Within the information technology
industry it's more important than ever before the IT managers with
the proper skill sets to effectively manage their technical
teams. The skill sets required by an IT manager are unlike the
skills that are found in traditional management areas, and this
article explores some of the qualities that distinguish
outstanding IT managers from mediocre management professionals.
The information technology
industry is plagued by poor management. Some of the worst IT
managers have the following characteristics:
High attrition rates
– Many IT professionals "vote with their feet" when confronted
with a bad boss. I know one IT manager who lost ¾ of his entire
staff before being fired.
Poor track records
– Poor IT managers fail in their Management By Objective (MBO)
goals, and typically have a poor record of getting projects
complete on-time and under-budget.
Choices of inappropriate
technologies – The
poor IT manager often makes ludicrous choices of technology. I
once had an IT manager recommend a e-mail package as a solution
for a database problem.
Also, the cost of poor IT
management is has been expanding outside the IT shop. There is an
alarming trend in the IT industry where poor IT managers are being
hauled into courtrooms in order to defend themselves against
inappropriate management techniques, including sexual harassment,
verbal assault, and other anti-social behaviors.
While no single skill
distinguishes the effective IT manager, IT managers can generally
be categorized along three salient skill sets. These include:
1 - Appropriate knowledge of
2 - Appropriate personality and
3 - Appropriate management
It's taken closer look at the
first two of these areas so we can understand how they impact the
effectiveness of today's IT manager.
A solid technical background is
indispensable skill for the IT manager. In order to effectively
manage a team working on a complex computer project, the IT
manager must have a high-level understanding of all of the salient
technologies that relate to their projects. While the IT manager
is not expected to understand the technical detail of each and
every component, the outstanding IT manager has to understand
conceptual basis for all of the tools and coding techniques that
are being employed in the environment.
Some of the poorest IT managers
are the "posers", managers who have had enough technical
information to understand conceptual design, but did not fully
understand the implementation details. These annoying managers
can often drive away highly skilled employees by making inane
requests, much like the "pointy haired" boss in the popular
Dilbert cartoon strip.
There is an old adage that
"those who can do, and those who can't, manage". This adage
applies especially well towards IT managers, many of whom reached
their "level of incompetence" as defined by the Peter Principle.
Because many IT managers ascended
the ranks through the technical professions; they commonly face
many of the same personality drawbacks as other IT professionals.
While it is not fair to generalize, non-IT professionals commonly
characterize IT professionals as egomaniacs, introverts, and
"geeks", lacking the people skills found in other areas of an
Many IT professionals complain
that their management is sorely lacking in people skills, and some
IT managers are totally unable to develop effective personal
relationships with their employees. The employees of the poor IT
managers commonly complain that they don't trust their boss, that
their boss does not have their best interest at heart, and that
their boss commonly places obstacles in their paths.
If we examine the ranks as
senior IT vice president and CIOs, one of the most common comments
about these managers is that they are "nice" people. While this
may seem like a generalization, the fact remains that the ability
to get the job done while being perceived as "nice" is a very
important part of the IT manager's job.