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As the new year quickly approaches, now is the time for B2B professionals to lay the groundwork for the year ahead. In 2018, readers can develop lifelong skills that can fuel exciting new career opportunities.

Today, a mix of enthusiasm and anxiety surrounds many B2B professions. On one hand, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects remarkable growth in some knowledge work sectors. For example, demand for marketing specialists is expected to increase nearly 23 percent in the next nine years, and demand for operations professionals should increase nearly 9 percent in the same timeframe.

On the other hand, McKinsey and Company estimates that artificial intelligence technologies could make an impact of more than $30 trillion over the next few decades. Presumably, automation would meaningfully disrupt the lives of knowledge workers in both positive and negative ways.

What follows is an account of the skills that B2B professionals must begin developing in 2018 to prepare for new unforeseen opportunities and challenges in the years to come.

Data literacy

Businesses are investing billions in data collection and analysis. Be it hedge fund news or customer behavior data, organizations of all stripes recognize the importance of data as a key success factor. Gartner estimates that the proper valuation of the BI market is nearly $20 billion and growing. While business leaders recognize that data collection and analysis is essential to successful business, far too few employees are data literate.

In 2018, make a resolution to sharpen your data literacy skills. That could take the form of learning the basics of statistical probability for example. Or, readers could choose to learn how to pull and sort data by learning SQL.

Rather than leave data analysis to a small team of specialists, it is better for professionals to learn how to analyze data themselves. After all, who better to surface meaningful insights than the professionals who will benefit from them most.

Change management

As mentioned earlier, our professional world is changing rapidly both in positive and in challenging ways. Organizations interested in innovation will increasingly need to embrace change to stay ahead of the curve. That means professionals must find ways to aid businesses in restructuring.

One study cited in the Harvard Business Review found that as many as 70 percent of businesses will fail to successfully implement significant changes. Professionals who are comfortable adapting to, or even better, leading change will be coveted by a wide variety of B2B organizations in the coming years.   

 

Software integration knowledge

The average marketing professional uses an average of 12 different software platforms according to a study conducted by Hubspot. The same is likely true for professionals in many other roles.

Ensuring that each platform works throughout your tech stack is critical to ensuring you and your team receive meaningful ROI from the software platforms used each day. While you can rely on a technical support team to integrate platforms between one another, gaining a cursory understanding of how software integration works can benefit you professionally.

For example, understanding the difference between an open api, native integration, web hooks, Zapier and Mulesoft will make it easier for you to understand how data flows from one tool to the next. Furthermore, it will help you to identify gaps in your tech stack that can be corrected with an additional platform or with a new workflow.

Creative problem solving

Artificial intelligence and automation will slowly be able to perform routine professional tasks. To remain relevant, readers must hone their creative problem-solving skills. Creative problem solving is so important, that a report commissioned by Adobe and conducted by Forrester found that nearly 60 percent of executives set key company goals around creative outcomes. 

For those interested in developing creative problem-solving skills remember that finding a solution is often delayed when one places extreme pressure on oneself. Instead, establish constraints of the problem, and set time aside to think deeply about it.

Avoid task switching, which can make it difficult to produce highly thoughtful work. Instead, stamp out distractions by turning off notifications and by working during non-busy hours.

Finally, don’t be afraid to step outside of the office. Even if you’re simply stepping outside to enjoy a Juul e-cigarette. Placing yourself in new environments can stimulate new perspectives and thus creative solutions to challenging problems.

Conclusion

Readers of any ilk, be they e-commerce specialists selling the best tactical flashlights, or enterprise software engineers, must make professional development a key area of focus in the new year.

Those in the B2B world who focus on cultivating skills related to data literacy, change management, software integrations, and creative problem solving will be positioned for success.

Do you have any other advice to add?

 

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