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What's the characteristics of an IT manager

Posted on 2011-03-15
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Last Modified: 2012-05-11
We are in the process of interviewing an IT manager for one of our customers.  This customer as a group of staff/level programmers and they develop in-house apps.  We would like EE opinion on what are the characteristic of good IT manager.  If there is an EE Expert whose function is management, we would greatly appreciate it.

We would like to know more on the IT area.  What academic preparation should the candidate have? Should the candidate be an expertise on a specific area? , etc.

NOTE TO MODERATOR:  please relocate question if not the correct zone... Thank you

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Question by:rayluvs
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by:rayluvs
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Thanx (I didn't see those zones)
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amichaell earned 215 total points
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I spent a few years in IT management before I thought better of it and ran.  In regards to education the manager should have a good handle on budgets, project management, and employee development.  Budgeting is important to ensure the manager properly prepares for staffing needs, upcoming projects, maintenance contracts, etc.  If the manager doesn't know how to budget properly then those items are often unattended creating even larger problems.

Good IT managers need to be able to see what the future holds.  They need to be able to anticipate projects and plan accordingly.  Projects never work well when handled on the fly.  Much of this an delegating work.  Delegate work to responsible and dependable employees, follow up on delegated work, and make sure employees know when their work is appreciated.

Finally employees need to be managed.  This involves reviews (I prefer quarterly rather than a single annual review), ensuring employees are trained, ensure employees know their job responsibilities, etc.  A manager's job is to ensure employees can do their job and just stay out of the way.  
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by:rayluvs
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Thank you, I hope I hear from more EE.

How about the technical area; the Technology?
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by:amichaell
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Depends on the level of manager I think.  Seems the trend with high level IT management is that they don't even have IT backgrounds leaning more towards the business side.  For managers closer to the ground, as I was, I think it is important to be able to relate to employees, so technical is important.  I can't recommend a specific technology as that likely depends upon the environment.  If you are a Microsoft shop you probably want someone that can at least speak the language of AD, as an example.  

One important thing to keep in mind is that the longer one stays in management and the deeper one gets in that role, the more likely they are to lose ground on their technical abilities as they increasingly spend their time on employee development, project planning, etc.  

In my position I was assistant director, helpdesk manager, and head engineer.  Though there were days when I spent 75% of my time dealing with employee issues.  As our IT department grew that number increased to the point that I had to hire an engineer to take care of the work I couldn't due to time.  This naturally lead to erosion of my technical skills.
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by:rayluvs
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That's interesting your points:

     " they don't even have IT backgrounds leaning more towards the business side"
     " deeper one gets in that role, the more likely they are to lose ground on their technical abilities"
     "75% of my time dealing with employee issues"

Good to have that perspective in notion.

As for the specific technology the client is in, is inclined to:  Microsoft products (desktop apps, MsSql, Windows Servers, VB .NET, etc.).  Maybe with this info, we can more specifics on the technical expertise if any.

thanx
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by:pony10us
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I agree with amichaell. A lot of IT managers functions have little to do with actual IT work and as time goes on they tend to fall behind on those skills.

A good IT manager needs to understand both the function of the business (i.e. medical, finanacial, etc.) and the technical requirements to support that function. For example, an IT manager for a bank needs to understand how the people in the branch function, what regulations are in place or being proposed, what the bank wants to offer the customers, etc.

On the other hand, the IT manager for a bank also needs to understand the technology side and be able to work with, and explain to the "tech people" this information on a technical level.  She/He needs to have enough technical background to be able to understand the people she/he is responsible for.

Basically, an IT manager has to wear 2 hats. They have to be able to communicate both at the business level and the IT level which often are two entirely different methods of communication.
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by:pony10us
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Well it seems that you were typing a comment at the same time as mine.  Having read yours and seeing the "specific technology" it slightly changes what I described. Using what your client is doing it brings the "two worlds" much closer in communication.

It still remains that as a manager you spend less and less time actually working in the field than you do actually managing individuals. I would tend to look for someone with a major in Business Management and a minor in Computer Science with some work experience in both fields for a position like IT manager.
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by:amichaell
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That's a great point I neglected to bring up.  An IT manager needs to be able to marry the business and IT, especially at high levels of management.  Low level managers might be closer to IT only, though the higher up one goes the more they will find themselves involved in the business side, so it is critical they understand the business, its processes, and its needs.
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by:rayluvs
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Very good points
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by:rayluvs
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Finally, what areas of knowledge or expertise should the IT manager have when the company IT environment is inclined to:  Microsoft products (desktop apps, MsSql, Windows Servers, VB .NET, etc.).
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by:pony10us
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Based on the wide range of of products mentioned can I ask what the function of the business is? That would help to answer this question.
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by:rayluvs
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Business operation is inclined to media market (promo agencies)
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by:pony10us
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Okay,  so is the IT Manager responsible for overseeing the creation of marketing materials or the equipment used to produce those materials? Will he/she be responsible for decisions related to what programs to use for the creation of the marketing materials?

It sounds to me like you need an idividual with a good background in software related to marketing as well as managing a data center. This individual needs to be able to direct/manage the day to day running of servers as well as be able to recommend and support the proper software tools required for marketing.

Since marketing is a highly graphical field I would like to suggest that this individual have a good background in both IBM and Apple. As we all know, IBM has always been the leader in number crunching as Apple has always been the leader in graphics. That is why you find that financial instutions and such are mostly IBM and newspaper/magazine institutions are mostly Macintosh.

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by:rayluvs
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Understood.  Thanx
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by:rayluvs
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Thanx
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