Defining the Role of an IT Manager

In this article, we will discuss exactly what it means to be an IT Manager. In today’s world, IT Managers can be responsible for many different areas of focus – or just one area. These areas could include Project Management, Server Administration, IT Compliance, Security, Application Development or Websites just to name a few. IT Managers are generally responsible for engaging many areas of the company including finance, operations, distribution, stores (in retail) and/or manufacturing as examples.

The roles of an IT Manger can vary from company to company. In some companies the IT Manager is responsible for strategic direction and planning, while at other companies the IT Manager may fulfill a purely technical leadership role. Be sure you fully understand this role at your company or during the interview when changing jobs. Also, be aware that as companies grow and change, the roles of the managers will grow and change with it.

This large variation in responsibilities and the constant change in IT organizations and responsibilities can be a great thing for your career. This allows you to start out in a role more suited to your abilities and grow into larger ones. It also means that as the company grows, so must you. Information Technology (sometimes referred to as Information Systems) is a career that requires continued learning and adaptability. New technologies, systems, and processes are created almost weekly.

The bad news is that the role of an IT Manager with all of these key skills and the ever changing landscape is quite often a thankless job. One Director of Fortune 500 retailer was once quoted telling her boss “If everything is working the way it was planned and architected, no one knows I exist. However, when it breaks, everyone knows my name.” That is to say that even the best IT Managers get the wind knocked out from under their sails on occasion.

Keep in mind that to many people an IT Manager can mean many different things. Each department within the organization will have a slightly different perspective of what they believe your job and your focus to be. This also applies to your boss, and his/her superiors.

The Definition of a Manger
The AMA president defined the role of a manager as “Getting things done through other people.” Answers.com defines management as “Authoritive control over a person or group of people.” As you might notice, these definitions are at somewhat different ends of the spectrum. The first represents collaboration while the second the represents control. While both are accurate descriptions, it will be your job as a manager to use the right definition or combination thereof at the right time(s).

The truth is most likely that you, as a manager, will fall more heavily into one of these definitions that the other. You should take some time to evaluate yourself and your style. Then, be cognizant of the style you are most likely to swing to. This will save you some time down the road as you learn to manage others and conflicts arise.

The catch is that most likely, as you grow in your career and job you are likely to change your style to suit the company and/or culture you are in. So which style will you be? It’s hard to tell.

There are many tales of managers who change companies and are shocked to find out that their style of management is completely incompatible with their new company’s culture. One example might be a manager who directs her employees to execute a step by step plan for the rollout of a new application. However, the company culture is very collaboritive and the team she is now leading expects to be part of the decisions, planning and direction of the project.

One of the most common struggles we hear about with new managers is resentment from fellow team members. Sometimes peers (that are now your employees) will resent the fact that you were promoted and they were not. Others might simply feel that you are not qualified for the job. These issues are very common to new managers, especially if one or more of your peers (now employee) have ever managed before and you have not.

This can be a slow process to get past, and in some cases may require outside help from your superiors and/or your Human Resources department. In most cases however, all that is required is a little time and communication from both parties. This starts by building a relationship with your team. Talk to each person, both in public and private. Learn their talents and recognize the contributions.

Politics at Work
Many new managers will immediately find the political landscape in their new role, whether they mean to or not. Projects and corporate goals create political landscapes and as you make decisions in your new role, you are helping to shape that landscape.

It is important to recognize that while some managers (or non-managers for that matter) do their best to stay out of politics in the workplace at all costs, other managers thrive on it. Politics can come in many different forms, from turf wars over who manages a department or project down to something as simple as what color a company logo or shirt is.

The point is, politics are at every company and you as an IT Manager needs to be aware of it. Some politics are necessary. Anytime humans are involved in a decision making process there are going to be non-objective considerations that have to be made. For example: Jim is being promoted to a new management role, but Cathy is against it because Jason is Jim’s best friend. She believes Jim will play favorites with Jason while hanging her out to dry. This is part of human nature and has to be dealt with.

 

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