The cloud, big data, and BYOD are three disruptive technologies that have changed the role of IT in organizations. The IT department that’s sequestered from everyone else is part of the past for most.
Moreover, the disruptive technologies that have changed how people work have also caused changes to the role of the IT manager.
No longer limited strictly to technology, the CIO and other IT managers are more involved with business processes than they used to be. Therefore it’s more critical than ever for IT managers to have strong skills apart from their technical ones. Here are some of the most important non-IT skills that today’s IT manager should have.
From managing the IT service desk to training to budget planning, the IT manager has to be able to communicate clearly, using plain English as well as business terminology. End-users access more tech than ever, both on the job and off, and they know how technology can align with business. So it’s important that IT managers are able to communicate that they understand how technology serves business processes. From writing an all-hands memo to updating IT’s social media page to addressing the C-suite at budget time, the IT manager has to be able to demonstrate excellent communication skills.
Understanding the Budgeting Process
IT budgets are trending upward, and that’s good news. In order for IT to have sufficient resources, IT managers have to be able to translate technical needs into terms of business value. Today’s IT manager has to be fully prepared to justify budget requests and IT project proposals, and do so in terms of return on investment. This may be more difficult for certain budget items, like security technology, for example. IT managers sometimes have a harder time convincing non-IT counterparts of the importance of security, but when they do so in terms of the company bottom line, they’re more likely to succeed.
Tech workers are sometimes motivated in different ways than non-technical workers. But IT workers need to know they’re appreciated, especially since much of their work is done in the background of more typical business processes. There are several techniques the IT manager can use to motivate team members and inspire teamwork, such as:
• Defining short-term measurable goals
• Providing regular feedback to team members in a positive, constructive manner
• Recognizing team members who excel
• Offering rewards or holding celebrations for excellence on a regular basis
• Encouraging sharing of knowledge through, for example, a dedicated discussion page or social media group
Navigating Office Politics
When a person works in Sales or PR, he expects office politics to be part of the job. But the person who simply wants to write the code that cleans up the data may shun workplace politics. Alas, there is no escaping politics at some time or other. The effective IT manager shouldn’t expect her team to take on political battles in order to simply get work done, but should try to act as a buffer between IT workers and office politics. While the IT manager shouldn’t have to spend excessive time dealing with the political nonsense present in most organizations, he simply can’t be clueless about it. It’s a reality, and it’s important to deal with it competently.
Recruiting people for technical roles can be intimidating for HR people, so it’s important that IT managers work closely with them on staffing issues. IT workers are not interchangeable, and skill sets can vary dramatically. An IT manager with a solid understanding of the culture of the IT department, its strengths, and its weaknesses, can make an enormous difference in making smart hiring decisions. He needs to be involved at multiple steps in the process, from knowing where to advertise to onboarding the new hire.
IT managers are about more than technology. As technology factors into more everyday personal and business processes, technology managers cannot afford to be set apart from other departments and other managers. Besides maintaining strong technical skills, they have to be able to communicate effectively, go to the mat for their department when it’s budget time, motivate their teams, navigate office politics effectively, and be involved in recruiting new technical hires. It’s a tall order, but it shows the increasing importance of technology managers to the typical 21st century business.
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