Ask the IT Consultant

Dec 29 2010   11:30PM GMT

The Evolving Role of the IT Manager – Part 2

Beth Cohen Beth Cohen Profile: Beth Cohen

Question: How can the modern IT manager leverage the new technologies to deliver the most business value to their organization?

Previously I touched on the nature of the IT manager’s role and how it is changing in this new world of sophisticated service delivery, the virtual IT organization, global right sourcing, and a plethora of emerging on-line business models and IT services.  How is it possible for an IT manager to maintain currency in technology while building business skills that can be applied to delivering better IT services to their organization?  To achieve business excellence, what is needed is a different understanding of the both role of IT within the organization and how IT has transformed business in general.

Once IT is a commodity as an IT manager, keeping up on the latest technical skills is like chasing rainbows – there is no pot of gold, just more rainbows.  Despite what Nicholas Carr said in 2003 about IT not mattering anymore, in fact most people agree that it matters a great deal.  However, why and how it matters has changed.  Since IT is no longer a competitive advantage, but a requirement for any successful business, it is vital that IT managers gain understanding and skills in the fundamental business processes of their market segment or industry.  In my thinking, this needs to take precedence over technical skills.  Ironically, in many ways we are moving away from the IT specialist roles of the past 20 years and back towards industry subject matter experts who have enough IT knowledge to apply it in creative ways.  The combination of an expertise in a specific vertical industry and a general technical understanding is far more desirable to industry hiring managers than a deep proficiency in IT skills.  This works because in a labor market where general IT technical skills are easily obtained for relatively little money from a worldwide labor market and the majority of IT systems and services are commodities in the cloud, the real value comes from a deep understanding of how to apply IT to business problems.  Leave the deep technical projects to the IT specialists and outsourcers, but use business skills to apply IT to solve business problems and advance organizational objectives.

The best way to gain those skills is to concentrate on learning business skills.  What people often forget is the business skills are not just what you learn in school, although taking business classes in finance, project management and/or business processes will certainly help.  The more important business skills that must truly be learned on the job are the so called soft skills, such as project management, organization and general management, sales and leadership.  With this combination, an IT manager will be able to stay competitive in the new business world order.

About the Author

Beth Cohen, Cloud Technology Partners, Inc. Moving companies’ IT services into the cloud the right way, the first time!

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