How to Become an IT Manager or Enterprise Resource Planner
Networking has permeated into both personal and professional worlds. The increasing scope and complexity of IT operations requires a class of professionals adept at monitoring, maintaining and designing a business' network to make sure everything stays up and running. And while simple maintenance is already an important enough task, there's also a need for individuals who can oversee those operations and tie them into an organization's larger business objectives. It's that niche that IT management roles strive to fill.
What does an information technology manager do?
An information technology manager reigns supreme over an organization's IT realm. These leaders may manage all of the technology decisions for smaller businesses, or, in larger organizations, they may head a team of IT professionals such as enterprise, server, database, and enterprise messaging administrators and technicians.
The position requires more than technological expertise -- IT managers need to understand their organization's business and be able to clearly communicate technical information to non-technical divisions or customers. The role also calls for knowledge of strategic planning, resource allocation, and human resources policies, as they may be involved in hiring and performance reviews.
Here are some of the wide-ranging management responsibilities possible in this position:
- Analysis of technology requirements to meet organizational goals
- Acquisition, installation and maintenance of technology hardware and software
- Budgeting for IT expenditures
- Evaluation of and recommendations for new technologies
- Providing training programs and maintaining documentation
IT managers may also oversee other areas such as:
- Database implementation, administration and maintenance
- Design, development and maintenance of IT applications
- Network operations oversight
Information technology managers are expected to be aware of, mitigate and document IT security risks as well as formulate disaster recovery and business continuity plans.
In addition to leading and directing the work of other professionals in the field, information systems (IS) managers solve strategic business problems by employing information systems and technology solutions. The responsibilities of these IT pros may include managing software development projects, overseeing system implementations, leading website design efforts, and even designing network security systems.
An IS manager's team likely includes software engineers, system architects, database administrators, network security administrators, business analysts, and project managers. IS managers also consult with business users, vendors, executive management and technical analysts to evaluate business needs within an organization and determine what IT projects may be necessary to fulfill those requirements.
This type of manager may also be called an information systems director, data processing manager, or MIS director (Management Information Systems), according to the O*NET website of the U.S. Department of Labor. Day-to-day tasks of IS managers include:
- Create and manage project plans for information systems and technology projects.
- Develop roadmaps for the organization's information systems and technology objectives.
- Meet with vendors to evaluate what information systems and technology tools and products should be used in the organization.
- Keep executive leadership informed on status of IS projects and deliverables.
- Stay current with advances in information systems and technology.
An IS manager's job can be extremely high pressure, especially when projects have high visibility for executive level stakeholders.
Network systems analysts design and build computer networks based on the requirements of the client the network is being created for.
Modern computer networks have a vast number of different variables involved in their creation, all of which the network systems analyst must take into account when planning a network's design and eventual deployment.
Some common critical aspects of modern network design include:
- Combining wired and wireless networking, also known as hybrid networking.
- Using server virtualization to optimize resources and streamline hardware deployments.
- Support for Voice over IP (VoIP) and videoconferencing applications.
- Network compatibility with Line of Business (LOB) software applications.
- Disaster recovery and business continuity requirements.
- Network accessibility from multiple device types, including smartphones and tablets.
- Creating intranets for employees and extranets for clients and contractors.
- Maintaining best-of-class security throughout the entire network.
These are just some of the challenges a network systems analyst may face when approaching a new network project. Every organization has unique networking requirements, with a list of potential limitations based on geography, industry regulations and budgetary concerns. The network systems analyst fully examines each new scenario, identifies the optimal solution based on the client's requirements and limitations and manages the actual building of the network.
Network systems analysts may also be employed to examine an existing computer network to determine potential faults or hazards, and make recommendations for network hardware/software upgrades or changes.
The road to becoming an IT manager begins with a college or university Bachelor's degree (usually a Bachelor's of Science degree) in Information Technology Management. Alternatively, a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration with a strong focus on IT may also serve the purpose. Many large organizations recruit and hire their junior managers directly from colleges and universities that offer these degree programs.
The IT Management degree program continues up to the Master's level, and even goes on to a Ph.D, a strenuous climb that future CTOs may want to consider.
There is also the venerable Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, although this program should be tweaked to include a significant focus on information technology management.
Another education option is the Bachelor of Science in Information Technology (BSIT or B.Sc IT) degree. With this degree, the challenge is to add a business administration component in order to better match the IT manager profile that businesses and public sector branches are looking for.
As with other industry management positions, IT manager candidates are commonly judged on the basis of both education and experience. The more senior the management position, the greater role that experience plays in the hiring process. Companies want managers who have significant real-world experience, which gives them a tendency to favor candidates who have greater experience over candidates with higher education credentials.
At the top of the scale, CTOs commonly have at least fifteen years or more of IT management experience, and have an appropriate Master's degree, or even a Ph.D.
The Department of Labor reports that nearly half of IT managers have bachelor's degrees such as business management or bachelor's degrees with information technology specializations. IT manager training can also include undergraduate and postgraduate information technology management certificates and project management training.
Many businesses are beginning to require specialized graduate degrees such as the Master of Science in IT management, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some employers prefer tech-focused Master of Business Administration degrees, such as an MBA program with a concentration in technology, technology management, high tech or IT management.
As for specialized technical knowledge, certain fields are considered hotter than others. ComputerWorld's Forecast 2014, published in the fall of 2013, identified top IT skills that businesses look for: programming/application development, help desk/technical support, networking, mobile applications and device management, project management, database administration, security compliance/governance, and business intelligence/analytics.
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IS is an academic discipline bridging the business world with computer science. There are a seemingly endless number of applications for information science in the business world, from information management to payroll activities. Management information science training prepares future information science pros to manage all aspects of these systems, including databases, networks and security. They will learn how to manage projects, how to develop and debug systems, and even master the ethical or social implications of these technologies.
According to The College Board, management information systems degrees typically require the following types of courses:
- Database design
- Emerging technologies
- Managing information systems
- Project management
- Networks and communications
- Systems analysis and design
IS managers typically come from a technical background in a computer-related career but have gained a leadership position by demonstrating strong business and managerial acumen. IS managers often start with at least a bachelor's in computer science, and many management positions require a graduate degree, such as a Master's in Business Administration with a technology concentration or a master of science in information systems. Here are some examples of advanced coursework in an MBA Information Systems program:
- Database management systems
- Information systems strategy
- Information technology project management
- Management of information systems
- Systems integration
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for the job category "Computer and Information Systems Managers" indicates that the job market for IT managers is expected to grow at a pace that's faster than many other occupations
The job growth trend for IT managers will be influenced by the healthcare industry's continuing implementation of information systems, as well as the general overall growth of e-commerce, mobile and cloud computing, data warehousing, and online security efforts. The retirement numbers for Baby Boomer managers will also play a part in the demand for qualified IT managers.
Those looking to pursue this career can expect occupational demand to remain high for the foreseeable future, as information systems continue to play an increasingly significant role in business and industry. Technological advancement should continue, increasing the need for qualified professionals to manage, design and maintain information systems.
What is the salary outlook for IT managers?
The salary data for Computer and Information System Managers, the job category used by the BLS, is remarkably impressive. This is a reflection of the difficulty businesses and branches of government are having in finding well-educated and highly-experienced IT management candidates.
People looking to pursue this career can expect occupational demand to remain high for the foreseeable future, as information systems continue to play an increasingly significant role in business and industry. The BLS predicts continued job growth in this field:
What is the salary outlook for information systems managers?
Current numbers from the BLS describe median annual salary as the following:
You would be hard pressed to find a business or government that doesn't employ some sort of computer network in its day-to-day operations. The growth of wireless networking and mobile device initiatives like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), where employees bring in their personal devices for work use, has added to the complexity and sophistication of today's modern networks. The BLS uses the category "Computer Network Architects" to capture the job functions of network systems managers:
What is the salary outlook for network systems managers?
BLS numbers place the median annual salary for the Computer Network Architect category at the following figures:
In addition to traditional university and college education (and significant hands-on experience), an IT manager can further distinguish themselves by achieving one or more IT industry certifications. IT certification programs are offered by many of the most popular technology vendors, as well as vendor-neutral industry associations that strive to encourage the use of standardized methodologies across one or more disciplines.
One example of a relevant IT management certification program is the one operated by the Project Management Institute (PMI). PMI created what is likely the most recognized industry standard for project management, the Project Management Book of Knowledge, or PMBOK Guide for short. PMI offers a comprehensive certification program based on the PMBOK Guide for many different levels of project managers.
Earning an IT certification can help IT managers to increase their perceived value to a potential employer.