The Skills That Separate a Great IT Manager from Good Ones
Working in the IT industry means dealing with a rapid pace of change that impacts everything, right from operational practices to remunerations. Plus, the complexity of systems, applications, and processes is mindboggling. Then, systems and processes are so interlinked that managers can’t take a single decision without dealing with several little-known variables. Plus, clients are always pushing to shrink delivery teams and cut costs every year. Of course, there are cybersecurity and compliance risks to make life tough.
It’s commendable, then, that there are great IT leaders in most enterprises, driving progress, and enabling everyone around them. In this guide, we’ve covered some of the skills that separate a great IT manager from the merely good ones.
Understanding the People behind the Employees
Of course, understanding one’s people is a skill relevant to managers in every industry, and not particularly IT. However, IT presents specific challenges that make it crucial for a great manager to understand the people in his/her team.
In a typical IT team, there are people who are keen to learn the latest technologies and work using latest tools. Then, there are people who wish to grow their expertise within a specific technology and come closer to the business impacts of the technology. Put an employee in a role that’s in utter contrast to his/her key technology learning motivations, and you’ll have a might mess to manage very soon. Instead, great IT managers are always prepared to go to great lengths to understand their team and help them take up IT operations and delivery roles that match well with them.
It’s been suggested that emotional intelligence accounts for almost 90% of the difference between good and great managers in general. IT managers who take conscious efforts to upgrade their emotional intelligence reap the benefits in the form of respect from all related stakeholders, faster and better conflict resolution and even quicker and more valuable promotions. When pressures from all sides (clients, internal auditors, dissatisfied employees, and supervisors) mount, the great IT manager is able to exercise caution, care, and courage in dealing with situations. Emotional intelligence also helps IT managers understand the intrinsic feelings and desired of different players around them, further enabling them to frame their communication so as to appease, satisfy, and convince them. A keen sense of observation, coupled with high EQ, is the perfect recipe for success for an IT manager.
The Ability to Upgrade One’s Technical Knowledge
In a typical IT manager’s routine day, there are 2-4 meetings, several discussions on project KPIs, and brainstorming on new projects and campaigns. With an eternal stream of deadline bound deliverables to manage, it’s tough for IT managers to find out the time and desire to upgrade their technical knowledge. However, strong technical understanding is essential for managers to maneuver conversations with teams comprised mostly of IT engineers. Plus, employees are quick to identify IT managers who fail to account for the limitations and strong points of technologies and tools while devising plans and strategies.
The Ability to Delegate Extensively and Correctly
IT is an industry where the depth of subject matter knowledge is so much that it almost accepted that individuals won’t possess it. Thus, IT managers always need to rely on several people to take control of projects. This calls upon managers to showcase dexterity in delegating tasks to others (again, this links back to the skill of knowing your team). Developments in IT business sphere and operational management frameworks are so fast that IT managers always need to anticipate the need to keep their time free for proactive management. This is only possible if they delegate tasks like a pro.
A no-brainer, for sure. But why does an IT Manager need to be super strong in communication? The answer – because the very nature of the product or service is such that customers don’t exactly understand or appreciate the nuances unless somebody explains them in a language they are comfortable with. Only a strong communicator, hence, can detect unsaid emotions among client representatives and mold communications accordingly.
The Ability Of Being Decisive
Expect an IT manager to face several situations every day, wherein they are expected to make quick decisions. Whether it’s something short-term such as estimating resourcing needs for a new project to something with long-term consequences, such as deciding among a few equally potent vendors for a virtualization project – IT managers have to rely on their intuition, experience, data, advice, and heuristics to be able to manage such situations. Unremarkable IT managers fall into the trap of extracting data from different sources for every decision they need to make. Equally obnoxious, of course, is the practice of taking hasty decisions and letting your teams bear the brunt of the same. The great IT manager strikes the right balance.
Creating A Culture of Innovation
Considering the breakneck speed at which the dynamics of IT industry are changing, teams that fail to innovate will fail to exist in a few years. How does an IT manager, then, foster the spirit of innovation, particularly considering how important it is to also maintain operational discipline? Well, great IT managers do so by:
- Ensuring innovators that they’ll find their leaders by their side, even if the innovators don’t deliver the desired results.
- Connecting innovators with the right people, at the right time.
- Explaining the value of innovation and experimental trials with different options to clients.
Calculated risks, taken consciously – that’s a good mantra to live by. It takes continued focus on extracting valuable lessons from failures, documenting them, and sharing them with the entire team, for IT managers to truly grow their people.
Amidst all the challenges of working in the IT industry, great IT managers manage to stay calm, deliver projects within deadlines, and grow their teams and themselves. This guide presents some of the skills that help them do so.
Author: Rahul Sharma