As technology continues to transform modern workflows, the relationship between IT and business has become increasingly symbiotic. High-level decision-makers rely on IT professionals’ development efforts to improve productivity and drive profitable growth, but overseeing these processes requires both technical expertise and management skills. This accounts for why IT manager positions are projected to grow by 12% from 2016 to 2026, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and this opens a range of career opportunities for aspiring technology experts and seasoned professionals alike. However, it’s important to consider the unique responsibilities that come with supervisory roles before you apply, as there is a chance they may not align with your career aspirations. If you’re wondering how to become a manager, it’s crucial to understand what is unique about overseeing IT systems and technical staff.
What is IT management?
Unlike hands-on technology roles, IT managers spend most of their time overseeing general operations and resources that contribute to a business’s overall success. They are often responsible for ensuring the consistent performance of technology assets and the employees who maintain them, while also working to add strategic value to their organization through tech-based innovation. Effective IT management allows companies to optimize their internal processes, integrate cutting-edge technologies, and maximize their return on investment. These goals are achieved through careful planning and collaboration with technical and non-technical personnel alike, which demonstrates the importance of strong communication, interpersonal skills and knowing when to manage staff members. Some common duties IT managers perform include:
- Assessing an organization’s computer needs and recommending upgrades
- Overseeing the installation and maintenance of hardware and software
- Maintaining proper cybersecurity for all networks and data stores
- Weighing the costs and benefits of new IT projects
- Managing IT staff and evaluating their long-term needs
Generally speaking, IT management is all about problem-solving. As organizations grow, they often encounter new operational and strategic challenges that can be alleviated by integrating improved technologies or revamping inefficient processes. When problems arise, IT managers must quickly identify creative solutions that conform to their department’s budgetary constraints, requiring both technical experience and business savvy. They are also responsible for coordinating software upgrades, network optimization, and all other computer-related activities their organization may require.
While IT management is quite different from supervisory positions in other fields, there is some overlap in their day-to-day responsibilities. For example, managers in every professional space must balance the needs of their workers with the performance expectations of high-level executives. This typically requires supervisors to establish consistent and compassionate relationships with each member of their staff, as maintaining employee morale is essential for building a sustainable workforce.
Traits of a good manager in IT environments
Although extensive technical knowledge is crucial for an IT management career, there are a lot of other qualifications to keep in mind. According to a recent poll from employment website Monster.com, around 76% of U.S.-based employees have worked under a “toxic” manager. When asked to elaborate, respondents identified four primary characteristics that define poor management: Power-hungry behaviors (26%), micromanaging (18%), incompetence (17%), and absenteeism (15%). The prevalence of these issues helps illustrate why strong interpersonal skills and consistent communication are so essential to a supervisor’s success. Managers are often held accountable for their team’s overall performance, which may suffer if the right relational frameworks are not in place.
In an interview with Harvard Business Review, Dr. Jim Mitchell, former vice president of Oracle Laboratories, commented that people skills are the most important attributes for transitioning from an IT-oriented position to a management role. Mitchell pointed to empathy and self-knowledge in particular, believing that supervisors must be able to manage themselves before overseeing others. Other key traits of successful managers include:
- Leadership experience
- Delegation skills
- Respect for employees
IT professionals who enjoy empowering others to reach their full potential are usually well suited to a management position, as are those who want to help organizations surpass their operational goals. Companies around the world rely on IT managers to coordinate large-scale technology projects and communicate business objectives to a range of non-technical audiences, which may be difficult for some job seekers. The best way to transition to a management career path is to reflect on your specific strengths and practice utilizing the interpersonal skills that will help you stand out from other applicants.
How an MS in MIS can help you succeed in IT management
While many important managerial characteristics tend to be rooted in a candidate’s core personality, there are a variety of learning opportunities that can prepare you for supervisory responsibilities. The master’s degree in management information systems online program from the University of Alabama at Birmingham offers a unique curriculum that blends technical expertise and business acumen into a single professional track, teaching you how to become a manager of tech-focused workplaces.
Whether you’re just starting out or in the midst of your career, an MS in MIS can help you obtain the knowledge and skills you need to excel in a leadership role, including project management, IT governance, and business intelligence. The program is specially designed for students interested in high-level supervisor positions, from department heads to CIOs. Some of the key courses include:
- IT Governance & Management: Gain firsthand experience with real-world IT governance strategies and frameworks to learn how you can effectively supervise technology deployments, IT staff, and the managerial challenges involved in different governance structures.
- Technology Planning & Capital Budgeting: Learn about the essential IT management techniques that allow companies to secure consistent growth, including how to define and measure operational benefits, manage IT investment portfolios and budgets, and evaluate return on investment.
- Leadership in IT: Prepare for a leadership role by studying the foundational knowledge and skills that allow IT managers to excel in organizational settings, including people skills, effective communication strategies, and relationship building techniques.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in IT management, reach out to an enrollment advisor for more information.