Institute Research Number 386 ISBN 1-58511-386-7 DOT Code 169.167-082 O*NET-SOC Code 11-3021.00
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY MANAGEMENT THE WORLD RUNS ON INFORMATION PROVIDED BY THESE COMPUTER EXPERTS FIFTY YEARS AGO, INFORMATION
technology management jobs were virtually nonexistent. People and businesses shared information on an informal, usually face-to-face basis. But when computers began serving as the backbone of nearly every industry’s operation, information sharing became a highly complex and technical task. As computers evolved, bright and innovative people developed new ways to bring together various technological advancements and create new methods to manage, share and store important data.
YOU MAY RISE TO THE TOP CORPORATE JOB OF CIO (CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER) In the past decade or so, information technology has been an incredible source of economic growth for the United States and the world. The US Department of Commerce reports that in recent years, information technology has accounted for a full third of all real economic growth and half of all productivity growth in this country. In fact, the United States leads the world in information and communications technology products and services. Information technology (IT) refers to all of the products, services and processes that turn data into useful information that’s also accessible. The main areas of the information technology industry are computer hardware, software and services. This can encompass everything from overseeing technical support for all employees’ computers to managing complex telecommunications, networking or software development projects. As the role of information technology in our lives and in the operations of nearly every company and industry today continues to increase, skilled managers will be needed to ensure that the technology effectively meets the needs of those who depend on it to make purchases from their homes, input data on company manufacturing and sales, or generate sophisticated financial and analysis reports. In many ways, use of information technology has almost become so commonplace that we hardly notice how much we depend on it every day – at least until something goes wrong. That’s the bottom line for information technology managers – to make sure that everyone in an organization gets information reliably and on time – no matter how large or complex the organization. Sometimes, the IT manager must jump in and find a solution. Or the manager might coordinate the efforts of a team of people to create a workable solution to an information management need or problem. Information technology management positions exist across industries, as well as across many different responsibility and salary levels. Those entering the field may follow a predetermined career path that leads from entry-level IT job, to project management or supervision of others, to a senior management position in a company. As the demand for computers and rapid information sharing continues, the number of people working in the information technology field will also increase. And as those numbers rise, more and more skilled managers will be needed to organize and supervise their efforts. Some 3
managers may go on to form their own companies or consult with client companies. Others may continue to advance in their organizations, eventually managing company functions beyond information technology. Those involved in information technology management positions spend their days performing both management duties and making decisions based on highly technical information. It’s a role that not everyone can succeed at or enjoy, but one that offers many rewards in job and industry selection, salary, location and advancement.
START PREPARING NOW IF YOU WANT TO BECOME AN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY MANAGER, YOU CAN TAKE
a number of different paths to reach your goal. With some research and planning, you can choose the path that works best for you. First, you’ll want to be sure you have the desire and skills to work in the information technology field. A number of Web sites give excellent information on IT job duties, required skills and opportunities.
Once you get a good look at the world of information technology, think about your desire to move into management positions. Assess whether you’ll want to supervise people, or if you prefer a career track that deals more with project development. Then take a look at your skills to see how they match the direction you will most likely choose. Starting in high school, take computer classes and spend lots of time on the Internet learning about the information technology field. The IT world is growing at such a rapid rate, you’ll often stumble across information in the news about IT careers and companies. Take a look at your local classified ads or check out some online job search sites to see what kinds of jobs are available and what types of skills they require. Fortunately, IT manager positions are plentiful across geographic locations and industries. You can combine your interest in information technology with interest in a particular field or industry and work toward the job you want most. If you’re bright and willing to work hard, you can move into a financially rewarding career as well.
HISTORY OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY MANAGEMENT THE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY FIELD IS A RELATIVELY YOUNG PROFESSION, UNLESS
you consider the inherent human need to count, communicate and record information. So even though we think of computers as a recent invention, the need to share data goes back to the earliest human times. Information technology is one of the fastest growing and changing fields you can enter. During the 20th century, computers went from the virtually unimaginable to the virtually inescapable. The history of computing really ties to the history of mathematics, since computers are based on manipulation of digital data. In that regard, computing can be traced back to 6000 BC when the Ishango bone-type tally stick was first used. Between 4000 BC and 1200 BC, Sumerian inhabitants kept records of their commercial transactions on clay tablets. Around 3000 BC, the abacus was invented in Babylonia. Then in about 1300 AD, the modern bead and wire abacus first replaced the older Chinese calculating rods. Wilhelm Schickard invented the first true calculating machine in 1623. For the first time, scholars had a tool to aid in multiplication of multi-digit numbers. By 1666, an English inventor produced a mechanical calculator that could add and subtract. The industrial revolution saw development of various engines throughout the 1800s. In 1844, Samuel Morse sent his first telegraph message, and by 1858 a telegraph cable spanned the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. In the late 1890s, the Tabulating Machine Company was begun. In 1914, Thomas Watson Sr. left National Cash Registers (NCR) and joined the fledgling company which was later renamed International Business Machines (IBM). About 10 years later, Bell Labs was formed, later becoming one of the premier research centers on communications and computers. Soon after, the computer revolution really took off. In 1932, Bell Labs created “Daisy,” the first computer-generated tune. Television transmission, development of the binary number system, and IBM’s first electric typewriter followed. William Hewlett and David Packard formed Hewlett-Packard in a garage in Palo Alto, California. In 1940, the Z2 computer became the first fully functioning electromechanical computer. Digital Equipment was formed in 1958.
IBM held the market on electromechanical computing for years, providing computing as a bundled service. In other words, the company rented computing services to other companies. Under continued antitrust threats, IBM unbundled its prices in 1969, charging separately for hardware, software and services. This eventually led to specialization within the IT industry. The mid-20th century saw development of, and continued reliance on, mainframe computers. At the same time, various innovations were being tested, including Apple Computer, word processing, telecommunications technology, and even the invention of the first video games, like Pac Man, in 1979. Some early attempts at personal computers were made and in 1981, IBM introduced its PC. The Big Bang of computing followed soon after, with the start of open systems, microprocessors, and future IT giants like Compaq, Seagate and Microsoft. In fact, in 1982, Time magazine named the computer its “Man of the Year.” Then the U.S. government ordered the breakup of AT & T, paving the way for development of new telecommunications and network strategies. In 1986, the National Science Foundation established a network of five supercomputing centers, starting an explosion in networking. By 1990, there were more than 54 million computers in the United States. That same year, Tim Berners-Lee developed the prototype for the World Wide Web, and the programming language through which the concept worked. The Internet boomed and in 1998, Network Solutions registered its 2 millionth Web site domain name. In 1993, networked computers began to take the place of standalone PCs. At the turn of the century, IT managers throughout the country and the world worked overtime in preparation for an expected Y2K problem. As it turned out, most of the panic over Y2K was unfounded. But the phenomenon created projects, jobs and stress for IT workers and managers as they sought to ensure systems would operate past midnight on December 31, 2000. Throughout the history of computing, the IT manager’s job has evolved. Before true computing, scientists and engineers worked independently or in teams to incorporate advancements in technology with the needs of government, business and consumers to manage, store and transmit information. Today, IT managers work at software and hardware development companies to create the “latest and greatest” tools.
In the world of information technology, speed has remained a buzzword. Indeed, the public’s expectations for instant communication have likely added pressure to the work of IT managers and their employees to develop, integrate, and repair systems immediately. And the more people rely on computerized technology to organize and store their information, the more likely the urgency of IT management will grow. In the early days, IT managers might have served as a one-stop shop for their companies’ computing needs. Then organizations added computers to almost every employees’ workstation, and more and more functions turned electronic. Soon it made sense to connect all of the computers in the company, necessitating a good knowledge of the hardware, cables and supporting equipment that enable networking of computers within or between locations. For example, in the healthcare industry, computer technology first enabled developers to advance equipment capabilities, like digitizing x-ray images. Soon, administrators and secretaries began using computers’ word processing or spreadsheet capabilities. Eventually, hospitals began entering and storing patient information in health information systems, sharing data among departments, tracking patients’ insurance information, etc. Then they started storing entire medical records, even copies of those x-rays, on computers. Today, they may also share the information with doctors in their offices. In this example, the IT manager’s job evolved from one of troubleshooting a few select and individual computer workstations to purchasing new systems, to coordinating a move to an entire health information system. Eventually, the hospital might have hired several IT managers, one who oversaw hardware and another who coordinated the health information system and its network. Dependence on computers is virtually inescapable. Computers and computer networks touch almost every aspect of our lives. Younger generations might not remember a day when they didn’t encounter digital equipment and computers every day and virtually everywhere. Not only are IT manager positions plentiful, they’re also critical and at times stressful. Imagine the job of the IT manager at say, a nuclear power plant, or a large national bank.
WHERE IT MANAGERS WORK THE HOSPITAL EXAMPLE WILL ILLUSTRATE THAT IT MANAGERS MAY WORK IN JUST
about any industry. While many of the jobs exist at computer technology firms, a greater number of managers work in other industries. The rapid and steady adoption of information technology means that companies in every sector of American society now see IT as fundamental to their operations. Americans have also embraced computer technology in personal activities. In the past decade, the number of workers in the computer and software industries has tripled. IT workers are also employed in manufacturing, financial, retail, service, entertainment, nonprofit, transportation and other companies, as well as government. In fact, non-IT companies remain the largest employer of IT workers, at 9.5 million people, or 10 times the number of IT workers who work for specialized information technology companies. And the need for IT workers and managers reaches into every geographic region of the country, not just into areas with concentrations of high-tech firms. The most typical industries which employ a higher concentration of IT managers include: Manufacturing Electronics firms Chemical companies Transportation equipment companies Finance and banking industry Some IT managers work in smaller organizations, perhaps handling all aspects of information technology – the company’s computer hardware, software, operating system and network. Others might oversee a team of IT professionals in a large company, and may specialize as manager of a particular aspect of information technology in an organization. The IT manager usually has an office in a company’s headquarters. Sometimes, the manager works in close proximity to the hardware that runs the company’s information systems, often confined to a computer room, with special flooring and cabling. Depending on the IT manager’s expertise and level within the company, he/she might have a more imposing office near the company’s CEO and other executive leadership.
The IT manager usually works in a typical office building or manufacturing plant. In some cases, the IT manager might work in the field, or at least travel to remote offices or sites as needed. IT managers working in computer-related organizations might have an office in the production area of the company’s campus, working closely with employees manufacturing computer chips and other components, peripheral devices (printers, cameras, scanners and the like) or supporting devices. If involved on the software side, an IT manager not only oversees development of the product, but also is likely involved in initial creation of the product early on. IT managers might be self-employed as freelance consultants. For example, an experienced IT professional may offer services to various companies to assist in specific areas of expertise within information technology. The consultant could serve as a resource to smaller companies who don’t have their own in-house IT managers. Many IT managers work for large corporations, including Fortune 500 companies. National organizations need IT managers to oversee critical functions of their business, ensuring that employees can access information and that confidential data remain secure.
WHAT IT MANAGERS DO INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY MANAGERS HAVE TWO ROLES:
They serve as a business manager and administrator, overseeing budgets, projects and time lines. They act as technical advisors and experts. Their main duties are to plan, coordinate, design and produce computer-related services and functions. In most cases, IT managers are responsible for all computer-related activities in a department or entire organization. They may also oversee all telecommunications, the technology that enables computers to connect to one another through a network. IT managers utilize advanced knowledge of technical information and experience to oversee a number of activities. Often, their assignments come from top management in a company. In other cases, they use initiative to solve technological problems and even strategize with senior managers on company direction. Once senior executives and IT managers set goals, the manager must make – and oversee completion of – detailed plans to reach those goals. For example, if a company decides to automate a process that has been done manually in the past, the IT manager must come up with a workable plan. If the company decides to automate payroll, for instance, the IT manager and certain IT employees will meet with the payroll supervisor or clerk. The IT department must gather information on how data is currently tracked, the functions that new software must perform, and the hardware needs of the users and selected software. In addition, they might need to add or change networking of various computers to share or transmit the information. The IT manager may oversee purchase of a pre-designed payroll software program or work with the payroll staff to design one in-house. Once initial plans are made, the IT manager ensures that the team meets established deadlines. These sorts of duties may seem simple, but in the world of technology, many different pieces of the puzzle can slip. Computers talk to each other via different languages, and telecommunications services can be tricky and complicated. Imagine the uproar at the company if payroll does not go out on time or if paychecks arrive with incorrect amounts.
Supervision skills prove essential to IT managers. They will likely have to hire, evaluate and direct the work of the technical staff. In addition, the IT manager sets departmental policies and procedures. This part of the management job can turn out to be the toughest for some IT managers. After all, IT training traditionally involved machines and numbers more than people. It can be hard to evaluate an employee’s efforts when the person worked hard and well, but something just went wrong. IT managers may spend a great deal of time coordinating activities and working closely with other managers and departments. They must communicate effectively. One of the biggest challenges for IT managers in communicating is the technological literacy of the rest of the managers and work force. The IT manager must be able to explain complex terms and concepts to non-technical people. Likewise, an IT manager must listen carefully to the needs of departments within an organization and be responsive to people’s feelings. In a large corporation, the IT manager might be in charge of employees with these titles: Systems analyst Computer programmer Help desk staff Technical support staff Network architect Internet/intranet supervisor Installers Computer engineer Describing the typical day of an IT manager is difficult, as these jobs vary widely from organization to organization. What’s more, the typical day for any IT manager may start out with a plan and end up completely different. The manager might have scheduled a project update meeting, a new team meeting, and then spending three hours working on next year’s budget. During the project update meeting, it is discovered that the project is seriously behind schedule. The manager must take over and help direct it back on track. As a result of this development, the IT manager may have to forewarn a particular department that’s ready to implement the new solution that it might not be completed on schedule, and then help develop a temporary contingency plan. The IT executive may also have to report the problem to a senior executive within information services or in the affected department. 11
In the team meeting, early problems are apparent involving some personnel conflicts. The manager must take the involved employees aside, listen and review the situation, and help guide the employees to resolution. The manager also has to document this information for future reference. Next, unexpectedly one essential part of the computer system crashes, and the IT manager helps direct the support staff to get it up and running as soon as possible. The manager might have to deal with irate co-workers impacted by the down time of the system. Each time a crash occurs, the manager has to log the time, reasons, etc. By the end of the day, the IT manager never got to the last item on the day’s agenda – working on next year’s budget. But the day was filled with some satisfying problem resolution, learning a few new things, and preparation for smoother sailing the next work day. Within IT management, organizations may employ several different administrative levels and job categories, depending on the degree of responsibility, specific IT needs, and the importance information technology plays within the company. Common examples include:
Information Systems Manager The information systems (IS) manager oversees operations within an IS department. This might include employees who provide technical support, training and network operations. If the organization is large, the IS manager might oversee these services for a particular functional department (for example, manufacturing or administration). Or the manager might oversee one particular information services department, like technical support/help desk. Typical duties of an IS manager might include: Working with other department managers to coordinate computer resources, access and support. Supervising computer operators, programmers and systems analysts. Planning for expansion or upgrade of equipment for the organization and the IS department. Ensuring that IS staff deals with computer users’ needs promptly and effectively. Hiring, evaluating and day-to-day supervision of IS department staff. Preparing departmental plans and budgets. 12
Tracking departmental budgets and performance indicators and reporting to upper-level IT or organization managers. Helping prepare, track and report on plans and budgets for IS projects, or for IS department’s role in organization-wide projects. In smaller organizations, providing hands-on support. Information Systems Director A step up from the information systems manager, this position holds a larger degree of responsibility. Although many of the duties performed by both types of managers overlap, the difference lies in the fact that the director holds ultimate responsibility for all of the IS functions, perhaps even supervising several IS managers. Particular duties often include: Planning for expansion or upgrading of all computer/IT resources in an organization. Overseeing the big picture of the information services function, while IS managers oversee and report on day-to-day operational issues. Working with the organization’s top management to budget for computer resources. Setting organization-wide standards for software, equipment, training, support and other IT-related issues. Working with organization managers and IS managers to coordinate better support and planning of computing/information technology services and resources. Developing long-term plans for the IS department as a whole, and for the company’s information services needs. Reviewing budgets and plans of IS departments in cooperation with IS managers. In a medium to large corporation, the IS director is at the top of the IS career ladder.
Chief Information Officer The chief information officer (CIO) serves
as the controlling executive for all information services functions and policies. This position exists more and more in large and complex organizations. In the CIO position, the IT manager performs as a top executive, much like a chief financial officer (CFO) or a vice-president of marketing or operations.
CIOs become involved in more than just overseeing of IS functions. These professionals provide input into the organization’s strategy, direction and goals. Typical duties include: Responsibility for long-term planning and setting overall policies, procedures and standards for the entire organization’s information technology-related activities. Staying knowledgeable about IT trends and innovations in order to plan strategic moves in information technology for the company or organization. Helping the company’s other senior managers by suggesting ways that information technology can support company goals, improve performance, even take an edge over competitors. Gathering information from managers and directors to help make long-range plans and report on performance, or make proposals to, the chief executive officer (CEO) or board of directors. Delegating responsibility for carrying out goals, budgets and strategies to the appropriate departments and IT managers. The actual title in any given organization for an IT manager may vary. Government, military or university systems often use specific titles and levels of management jobs. Military information technology can be intricate and critical. The beginnings of the Internet really rose from the government’s need to share information and the military’s need to communicate across distances.
IT in Education
Universities maintain complex information systems as well. At a university, an IT manager might be responsible for a network connecting buildings and people on campus, or even at other campuses or off-campus sites. The manager might oversee Web design professionals who maintain and update a useful and functioning Web site with classes, scheduling and registration. The registration and grade recording of students will likely be automated, as will the personnel and payroll systems for university employees. Hardware responsibility might range from stand-alone PCs and laptop computers to networking routers, and supercomputers used by campus researchers.
Jobs With IT Companies
IT managers who work for information technology companies might have slightly different duties, although their backgrounds may be similar. For example, an IT manager working for a computer manufacturer might oversee research and development for new components of the computer. The manager might meet regularly with a team for progress reports, investigate new technology, stay abreast of competitor developments, and respond to senior managers’ requests for information. The technology industry remains very dynamic, and the way data is used, stored, and transmitted changes regularly. Computers and hardware that provide the platform for information technology evolve. Even video games provide an excellent example. Not that many years ago, Pac Man entered the scene with its large table-like design and joystick operation. Today, games played on television or computer systems have become extremely sophisticated and fast. Original mainframe computers used punch cards, with holes for data that the computer read. Next, came large floppy disks, then diskettes. Soon, CDs and DVDs entered the scene, storing immense quantities of sophisticated data. Computer processors have become more powerful and much faster. People have come to expect a great deal from their computers and rely on them heavily. All of this means that the role of an IT manager will keep changing and will remain busy. When companies update their operating systems or release new versions of software, someone has to update the computers the software programs operate on. That task usually falls to the IT department, and the manager not only oversees such activities, but determines when they will be needed. So on both a daily and yearly basis, the IT manager faces continual changes, updates and sometimes difficult and unexpected problems that must be solved rapidly and accurately. The IT manager remains a critical and well-respected person in most organizations, possessing essential knowledge that others simply can’t comprehend, but must tap into frequently in order to successfully perform their own jobs.
IT PROFESSIONALS TELL ABOUT THEIR CAREERS I Started Out Working as the “Computer Person” and Now Manage Large Projects as an IT Manager “Not long out of
college, I began working for a group of radiologists. These doctors employ about 30 people who manage their business and bill insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid, and patients for the services the doctors perform. In the beginning, they mostly needed help updating the computers, keeping everything running smoothly, and training staff in computer data entry. I handled the day-to-day technical support, calling on an outside consultant to help with problems that were beyond my skills and training. Each time I called on him, I learned a little bit more and the next time a similar problem occurred, I could usually handle it myself. Eventually, we didn’t even need to pay for outside services anymore. A few years into my job, we relocated our main office. I was involved from the start, helping architects and contractors plan where to drop data cables for the computer stations needed for each person or department. As the workers remodeled the building, I helped solve issues on cabling and wiring. I also made sure we planned ahead. While we had open walls and available professionals, I figured we might as well prepare for future growth and change. So we put in lots of drops and kept our main computer area open for possible growth. It’s a good thing we planned ahead, because two things soon happened. First, the group began to grow. They added physicians and began receiving new contracts for providing radiology services to different healthcare providers. At the same time, healthcare experienced a real revolution in automating functions. For example, Medicare began accepting claims data electronically, and other payors followed suit. The hospital we worked with most started an aggressive information technology plan and physician groups participated. Since our doctors needed patient information from the hospital in 16
order to bill for their services, we began to automate how we got that information. We discovered that receiving data directly from their computer files saved us time and possible errors in entering the same data. Of course, getting electronic information from the hospital didn’t happen smoothly. I had to work with them on the technical side of this project – getting our systems to “talk” to each other – and on the business side. We had to work carefully with them to help them understand our data needs, capabilities and time lines. It took some negotiating and a lot of patience. Next, we became involved in a large “teleradiology” project. Our physicians set up contracts to read radiology films transmitted electronically directly from the hospital and from locations in other states. This project was a major challenge and an important new direction for the physicians. A lot of up-front costs were at stake, as were many service issues that depended heavily on the technical system we put in place. I worked closely with a business development manager. She handled many of the planning, service and people issues, while I supported the technical side of the work. But our duties overlapped some too. She had to learn enough about the technology to help explain it and to set up the policies and procedures we used. I had to learn about the business side – how to phase in technology for instance, to save some money. Or to set up the technology so that it followed the natural workflow of the physicians and met all sorts of clinical and technical requirements set by the organizations in the medical field. We installed high speed lines with a frame relay network that connected our physician’s workstation to remote sites 24 hours a day. I had to help select the technology – software and hardware – that we purchased. Then I worked with the vendors at installation. I also coordinated the efforts of several different telecommunications providers to install the network and troubleshoot it when things went wrong. The transmission of radiology images becomes very complex. First, the images must be digitized so that they can be sent in electronic format. Next, the images produce large sets of data, 17
much larger than that of a digital photo you might e-mail to a friend. In order to transmit this massive data in a timely manner, we had to choose a high-bandwidth solution. The workstations that displayed the images consisted of huge rectangular 24-inch wide monitors. And the software that received and displayed the images was different from a typical program. So although I could understand it enough to use it and to help the physicians, I couldn’t jump in and fix an error without help from the vendor. The installation was very stressful. The business development manager and I put in many long hours trying to finalize the details. With so many different vendors and providers and types of equipment included in the complex system, even more could go wrong. And it did. I had to coordinate troubleshooting so that the hardware installers didn’t blame the telecommunications company, for instance. I also trained the physicians on how to use the software. This proved a challenge, since some had computer experience and others didn’t. So each training was different. I was on call with a pager during the project and often got calls at odd hours of the night or had to drop other projects to run down and help solve a problem. The project was very rewarding though. In addition to the teleradiology project, I’ve overseen the selection, purchase and installation of a new billing system, a transition to purely electronic storage of data, and several other office moves. Throughout these projects, I continued to help employees at all our sites with ongoing computer support. At one point, I had to hire another employee to help. It was hard at first, because I had to train the new person, and it seemed easier at times to take care of it myself. But now I’m glad to have help, and we work well together. My assistant has taken on more of the day-to-day support and training. I’m free to do a little more planning and to oversee the big picture of all of our IT needs. I love my job and even though the amount of overtime I put in does take time from my family, I still wouldn’t trade my job for anything. I’ve been able to advance through hard work, lots of 18
self-instruction, and some formal training. I stay involved in different computer and IT groups and monitor Web sites and magazines for current trends. Most of all, I stay active in organizations devoted to health information systems and healthcare issues. I also watch trends in telemedicine and radiology.”
I Help Other Companies With IT Projects “After nearly 10 years of working in IT
for a bank system, I decided to move to a job that required more of what I love best – project management. So I applied for this position as an IT projects specialist/team leader for an IT services and consulting company. My employer’s main concern was that I knew how to apply information technology and all of the things that computers, software and networks can do to solve business problems for our clients. I had a lot of experience at the bank with introducing new systems and services, so my experience there really helped. One of the things I love about my job is the way I get to interact with people and help them. When I work with a client on a project, I love getting to know their business and needs. And I really love the satisfaction I get from thinking of an idea they like, one that helps them accomplish whatever it is they need. I’ve worked with a lumber company that grew to a regional operation and helped them set up a database. They wanted to share information across states and wanted a better system for tracking inventory. Sometimes, they would run out of something or end up with a surplus of an item they could never sell. They were fun to work with and it was a nice change for me. I even loved going into their headquarters behind the main store and smelling the fresh wood.
I’ve also transferred my knowledge of banking and finance to needs of our clients. In fact, I’m sort of the banking specialist among our team leaders. I work carefully with them to make sure they use their IT resources as wisely as possible. Banks have lots of scrutiny from boards on how they spend their money, and I know when I work with those clients that we’ll have to do more than just show that a technology will make their workers more efficient. We have to show it in dollars and cents. The greatest satisfaction I get from my job is helping others be successful through technology. I always breathe a heavy sigh of relief at the end of each project, sometimes because I’ve been working so many hours to wrap it up. But also because I know I helped them accomplish something that would have been a lot tougher, or maybe impossible, without my technical expertise. I encourage students who like people, and who also have good computer skills and like electronics to consider IT management as a career.”
PERSONAL QUALIFICATIONS IT MANAGERS MUST POSSESS A STRONG COMBINATION OF PERSONAL SKILLS. FIRST IS
the ability to study, comprehend and perform the complex technical aspects of their jobs. A love of and aptitude for mathematics, computers and engineering concepts will help tremendously. If you’re comfortable around computer software and hardware and find that you easily pick up on new software programs, you probably have good technical skills. You can learn many of the skills needed for IT manager jobs through formal education, but your education and resulting job will be made easier if you already possess some natural skills for grasping technical concepts and solving complex problems. As a project manager, you’ll will always need those technical skills, but you’ll also need to understand the business side of your industry. Business skills become increasingly important as you advance up the IT management ladder. For instance, the CIO must have a good grasp of accounting, planning, marketing and other business concepts. An IT manager can’t really facilitate delivering the best product or service without an appreciation of the overall business the product addresses. Many school projects and classes help you assess your business and project management skills. If you’ve been involved in school organizations and successfully coordinated special projects like fundraisers, you’ve got a good basis for managing IT projects. Watch how well you manage your time with homework efforts or chores. And any work experience that teaches you how to manage your time and doing multiple tasks at the same time will provide good business basics. Behavioral skills are equally critical. You have to possess good communication and negotiations skills, in order to motivate your own employees. You might even have to supervise and inspire a team of people from throughout the organization. And once you enter management in a company, the government or any organization, you’ll need good supervisory skills. Often, people with excellent technical skills advance up the IT ladder, only to falter when it comes to supervising and motivating others. If you’ve shown good leadership and sportsmanship in team sports or school and community activities, you might have just what it takes to lead others on complex IT projects. If you’ve been told before that you’re good with people or you’re a good teacher, consider these excellent qualities to have as you enter the IT management field. 21
IT managers need to possess the following personal qualifications: Good problem-solving skills Ability to schedule activities Ability to prioritize tasks and activities Good communications skills – both speaking and written Strategic thinking skills Willingness and ability to delegate tasks to others Sense of teamwork and ability to work with others Responsiveness to needs and ability to act fast Good motivational skills Self confidence Strong leadership skills Above-average technical skills If you feel you’re lacking in any of these qualifications, seek some additional training or work experience to help improve them. For example, if you lack in business skills, volunteer for a school or community project, testing and refining your ability to coordinate a project from start to finish.
ATTRACTIVE FEATURES OF THIS CAREER IT MANAGEMENT PRESENTS MANY ATTRACTIVE FEATURES TO PEOPLE WITH THE RIGHT
skills and personality. If you like change, excitement and continuous learning, you’ll love this career field. The rapid pace of technological development and the saturation of computers into every aspect of our lives guarantee that this field will remain exciting for the foreseeable future. The rapid growth of technology creates additional jobs at all levels of information services. These workers will need managers to coordinate their efforts and to hire and retain the best people possible in a competitive job market. This means the role of IT managers will remain critical in spite of fluctuations in high-tech company success. A strong IT manager can transfer skills from one industry to another, assuming a good grasp of business concepts. If you feel a good sense of satisfaction from tackling and solving problems of the technical or non-technical sort, you’ll like your job as an IT manager. You might be in a position that allows or requires you to jump in immediately and solve a business or technical problem. Or you might be just as pleased by the accomplishments of a team you supervise or guide. 22
Pay and benefits for IT managers continue to remain excellent. Depending on your training, the industry and specific job responsibilities, you could make more than the average manager in your organization. In addition, employers generally consider continuing education crucial for IT professionals and will likely pay for you to advance your skills and knowledge. Companies offer other benefits to attract and retain good IT workers. You might receive offers for flexible working hours, extra child or elderly care benefits, signing bonuses and other incentives. If you like a mental challenge, this is the job for you. IT managers face many opportunities to combine technical and creative approaches to business solutions. Time after time, company leadership turns to IT professionals to help devise a way to “do it better, faster, cheaper.” Your efforts can have quite an impact on a company’s business performance. You can gain a great deal of professional satisfaction from knowing you contributed to a successful project, product launch or cost savings effort. If you advance to the CIO level, you might even receive monetary rewards for the company’s success in the form of bonuses or stock options. You’ll enjoy good working conditions as an IT manager. Sometimes, information services departments get located away from other offices. They might be offsite or sit in a basement because of the cabling and cooling needs of computer equipment. But usually a manager will have a pleasant and possibly private office near company administration. As the person responsible for information systems functions, other employees or members of an organization will often admire you since you possess knowledge and skills they need but don’t have.
UNATTRACTIVE FEATURES SOMETIMES, YOU OR YOUR TEAM CAN’T SOLVE A PROBLEM, AT LEAST NOT AS RAPIDLY
as a department or user wants, so you might be put under a great deal of stress from management and coworkers. Since the technical aspects of your job are difficult to explain or grasp, others might not understand your reasons for not being able to accomplish a goal on their time line. IT workers may feel “left out” by other departments. Fellow employees might view them as “tech-heads.” IT organizations are working to improve understanding of their role in the corporate world. Sometimes, other departments make an issue of those times when things don’t go right. The IT managers are charged with improving and maintaining good communication and cooperation between information services and other departments or work areas. Most IT managers work very full weeks and can easily put in more than 40 hours, especially near project deadlines or equipment installations. Likewise, IT managers must often share on-call duty. If a system breaks down, someone must oversee its repair and return to operation. In a small company, this might mean being on constant call, which can tie you down and frustrate friends and family members. Constant change and advancements in information technology can prove a burden to those IT managers who don’t want to spend personal time updating their skills. If you don’t stay abreast of change, you’ll get passed by for promotions and may even find it difficult to perform your job. Supervision of employees can take its toll on any good manager. You might find that the personnel supervision aspects of your job frustrate you so much that you give up management and return to the more comfortable technical duties you performed before becoming a manager. IT managers often get caught between the demands of company goals and strategies, and unrealistic expectations of technology. You might find that the education level required by IT management jobs will keep you in school longer than you like.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING WITH THE GROWTH OF THIS INDUSTRY, MORE AND MORE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
have begun offering degrees aimed at information technology management careers. The names of specific degree programs vary. Colleges may call their computer science programs: Computer science Computer science and engineering Information systems Management information systems Computer engineering Software engineering
Most traditional information systems/computer science programs prepare students for IT management careers with coursework in: Software design and development Information services infrastructure Application development Database design Database administration and management Telecommunications or networking fundamentals Programming language operating systems Microprocessing systems Calculus Physics Many current and future IT managers begin a career after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a basic computer science program. However, recent trends have shown a tremendous interest in programs aimed specifically at the business/technical side of information systems. These degree programs are often offered through a university’s business school. Enrollment in these management information systems programs has soared, as students hear of opportunities in IT management. While many people who choose this field are interested primarily in the technical side of it, most technical degrees do little to prepare graduates for the business duties required of IT managers today. Typical courses in business school information systems degree programs include: Accounting Economics 25
Business information systems development Programming Telecommunications basics Information systems management Business database basics Systems design Networking Electronic commerce Other business courses (marketing, management, communications) Most job postings for IT managers require a minimum bachelor’s degree from an information systems accredited degree program. For information services director positions, a bachelor’s degree and experience are normally required. CIOs generally possess a graduate degree and substantial experience. Often, information services directors and CIOs must have master’s degrees in business administration (MBA). The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) outlines criteria for accrediting computer science programs. When choosing a school, you might want to check their list of accredited programs. IT management education comes in many different forms and combinations. Stories abound of IT employees with no formal education who work their way into management positions. While some IT managers have reached their careers through that path, it’s becoming less common as the history of this profession lengthens and expectations for the job evolve. Also, more universities offer comprehensive programs that prepare graduates for IT management positions. Many IT management positions require more than just the right degree. Depending on the job level and responsibilities, experience may be required. The experience might be in actual IT employment, other project/business management functions, or in a specific technical area like networking or software design. If you choose to enter the field without a bachelor’s degree, you’ll likely need some vocational education, usually in the form of a two-year associate’s degree, to land a good entry-level job. In addition to formal university education, employers often require IT managers to hold various industry certifications. For example, IT managers overseeing security might obtain the Certified Security Specialist
Professional (CSSP) designation in addition to formal education in information services and business basics. Other certifications, like the Software Engineering Certification offered by the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society might be required or might make an IT manager more marketable.
EARNINGS THE POTENTIALLY HIGH SALARIES OF IT MANAGERS DRAW MANY PROFESSIONALS INTO
the field. With the right education, experience and advancement, you can earn an excellent salary and land a job with great benefits too. Average starting salaries for information technology managers range from about $50,000 per year to more than $100,000. IT managers at senior levels, like CIO or vice-president, often receive bonuses based on a company’s performance. A bonus comes once a year or may be awarded quarterly, and a manager may also receive a bonus based on the department’s or the individual’s performance.
A recent survey listed the top annual salaries for IT managers. Those at the senior management level (most likely in the CIO positions) make exceptionally high salaries. The survey breaks top manager salaries down by industry and company size (based on company revenue). The average CIO earns almost $175,000 per year in salary and bonuses. CIOs working in business services/consulting and systems integration earn total compensation of more than $350,000. For all industries, CIOs in companies with more than $500 million in reported revenue earned upwards of $200,000 per year. For IS director positions, the average salary plus bonus is reported at about $100,000. IS managers in the financial industry earn about $125,000 per year. While potential salaries for senior IT managers reach high levels (some have been reported into the millions), these positions, though certainly worth striving for, are the exceptions. Most IT managers make closer to the average salary ranges reported – about $50,000 to $80,000 per year. The actual salary depends on a number of variables.
Company size and type of industry cause variations in earnings. In a cyclical economy, different industries show success at different economic times. Plus, some industries just pay more altogether. An IT manager might benefit from a higher salary level overall in a computer software development company, for instance. A nonprofit or education employer likely pays less for IT managers, but may offer more opportunity for entry into the field and for advancement. Maybe a company is expanding its emphasis on IT or entering the world of e-commerce. In this case, company leaders will recruit top managers to accomplish their goals. Your salary may also depend on company size, department size, or the number of employees you supervise. Of course, your education level, certifications and experience greatly influence the type and level of job you’ll land, and the salary you’ll command once there. Benefits can be excellent for IT managers as well. Almost all companies offer a retirement plan and flexible hours. Most offer college and continuing education tuition reimbursement. Individual bonuses and employee referral bonuses (for helping to recruit an IT worker), as well as pre-tax spending accounts for medical expenses, are offered by many companies. Some companies offer telecommuting, professional certification reimbursement, on-site fitness centers, paid family leave, profit sharing and comp time for extra hours worked. These are benefits above and beyond typical healthcare and disability insurance. Some companies even offer unique benefits like lactation rooms for nursing mothers and on-site dry cleaning. The purpose of these bonus benefits is to recruit good IT workers and to keep them happy – so that they are more productive and remain longer with the company.
OPPORTUNITIES THE DEMAND FOR IT WORKERS AT ALL LEVELS CONTINUES TO INCREASE. ONE
survey found that one in every 14 workers in the US is in some way involved in information technology, and that one in every 12 IT jobs goes unfilled for lack of appropriately skilled applicants. Overall demand levels off some during a slowing economy, and many dot.com start-up companies do not survive. However, experts predict that employment of IT workers will continue to grow. The technology field encounters problems with filling jobs because not enough people qualify for the level of skills these positions demand. So a graduate with good technical skills can readily obtain a good IT job. Applicants with managerial training and/or experience in addition to a good technical background can land an excellent IT manager job early in their careers. Those professionals who have a good combination of business and IT skills are in particular demand and are paid well. About 25% of unfilled IT jobs are in technical support – those who help users troubleshoot their computer software, hardware and peripherals. Support personnel require managers who hire, evaluate and supervise their efforts. Another unfilled area involves training. IT professionals are often called upon to train users on new equipment, software and systems. These workers must possess an excellent balance of interpersonal and technical skills. Many training positions either fall at the IT manager level or come under the supervision of an IS director or manager. Skilled IT managers with backgrounds in data processing receive many calls from recruiters, as demand is high in that area. Information technology reaches beyond our own country. The global economy enabled by the Internet and world trade means that demand for IT workers is an international concern. Very few countries have a surplus of IT workers, so in effect, US companies compete with countries throughout the world for skilled IT workers. This competition is more likely to be felt among higher-level IT jobs, like information systems directors and CIOs. One of the reasons for the shortage of available employees may be that companies work so hard to keep their current IT workers and managers happy and on the job. A recent survey showed that almost 75 percent of IT managers are satisfied with their current positions and have no intention of leaving. 29
More than any other industry, information technology remains in constant flux. A worker or manager may gain a new skill, like a programming language, only to find it outdated in a matter of three or four years. So a particular skill may no longer be needed, but overall demand for IT managers remains strong. Managers who maintain a diverse background and stay abreast of technological trends will be well positioned for advancement.
Those who wish to obtain the high-paying,
high-responsibility jobs of CIO and vice-president may do so, but must give their advancement some time. Continuing education and constant attention to IT trends and developments helps prepare managers for the highest-level positions. And in this relatively new field, sometimes a little luck enters the picture.
GETTING STARTED BEGIN PREPARING NOW. CHECK INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ASSOCIATIONS’ WEB
sites. You’ll find that many organizations sponsor efforts to increase high school students’ interest in information technology careers. You might even find scholarship programs. The associations also offer current information on types of IT manager jobs, demand and salary. See your school guidance counselor to get help on identifying the best college program for you. If you want to steer more toward technical skills, select a university with an excellent computer science program and reputation. Check the ABET Web site for lists of accredited programs. If you’re more interested in the business side of IT management, you’re in luck. The number of new programs that offer a business/IT management degree will continue to grow. Take a look at the course offerings and talk to your counselor about your ability to meet their entrance requirements. Maybe you can’t go to a university right away. You can start your education at a community college and transfer credits later. Or start working in an entry-level IT job, preferably at a company that offers education reimbursement, and get your degree as you go. Spend some time tracking IT trends. Demand for workers, salaries and even job duties can change rapidly in this industry. Bookmark some favorite Web sites or regularly review a computer industry magazine at the library or get your own subscription. You can even search for jobs online, as if you’ve already graduated. This will help you learn what types of companies hire IT managers, how much they pay, and what sort of qualifications they require. You can also check your local newspaper classifieds for IT management jobs. Most of all, spend some time assessing your own interests and skills. Can you picture yourself in an IT management career? How about the lifestyle it brings – lots of hours but a rewarding salary and benefits? Do you have that great balance of technical skills combined with the ability to communicate and work with people? If so, this just might be the perfect career for you.
Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) www.itaa.org
Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) www.abet.org
Computing Research Association www.cra.org
Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals www.iccp.org
Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers www.computer.org