May 26, 2011

How to Be a Better IT Manager

Managing an IT department is not an easy task and not everyone is cut out for it. Just because you’re good at what you do, however, it doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. Here are some steps you can take to being even a better IT manager.

  1. Invest time and money into developing your staff. Information technology is an ever-changing field, and learning new technologies is not only something your staff will appreciate, but something that will enable them to perform at their best. Budget for training and development and encourage staff to participate. Don’t overlook the value of cross-training, especially if you have a large IT group and there are tasks currently being performed by one person. Training others to do those tasks will prove worthwhile if there is ever a staff shortage. Also look into free regional workshops and presentations or in-house training if you have a tight budget.
  2. Get to know what each person’s job responsibility entails, not so you can randomly jump in and try to do the job yourself, but to foster respect from your staff and increase your credibility as a manager whenever a difficult situation arises.
  3. Learn what your staff does, but don’t do it for them. You may be able to do it better, or even show them a better way to do it, but you need to able to step back and let your staff learn and grow.
  4. Know the business and make sure the business knows you. An understanding of the business you support is important. A better IT manager uses his understanding of his business’ goals to build services and infrastructure to support those goals. He will make sure his direct reports are aware of how their work affects business goals and ensure that business administrators understand how IT is beneficial for them. Develop annual reports, frequent project updates and regular communications to showcase your department’s activities.
  5. Keep the lines of communication open between you and your staff. Unless it’s of a confidential nature, you shouldn’t hoard information. On the flip side, if you feel you are not getting important information, find ways to improve communication.
  6. Encourage teamwork among staff. Teamwork and collaboration will keep your department running smoothly and eliminate the isolation that often occurs in technical departments. Develop an environment where staff will feel comfortable asking for and giving assistance to each other.
  7. Provide regular feedback. Let your staff know they’re doing a good job, as well as what needs improving. You can do this via performance reviews, one-on-one meetings or at a company meeting or event where employees are rewarded for exemplary performance.
  8. Make good hiring decisions, even if it means involving your staff in the hiring process, especially if you’ve never done it before. You want to select an employee who will integrate well with your staff, and making the wrong selection can be more costly in the long run than not hiring anyone at all.
  9. Learn and understand best IT practices that apply to your department and measure yourself and your team against them. Review the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and determine if you should implement portions of it in your department. Make sure you have an updated disaster recovery plan that is ready for action when necessary.
  10. Be the best project manager you can be. Consider getting formal project management training if you haven’t had any. Good project management skills will go a long way toward more project successes and less project failures. Train your lead staff with basic project management skills as well, so you can delegate portions of or entire projects to their control.

If you’ve come up through the technical ranks, it’s easy to confuse superior technology understanding with effective management. However, technical management is, at its core, management of people of and processes – very much like working with any other department. If you continue to advance your management skills and the success of the individuals that you manage, it will be easier to take the next step in your career.

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Marie is a writer for covering career advice, recruitment topics, and HR issues. She has an educational background in languages and literature as well as corporate experience in Human Resources.