An IT Manager (a.k.a Information Technology Manager) oversees and manages IT operations, systems and infrastructure. Additionally, they serve as a connection between technology strategies and the broader goals of the organisation.
As such, they a) ensure the efficient, secure operation of IT resources and b) nurture the overarching objectives of the business.
Depending on the organisation’s size, industry and specific requirements, it’s common to have a mix of these roles or even additional positions to meet the technology needs.
The IT Manager typically holds a mid-level managerial position and is responsible for the day-to-day management of the IT department.
Their role is more operational and tactical than that of a Chief Technology Officer, for example. IT Managers directly oversee IT operations. They are involved in day-to-day project management and team leadership while ensuring the reliability and security of IT systems.
They work closely with their teams to implement the strategies and decisions set forth by the CTO and senior management. Therefore, IT Managers are responsible for executing the plans and projects that align with the broader technology strategy.
The IT Manager also plays a critical role in optimising the use of resources. It’s their job to ensure that they are allocated effectively so that they can meet the organisation’s technology goals.
(Depending on the size and structure of an organisation, all of these responsibilities may fall under the CTO umbrella (eg, a start-up company). But as we scale up, we can have a CTO directly overseeing several IT Managers (eg, a cluster of subsidiaries or different IT departments) or a Group CTO overseeing a number of CTOs that oversee several IT Managers.)
Identification of technology needs
As we can see, a technology manager is a sort of an architect of an organisation’s technological success on one hand, but also a guardian of the IT infrastructure on the other. They also have to employ their managerial skills to ensure that employees execute their duties and, thus, achieve the goals.
In the absence of an adept IT manager, an organisation is left exposed to an array of issues, including system downtime, security breaches and scalability limitations, all of which affect the organisation’s bottom line.
Now let’s dig deeper into the most important – project management. We want to see HOW exactly they manage a new project that the CTO or the Board threw on their desk from scratch. It will also show the mesh of different responsibilities we explained earlier.
They begin with…
The first thing to do in this initial stage is to:
They start by initiating discussions with department heads, managers and key stakeholders across the organisation. These conversations are essential in this process. IT Managers actively listen to concerns, challenges and goals that different departments have.
Once they take all the notes, the next step is to assess and evaluate the technology stack and infrastructure. This includes examining existing software, hardware and network systems. You want to know the capacity, performance and, of course, security of current systems. In other words, you want to ensure that you have the necessary infrastructure to support the new product.
Once you get a good view of the environment, you should give yourself some time to assess those small parts of the entire infrastructure. Therefore, you must perform regular technology audits. Why? Because you want to identify areas where systems might be outdated, inefficient or not meeting new business requirements. As an IT Manager, you are going to use these audits to pinpoint technology gaps.
After the initial discussions and technology assessments, IT Managers gather feedback and input from their IT team members. Team members often have valuable insights into the organisation’s technology needs and can provide recommendations. They, after all, work in trenches and, thus, know exactly what they need to make things happen.
Once we have all the necessary information, it’s time to see if and where the new product fits in short- and long-term planning.
As a rule of thumb, we want to prioritise projects based on their alignment with business objectives and the available resources. For instance, short-term goals may include immediate technology updates, while long-term goals may encompass larger projects or technology transformations. As an IT Manager, you need to know how will the new product development affect the current state of affairs.
Most importantly, you need to figure out if it will pay off at the end of the road. Hence, the
IT Managers must conduct cost-benefit analyses for each planned technology initiative. They consider factors such as potential return on investment, impact on operational efficiency and alignment with strategic goals. This analysis is crucial in decision-making.
More often than not, over-optimistic prognoses that are not based on realistic projections, lead to failure. You must, therefore, educate yourself in these matters if finances are not your forte.
For the sake of our argument, let’s say that the numbers clearly indicate profitability. It’s time to push the project into the next stage. Remember, all this time, the CTO is breathing behind your neck, pushing you to speed things up because the CEO is putting an immense amount of pressure to get the MVP out asap.
There are four logical steps in this stage. It all starts with market research.
One of the IT Manager’s jobs is to identify potential vendors and technology solutions. You want to explore all available options, of course, but they do have to meet the organisation’s specific needs.
Once you narrow down the list, it’s time to send RFPs (Requests for Proposals). Keep in mind that these documents must specify the organisation’s requirements and expectations. The more thorough you are, the more accurate response you’ll get. That is to say, if you send only a general inquiry or fail to mention some specific and/or important request or context, don’t expect well-structured and precise proposals.
Once you receive all proposals, it’s time to arrange events for vendor demos and presentations. It is the only viable way to evaluate the functionality, user-friendliness and suitability of a product or service. You should also invite key stakeholders and members of the IT team to participate in these evaluations.
Now comes the evaluation of those proposals. So what you should have in place even before presentations is evaluation criteria and some sort of scoring system. For example, consider factors such as cost, features, support and compatibility with the existing technology stack.
At the end of the day, this is just another ready-to-go project on your list of priorities. And that’s where things get tricky and really challenging.
If you have five projects, how do you decide the dynamics? Which gets the highest priority?
Again, there are three (to four, depending on how you look at it) logical steps.
So the first order of business is to consult your company’s “Book of Goals”. Naturally, you want to start with those projects that will have the most significant impact on achieving those goals.
To do that efficiently, you should gather feedback on project priorities from department heads and managers. This collaborative approach ensures that the selected projects align with the needs and objectives of each department.
But there’s the question of resource allocation. This means that you must:
Having goals is great, but if the budget is stretched, you need to reevaluate everything (ie, finances, personnel, time…). It is the only way to determine which projects can be realistically executed within the given constraints.
Still, you have to ensure that the gain always outweighs the risk. Hence, the final step:
IT Managers assess the risks associated with each project. They consider factors such as potential disruptions to existing systems, cybersecurity risks and the likelihood of successful implementation.
These analyses are as thorough as possible and include a detailed assessment of every possible scenario. In Module 3 of our Digital MBA for Technology Leaders, for example, Ricardo Alanis, Head of Data Science at Nowport, goes into detail on risk and resiliency. The lecture leans on several others throughout modules that guide CTOs through high-level project management. Definitely something every aspiring IT Manager should consider as a part of a future executive education and subsequent career growth.
You can see where all the complexity is coming from and why not everyone is cut out to work as an IT Manager, at least not a successful one. And here is a vivid presentation of day-to-day challenges:
If you have, for instance, projects: A, B, C, D and E, you must run each against:
So let’s say that A, C, D and E projects perfectly align with the company’s strategic goals. But after you consult department heads, E simply drops off. So A, C and D make the initial cut.
All three are viable meaning that you can develop an MVP of each using the available technology stack and third-party resources (vendors’ solutions). But, you can’t work on all three simultaneously due to budgetary and/or personnel constraints. If, however, you choose smart, you could, potentially, run two parallel projects but with one that has the highest-priority tag attached to it.
The easier way is to simply sort all three based on the level of risk they are carrying and pick the two with the lowest risk score (the “safest” being assigned as the highest priority project). But consider this: as a rule of thumb, “safest” is also “least profitable” or “slowest”.
Hence, the harder way. Take a calculated risk and choose the one that would most benefit the company. Hit it with the “HIGHEST PRIORITY” stamp and bring the “safest” one to the fold also.
This way, you will not: a) appear as someone who hesitates or plays safe (which is not exactly a characteristic of an executive of any kind!) while, at the same time, b) overstretch your team and cause burnouts.
Which brings us to the next logical question.
Information technology management requires a perfect blend of six skill sets:
While marketing and sales management skills can be rudimentary, technical skills must be at the highest level possible. We are talking about the whole package here as you will soon find out.
The same goes for management and soft skills. This is a skill set that is forged through experience above anything else because the list is quite challenging for some.
And then come operational skills. They involve the day-to-day activities such as:
The ability to balance operational efficiency with long-term strategic goals is key to success in this role.
Now, regardless of what you might think, sales and marketing skills are necessary because a good IT manager should have a customer-centric mindset. It’s irrelevant whether their “customers” are internal employees or external clients. One way or another, they need to understand and meet the needs of end-users. And that is only possible if you know how marketing and sales work.
Of course, the ideal candidate will also have at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science plus a high-level leadership education (ie, a master’s degree in technology leadership).
Reporting largely depends on the size of an organisation, industry and strategic goals. In other words, it depends on the structure of the company. That said, IT managers can report to either of the following executives:
In the US, IT managers make between $101K and $157K. The base salary ranges from $94K to $143K while bonuses add between $7K and $14K. Hence, the annual median total pay is around $125,550 while the average for 2023 is $115,944.
In the UK, on the other hand, the average annual salary so far was approx. Ł42,500 (based on 152 reports). However, available job listings indicate that this might change for the better. For example, several London-based companies are currently offering permanent positions with a minimum of Ł55,000.
Becoming and working as an IT manager is undoubtedly challenging, but is also rewarding because it sets the stage for the next step on a career path and that’s the role of a Chief Technology Officer. It’s the crown of years of effort, hardship, experience and personal development.
And the best route to that executive role is direct access to other CTOs, their experience and perspectives. Having such a peer advisory group by your side at all times not only makes your job and life easier but also speeds up career growth.
Think about it; why walk alone in the darkness trying to find your way out of the woods when you have a ten-thousand-strong global community of technology leaders to guide you?
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