Being an IT manager is about being a hundred things all at once. An effective IT manager occupies multiple roles, juggles problems, manages staff, and keeps systems in top shape all at the same time. But to help focus this role for your business, we’ve nailed down 11 skills every IT manager should know:
1. How to talk to the people you serve
Being an IT manager is as much customer service as it is know-how. IT managers very often have to work with and explain things to people that know less, in many cases much less, than they do. IT is usually only called in when there’s a problem, and the hard working people IT is trying to help usually are running on a tight schedule. Stakes are high, and as an IT manager you are responsible for you and your people (who are not always client-facing types). People skills and patience are a must.
2. How to listen and explain effectively
IT is a reasonably new, jargon-y department. Many companies are still in their first generation of users, that is users who had to learn computer skills on the job. They don’t know the vocabulary, and IT managers always run the risk of either being misunderstood or misunderstanding. A good trick: The “explain it like I’m five” approach.
3. The business they work for
To be truly effective, an IT manager must know the business they’re working for so when faced with a problem or decision, like which CRM to implement or whether to update now or later, they can prioritize and strategize in a way that will most effectively keep the business humming and thriving with the resources available to it.
4. When to be a scientist
All IT managers have a bit of scientist in them. The good ones take some time to measure, theorize and test systems to find problems before they occur and head them off. Good IT managers take copious notes and probably use some form of the scientific method to be effective.
5. When to be a manager.
An IT manager is responsible for all IT functions from selecting and training staff to providing actionable advice for business decision makers. Just like effective business managers, good IT managers know how to delegate, communicate, educate, and set goals.
6. When to be a mechanic
Sometimes, the IT manager has to get down with their sleeves up and solve problems with a cool head. This can be tricky in busy IT environments where managers might have a limited amount of time to devote to bug fixes (which is why prevention is so important).
7. How to keep data safe
Any business—from the sandwich shop to the multimillion-dollar manufacturer—likely has plenty of data that would be useful or valuable to hackers, competitors, and identity thieves. It’s the IT manager’s job to know what that data is, where it is, and how safe it is. As threats evolve, they should be taking constant steps to make sure that data remains safe.
8. How to make the most of what’s there
IT budgets are limited, and it’s the IT manager’s job to make sure that companies get the most on their IT investment. This means keeping what can be kept, fixing what can be fixed, and ensuring that any new investment is wise.
9. How to make new things work
Implementing new tech is a pain, and it slows things down. Good IT managers are familiar with new technology and can get it up and running as fast as possible.
10. When to speak up
Sometimes being an effective IT manager means speaking candidly and frankly about what can and can’t be done with the resources at hand. Technology is a great unknown to many people, and they don’t always know the implications of their actions or decisions on IT. A good manager will communicate concerns.
11. How to do it all
A good IT manager has to know how to balance all of their roles while keeping their systems up and the people they serve happy.