IT Managers had it easy a few decades back. In a corporate setting, they managed people that were involved in IT, took care of the infrastructure, saw that systems were performing well, and reported all this back to their bosses at the end of the day. Then they went home and watched a movie, never thinking about their job until they walked into work the next day. In today’s world, that’s certainly not possible anymore; not with the workload they have these days and how hyper-connected we are to the internet at all hours of the day and night.
Despite this, the number of IT managers are increasing fast. The number will go up almost 17% in the next few years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bad news is that the number of tasks they are asked to manage these days is increasing even faster. IT managers are required to talk to clients and employees, know about accounts and balance sheets, protect against hackers, and solve IT related problems around the world. Believe it or not, there are IT managers who have been known to settle labor disputes with rowdy worker’s unions. I would say that’s going above and beyond the IT job description.
There are two distinct reasons this is happening.
1. There’s the pervasive scope of IT security these days- Harmless dumpster diving hackers from the local high school have given way to corporate hacking. The lines between researching and spying are becoming blurred- some competitors will have no qualms with gaining access to your IP and other material if they can so you have to be careful. Every software and hardware poses a potential entry point for professional hackers, and so the IT manager has to have eyes on it all. Not only that, global compliance structures have been kicked up a notch. Laws like Sarbanes Oxley and EU Data Privacy Directive have forced IT managers to also become compliance specialists. Even CIOs have become involved in their company’s compliance issues, risk management systems, and auditing.
2. IT is no longer a peripheral part of business- With the development of IT Project Management (PM), the role of IT in an enterprise has become ubiquitous. IT Managers are, therefore, required to deal with every aspect of a project life cycle, including resource management, budgetary considerations and scheduling. Some businesses, like IBM, have even developed an in-house training program that duplicates the standards set by the Project Management Institute.
The need for soft skills is not just an extra bonus to have anymore. It is not only necessary but extremely critical for IT managers to be able to deal with employees and clients in different time zones, with different cultural parameters and attitudes towards business. The changing role of IT managers is going to evolve much more in years to come. If you’re interested in the IT industry I suggest you brush up on skills not directly related to IT- such as HRM and direct client relations.