, if you have worked with 3 time management systems, obviously you can learn a 4th system in almost zero time.

Also, If you are a business person, it is important to understand what problems software should solve, who use a system and for what purpose, who access it, how the data is communicated, via what channels, and etc. It is good to know what is the part of an application in the full business “picture” and its procedures.

If you have a more technical background, you may need a good knowledge in user interfaces, APIs, integration and security protocols, and databases. I mean, even an integration Java-based developer can benefit from skills in SQL. This can provide broader views and reveal issues early in a project.

Nevertheless, you should remember that computer tools are constantly changing and improvement of your software skills list is a neverending story. So constant formal and informal education is needed in order to be ready to face new challenges.

General Software Abilities

No matter what you do for your living there are some general software abilities which are must have for any decent career. I mean, if you work as a chief or driver you might not need that but if you work in the office you will definitely need this skills.

  • First, you need to know some basic for Microsoft Windows. At least all application you are using are installed on it. Or most of them. So some basic skills here is must have.
  • Second, understanding and using applications for “text” and “tables” is even more important for any business. Ok, the most popular tools are Microsoft Word and Excel but there are many others on the market. Once again get the logic, not where the buttons are!
  • Third, working with e-mails tools such as Gmail, Yahoo and etc is 100% important for any business. Communications with customers and colleagues are based on this.
  • Fourth, communication tools as Skype, WebEx, and etc can be very important. Pay attention to your audio and video setting in advance. You do not want to block important call or meeting.
  • Fifth, document management, and sharing tools as Sharepoint can come handy. Having a good order in your documents is crucial. Yes, you can use well structured Windows folders but some applications are even better. But the end of the day you need to know where your docs are, who can access them, who changed them and etc.
  • Sixth, some general knowledge in security and backup tools is also important. For business guys, it should not be some “deep” skills but at least keep away from the obvious risk – unsecured networks, “fishing” emails, dangerous sites.

Once again, get the logic – the systems are changing, try to understand their logic not where the buttons are. And it is better to ask questions to your colleagues. I mean, an early question, in the beginning, can save many troubles later on.

If you need additional education in those areas, you need to make immediate action and to cover them. Most companies even do not ask for those qualities in the job offer because they are needed by default.

Careers and jobs for people with strong software abilities

There are a couple of major types of a career for people with strong software abilities. One of it is into software companies, the other is into software departments in major enterprises (like banks, TELCO, Media, etc), and of course freelancing.

Careers in Software Companies

The major advantages are that the actual focus of such companies is software. So you will be involved in cutting-edge technologies and will have access to latest innovations.

Also, you will be able to “climb” faster and further into the corporate ladder. And it will be much easier to make your own company if you want to and if you have excellent software skills.

The major disadvantage is that software companies are not so stable. They are arising and falling /with few exceptions/ quite fast. Also, the pressure and workload can be higher.

A nice tip here is to take a look beyond pure development/QA/etc into the future of business, to see what will be required after 3-5 years and to focus on it.

Careers in Enterprise Software Departments

Well, here is via verse. You can have more stability and situation can be more predictive. Usually, major enterprises do not fall down that often.

But on the other hand, your department will not be the one in charge. More or less you will need to serve to “business” units of the company. They will make the most important decisions and have much of the responsibilities.

Freelancing

The third option – working mainly from home as a freelancer. In such way, you depend on yourself and can decide when to work and for which task. You are not limited by working hours and travel to a workplace.

From the other hand, the workload is unpredictable. You can have too many tasks in one moment, and too less in the other. This can lead to frustration, unstable income, and stress.

But if you think that you have great software skills and do not like to depend on somebody, freelancing is a good option.

How to improve your software skills?

Well, there are many ways to improve your software skills list. You can learn at school, at work, visit a course or purchase online training, and many others.

But the most important way is to train alone, to have fun, to search your own way to find solutions. And not to be afraid of different tools and applications.

And no, there is no way to know everything. So ask questions or search on the internet. There are great forums nowadays, and youtube videos, and user guides.

So which is more important formal learning (via schools, courses) or informal? Well, both are good and maybe you need to use them in combination. Formal learning gives you proved structured knowledge while informal training gives you confidence and increase your creativity.

Formal learning can give you a certificate which is usually something good. Certification will improve your chances to get a new job or a promotion. HR departments love certificates, they make their work easier. But at the end of the day it is you in charge, not the certificate itself.

CV and Software Abilities

If you have to create your CV it is highly recommended to have at least two section dedicated to software skills.

First, create a section with all of your software abilities and applications in which you have experience and confidence.

Second, create a separate section for your certificates in the area.

Also, it is recommended to send your most important certificates as files via application email in order to focus on them.

As I mentioned HR departments love certificates. Because they prove for your qualities and also protect HR experts in case you do not fit into position later on.

Business software skills

Any profession has its own requirement for software skills, besides the general above. This is not the full list of course and the skills might be different depending on companies but it will give you a general idea.Let’s have some examples:

Let’s have some examples:

Accounting Software Abilities

In general, the most important knowledge is in the Accounting Systems and Payroll tools. Each accountant should be able to work with General ledger module, Depreciation module, reports, salaries, etc. Of

Knowledge in ERP and Inventory Management systems can also be extremely useful.

All data should be stored, accessible and protected so some abilities in Sharepoint and Document Management systems can be required.

Operational Managers

They need to monitor and manage day-to-day tasks of the employees. So having knowledge in different Ticketing systems, Time Management systems, Task Management tools are essentials.

One good Operational Manager needs to have an excellent knowledge of the company’s processes so abilities in Workflow Management Software may come handy.

Skills in presentation software, diagramming tools, Excel, sharing documents and managing e-mails are also essentials.

Project Managers

Project Managers are in charge of managing different types of project related activities. So from that point of view software skills in Project Management Software are a must.

Other important PM abilities are in the area of Risk Management software and Resource Management tools.

Another important software abilities are in presentation tools, diagramming applications, document management, security, and more.

Financial Experts

First, they need tons of data so knowledge in Date Warehouses is s plus. Of course, financial systems abilities is a must.

If financial experts need to trade online, they need very deep knowledge in their systems because any mistake can cause a disaster.

Additional abilities in mobile applications, alerting software, diagramming tools are nice to have. Security tools should also be considered.

Customer Support

Customer support experts need software skills in various CRM applications, ticketing systems, and Time Tracking software.

Knowledge of different communication tools can be handy and multitasking trough various systems is often needed.

Business Developers

Well, business developers may need great presentation skills and they need to search markets for new innovations, requirements, demands. So abilities in Online Survey tools are important in this area.

So some knowledge in simple requirement tools can be very handy. Also skills in diagramming tools, boards, document management applications are useful.

Business Analyst

Requirements Management systems are the bread and butter for business analysts. They should know such system very well and to use them on regular basis.

The other very important applications are Document Management Systems, emails, and Word.

Technical Software Skills

When we use technical software skills, it does not mean only developers skills. There are more professionals in this area – QA experts, designers, network administrators, web admins.

All of them has outstanding software skills in some areas but still the demand for knowledge is getting high. Most of that technical expert should use some kind of team collaboration tools in order to work together and to share the same goals and expectations.

Developers

Of course, the most important instrument for a developer is the software language – C Sharp, Java, PHP, etc. But it is highly recommended the developers to understand why the software is created. It will help them to avoid some of the bugs.

And when it comes to bug fixing a developer should have skills in some bug tracking software like Team Foundation Server.

Also, some knowledge of databases and networking can be quite useful.

Network Administrators

Network Administrators have a huge list of tools they need to know in order to their job correctly.

One of the most important are the tools for network monitoring like Zabbix and Nagios.

The other important software skills are knowledge in security protocols like SSL.

Network mapping software can really help Network Admins to visualize their network and systems in order to see weak spots.

Command Prompt console and its commands are must have for them also.

QA Experts

Besides the software, QA experts are testing they need to know at least couple of bug tracking software plus some ticketing systems.

The best QA experts not only test the systems but understands its business goals and provide useful feedback for further improvements. They are in charge for usability of the application and should be involved in improving customer satisfaction.

Designers and Architects

They are among the most senior technical experts in one company. They need to have deep knowledge in all enterprise’s applications and the communication protocols between them.

Also, designers and architects need to be involved in team collaboration software, requirements tools, mock-ups and prototypes.

Most Important Software

Here is a short checklist of the most important software skills you should know:

  • Microsoft Windows;
  • Microsoft Office – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio, Outlook, MS Project;
  • Linux;
  • Web browsers – IE, Google Chrome, Opera, Firefox;
  • ERP systems like SAP;
  • Accounting systems like Navision;
  • CRM system like MS Dynamics
  • Diagramming tools;
  • Adobe;
  • Databases like MS SQL, MySQL, etc;
  • Analytical applications;
  • Mobile OS and applications;
  • Security tools;

Most probably you will not need software skills in all of the above applications for a long and successful career. But the more abilities you have, the better chances you will have in this modern digital world.

One last remark, the software could not solve personal problems, unclear procedures, irrelevant business goals. At the end of the day, it just saves, transfers, updates, and deletes data much faster than humans can.

So first check where you want to be and how you want to get there and then focus on required applications and your software skills.

About the Author Marin Valchev

Marin Valchev, PMP is an IT Project Manager with more than 10 years of experience. He implements cutting-edge technology in a wide-range of Financial and TELCO companies in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Marin shares his knowledge of software, analysis, project management and other business areas.

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