As with any profession, it behooves new personnel in the Information Technology (IT) career field to critically analyze what new roles, responsibilities, and challenges they will face. Lacking a clear understanding of what a manager is required to accomplish, and what tools he or she has available to that end, leaves him or her without direction, and at a severe disadvantage. This essay outlines some major points that, if considered by aspiring IT managers, can contribute to their efforts and make them more effective in their jobs. The two major items that the successful leaders should focus on in all their professional endeavors are the mission and the people. Without a clear mission a team will flounder about ineffectively; without a cohesive, motivated team, the mission has a degraded chance of success. Careful consideration of these two major facets will enhance leadership in the IT arena.
IT as a Management Enabler
First and foremost, IT managers must remember that IT capabilities are support tool, a means to an end. In fact, “The new maxim in IT…is that technology projects that don’t support strategic goals have declining value for the institution” (Chester, 2006). Stated simply, IT for the sake of IT is not a viable mission. Therefore, a mission example might be to install a robust communications infrastructure to establish and sustain operations in a recently acquired building. The actual end-state users should be involved with the venture from the beginning, and remain involved after the initial requirements are established. After all, without users, there is no mission for IT teams. Success in any venture requires an understanding of what the end state is. How can someone declare mission success if unsure of what the mission was? Additionally, IT managers often meet the difficult task of defining the end state. While requirements are generally driven by the user, they might not specifically set a distinct line at which IT managers can consider the mission a success. Instead, the fluid and dynamic nature of IT tends to shift the mission considerably after the definition of requirements. With that in mind, it is important for the IT manager to stay engaged with the user throughout the entire process. As everyone in the IT industry learns right away, users almost always speak up when a process breaks. However, users are less inclined to voice ideas about improving processes, or alerting IT managers that certain processes are no longer required. This stems from various reasons but oftentimes users do not even know what is possible. It is up to the IT manager to track use of all programs and processes under their supervision and ensure their subordinates are focused on critical action areas. At the same time, they should continually question the process by seeking and acquiring feedback from the users.
Feedback and IT Managers
Naomi Carton ably offers concerns about how managers often go about acquiring feedback, “In many organizations, feedback gathering is viewed as an isolated, ever-so-occasional activity, such as a survey or focus group. The activity is often treated as an end in itself rather than as a means to understand and respond to customer needs” (Karten, 2003). This thought lends credibility to the necessity of continual engagement with the users. Once the feedback is acquired, and user requirements are redefined, the manager can engage with his or her subordinates to develop and execute process changes. Different managers seek to understand the mission through different means. Some managers have high levels of intelligence and a strong sense of vision. These strong leaders are able to quickly grasp user requirements, relate those requirements to their subordinates, and then process status updates as they flow in from subordinates. A key component of this is intelligence. Others may lack superior intelligence but thrive on interpersonal relationships. For...