Tag Archives: it director

What’s different about the ITBMC certification?

Certifications have become pretty much the norm in the IT world. Let’s see, there are dozens of technical certifications, project management certifications, and even a few management certifications. In fact, you can get a certification on almost anything in the IT world, , , it seems that IT people really like certifications.

I may be an exception, , , ,they don’t mean that much to me and never have. The same thing goes for titles, , , call me whatever you choose, just pay me well, let me do my job, and recognize me for the results I get.

But, , , titles and certifications are important for a lot of your people so you don’t want to underestimate the importance in someone else’s mind. In addition, some certifications are now required just to get in the door for an interview with some companies.

In reality, a certification doesn’t mean you can actually do the job well, , , it just means you have received the knowledge and been certified by passing an exam in many cases.

You probably know my company offers the IT Business Manager Certification, ITBMC. I never would have if not for the encouragement of the managers who attended our first few IT Manager Institute programs.

I’ll deliver the 44th and 45th IT Manager Institute program this month and I can tell you that the ITBMC certification has probably been one of the reasons for the longevity and success of the program, , , this is our 9th year in delivering the program with hundreds around the world to receive their ITBMC status.

I can hardly wait to deliver each new class, , , they are a lot of fun and seeing the enthusiasm for the program is very rewarding.

At the end of the day
Certifications do not guarantee you will be successful. What they indicate is that you have received knowledge about a particular subject and passed an exam that suggests you have a good comprehension of the material.

Execution is something else, , , you still have to do the work that is required in order to achieve success.

That’s why I structured the IT Manager Institute program to not only deliver the material of what to do and how to go about it in class, , , I also give you the tools to make it happen plus some takeaways to help you implement the IT Management Process we teach to achieve more success. Things like:

  • 30 Day Action Plan, , , specific steps to take when you get home
  • My entire library of e-Books that reinforce the class presentations
  • IT Manager ToolKit containing 102 tools and templates to use immediately or modify as needed
  • Ongoing support and access to me for assistance

The IT Manager Institute program is unique in many ways because of how we structure the class and also the additional tools and resources you take back to your company. Because the class follows a structured process and is delivered in a “how to” format, your retention is better, , , plus you have many resources to help you remember things from the class.

The bottom line
I think the key to any certification is how well people respond to the program. In our case, we have a 100% positive satisfaction from those who have attended. The reason is simple, , , the practical processes and tools are easily understood and put into practice, , ,  and they work.

It’s one thing to understand a concept. To succeed, you have to actually do the work and that’s why the IT Manager Institute program is structured so you can follow specific steps and use tools designed for specific uses that lead to more success in an IT manager role.

An ITBMC beside your name says something other than signifying a technical skill. ITBMC says you have learned the importance for your IT organization to deliver tangible and quantifiable business value in support of your company. It also indicates an understanding that IT initiatives are driven by business needs and issues and that every initiative you recommend will be cost justified and targeted to some specific business value.

Why is this important? It tells senior managers of your company you have a business perspective when managing your IT organization, , , not so focused on technology and missing the tremendous business leverage opportunities your IT organization offers your company.

Business managers become business partners, , , and without having these “partners” in your company, your success will be limited.

As I prepare for next week’s class, I get a high sense of enthusiasm in thinking about meeting a whole new group of IT managers and giving them the tools and resources that potentially changes their life and boosts their career.

They will leave with the knowledge and tools to make it happen, , , but they still have to do the work just as with anything in life.

Check out Institute class photos at https://itlever.com/institute-photos/

More photos at http://www.mde.net/institute/page4.html

Develop a quick PowerPoint presentation

Let’s say you are the senior IT manager for a small company and your CEO has asked you to present an IT update for the Board of Director’s Meeting next week.

Where to start?

If you are like me when I first encountered such an opportunity, there may be some initial shock. After the panic leaves you, it’s time to prepare, , , where do we start?

Let’s outline what I do and then I’ll explain each part:

  1. Gather information about the presentation objectives
  2. Collect the data
  3. Make a list or two
  4. Develop a draft of title slides
  5. Fill in the slide bullet points
  6. Create your PowerPoint presentation
  7. Prepare for the presentation

Developing a presentation can be fairly quick, , , or you can agonize over it for days. Use this simple approach and it might make it easier for you. Let’s take a look at each step:

1.  Gather information about the presentation objectives
First of all, you need some information from your CEO, , ,  things like:

  • Anything specific you need me to cover?
  • What’s the background of the Board Members?
  • What’s the objective or goal of the presentation?
  • How much time do I have?

You may also want to get some other quick facts, such as:

  • Board Member names and where they are from
  • Sample of past presentations that worked well
  • PowerPoint format or template to use

Once you know what the objectives are and what your CEO wants you to cover, you should be able to identify the appropriate content to develop a presentation. That’s actually the easy part.

You also now know how much time you have, , , let’s say it is 30 minutes.

You need to get a feel for the type of people on the Board. Is this a group that usually lets the presenter walk through a presentation and asks questions at the end, , , or does it have Members of the Board who ask questions every step of the way.

The latter will eat up your time quicker than a bee can dart past your nose, so you need to know that this group can only absorb a little information.

In fact, that’s an important piece of information for presenting to any Board of Directors. In general, members of the Board of Directors are high level and mostly concept people, , , not highly detail oriented people who want to get into the muck. But, there are some who like to get into the detail so learn from your CEO what type of audience to expect.

For an audience who waits to ask questions at the end, , , count on 1 -2 minutes per slide, , , that means you can deliver 10 to 12 slides at most and still have time at the end for questions and discussion.

For the interactive group who asks lots of questions, consider 3-5 minutes per slide, , , that means you can only get through 5-8 slides comfortably.

2. Collect the data
What to cover is very important to know from your CEO. He may want you to deliver a general overall view of what’s taking place in IT for the company, or he may want you to spend the majority of your time to provide an update about a specific IT initiative the Board is interested in.

Once you know what the presentation objectives are and the subject, collect the data you need to develop a presentation. It might include recent management reports, cost justification analysis, project status updates, etc., , , whatever data you have that supports your topic and allows you to develop a few PowerPoint slides to discuss the subject.

It is also reasonable that every bit of the material could come out of your head, , , read on.

3.  Make a list or two
At this point, step back and put yourself into the mindset of your audience. In this case, the Board of Directors represent the owners of the company, , , so what would a company owner want to hear about this subject you are about to present?

Make a quick list of what you think they would want to know about. Ask your CEO or the meeting sponsor the question and gain their insight, , , always helpful.

When completed, think about key points you think are important to share. Make another list.

Now, you have a list of what the audience wants to hear and important points you believe need to be presented about your subject, , , plus you have supporting material by which to start developing slides.

4.  Develop a draft of title slides
Each of your slides needs a title, , , this is sort of like an outline of a book if you were writing a book. What I do when I plan to write a book is start by developing the Table of Contents, , , this is my book outline. A PowerPoint presentation works the same way, , , each slide is a key point you want to make as you walk through your subject, so create a title for each slide.

A quick and easy way to do this is to take a blank sheet of paper and draw a set of rectangle squares , , , I usually put 6 to 8 boxes on a sheet of paper. Each box represents a slide in your presentation.

Now, put the title of each of your slides in the top part of the boxes. I work left to right and to the bottom in the sequence I want my presentation.

Going into this process, you may not know how many slides your presentation will be or in exactly what order. Creating a paper draft makes it easy and creates thought as you work through the process.

When finished with identifying your title slides, check the number of slides and be sure you have ample time to present the content you are going to end up with based upon the guidelines I discussed earlier.

Once you get the slide titles defined, the rest is fairly easy, , , creating bullet points for each slide based upon its title.

When you start developing the detail of the slides, you may identify new slides you need to add or possibly slides that can be better discussed by combining them. The point is that the finished presentation will be slightly different from what you think it will be as you start working on it in the beginning.

5.  Fill in the slide bullet points
Next, put in the bullet points for each slide on the paper to complete the draft of your presentation.

A couple of key things to remember. First, you need to resist your urge to provide too much detail. In a slide presentation, too much detail makes it difficult for people to follow. Use short and crisp bullet points that you can talk about.

Next, keep the number of bullet points on a slide to a reasonable list, , , no more than 4 to 6 points on a slide. Anything over that is too much detail.

Finally, a single point and graphic on a slide can be a powerful message so focus on highlights, , , not detail, unless of course your CEO says he wants you to discuss the detail.

6.  Create your PowerPoint presentation
When you are comfortable with the presentation “draft”, create the PowerPoint slides using the presentation template needed to make it consistent with your CEO’s presentations look and feel.

As you build each slide from your paper draft, think about graphics that add value to the presentation or make your points easy to follow. Don’t be too cutesy, , , but good graphics can add a lot. As you build the slides, you will also make adjustments to your bullet points because you will think of things that need to be in the presentation.

Another point about graphics, , , senior executives love charts and graphs that make your message visible. A good chart showing positive progress can add tremendous value to your presentation.

By drafting the presentation on paper first and then building the PowerPoint slides from the draft, it allows you to walk through the presentation a couple of times, , , and this is always helpful for your thought process and will ultimately make the presentation better.

Let me repeat something here. Fight your tendency to provide too much detail, , , we want the major points, , , just the major points.

Fewer bullet points is better than lots of bullet points. Remember, these guys are high level, , , they want the answer, not all the detail. If they need detail, they will ask you questions and you can fill in the blanks.

IT people think everyone needs all the information possible. Just the opposite is the case, so keep your presentation at a high level, , , and use graphics to enhance the message.

Here are the first two slides of my presentation:

7.  Prepare for the presentation
Before the presentation, do a few things:

  1. Prepare a good opening to get things started smoothly, , , it will help calm your nerves.
  2. Rehearse what you plan to say and become intimately familiar with every slide you present.
  3. Anticipate questions you may be asked and come up with appropriate answers.
  4. Develop a list of key message points you want to make for each slide. This can help you stay on message and insure you emphasize each key point.

Prepare and you will come across knowledgeable and on top of your game. Go in there unprepared and they may rip you apart, , , so be prepared.

Solve the IT management maze with an IT Management Process

Does this look like what you found when you first became an IT manager?

If so, it’s not really surprising, , , it’s what I discovered and millions of managers around the world discover when they first get their BIG OPPORTUNITY.

Managing an IT organization can seem like one big complicated maze.

Well, it really is unless you have a process to follow and tools to help you achieve the things that are necessary for IT management success.

In my case, I had to learn the hard way about many things, , , but I was also fortunate to have some very strong managers around me to learn from. Not all of them were IT managers, , , some had very little knowledge of technology or in understanding IT employees, , , but they possessed excellent management skills and were good resources to learn from.

Don’t limit yourself to learning from only IT managers, , , it limits your possibilities. It’s going to be helpful to your career to learn things from company executives, sales and marketing, , , Human Resources, , , your client department managers, , , even vendor managers.

What you also need is a proven management process, , , a path to follow that will help you find your way through the maze. There are obstacles at every turn in an IT manager role, , , some can even be deadly impediments to your career.

Here is the management process I use in managing an IT organization.

There are 8 key components:

1.  Assess – Conduct an IT assessment to determine what the business needs and issues are plus what your IT organization’s capabilities and capacity is. Once you understand the “demand and supply”, you can develop a plan of attack.

2.  Plan – Develop an immediate 30-90 day tactical strategy and once you get your people focused on it you can start working on developing your long term strategy.

3.  Projects and Processes –  Delivering projects successfully is the key to credibility and there are key support processes you must put into place in order to support your clients effectively.

4.  Organization – You must build an appropriate IT organization and when you have people, you need to motivate them and develop their skills to create a world class support organization.

5.  Focus –  Evert aspect of your organization needs clear focus, from the individual employee to the entire organization.

6.  Financials and Assets –  Managing the financial side of your business and keeping track of technology assets becomes a key part of managing a successful IT operation.

7.  Measure –  To improve, it is important to know where you are and whether you are making positive strides, , , practical measurements will spell it out for you.

8.  Communicate –  What ties it all together and makes such a powerful difference is being able to communicate well.

CLICK HERE to purchase the 20 Minute IT Manager video for only $9.99 to learn more.

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Attend an IT Manager Institute class or access the Self Study program to learn step by step how to become a successful IT manager.

IT Manager Institute classes — www.mde.net/institute

IT Manager Institute Self Study  — www.mde.net/selfstudy

“You really know how to work with an Administrative Assistant”

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that a senior Administrative Assistant I worked with in a consulting engagement told me, “You really know how to work with an Administrative Assistant.”

My answer was something to the effect of, “I’ve worked with and have been trained by some very capable Administrative Assistants.”

I didn’t tell you in yesterday’s ITLever post why I think some believe I know how to work well with Administrative Assistant professionals, , , so here are some thoughts that may explain.

First, I respect what they do and understand how important their role is for an IT organization. An Administrative Assistant can literally make or break your organization.

Respect is a two-way experience. You won’t get respect unless you respect the other person and genuinely appreciate what they do for your team.

Second, what a good Administrative Assistant does will boost your productivity and with that in mind, you want to do everything you can that helps your assistant do their work well.

What this means is that managers need to follow a few guidelines:

  • Give clear definition of what you expect when making an assignment.
  • Provide simple and straightforward instructions.
  • Give your assistant examples if it helps her, or him, understand what you are looking for.
  • Don’t assume your assistant knows what you want, , , explain it.
  • Provide feedback and coach your assistant on what should have been handled differently or what can make the end product of the work better, , , coach.
  • Be supportive and give your assistant the tools to do the job.
  • Provide training and education to boost your assistant’s skills.
  • Ask your assistant for recommendations to improve your IT processes.
  • Ask your assistant what you can do to help her do a better job.
  • Give your assistant ownership of certain areas of work such as developing monthly reports, maintaining asset inventories, etc.

I guess my real message is that it helps when you “work with” someone and treat them like a partner rather than looking at your assistant as someone who “works for” you. Obviously, the reporting relationship is that she or he does work for you, but when you treat them like a “partner”, it affects how you work with the person, how you communicate with them, and even how much effort you place into providing instructions about a new project.

Take the time and make the extra effort like you would with a partner and you will probably see much better results from your assistant’s efforts.

Super Bowl preparations

Today is the 45th Super Bowl and the preparation is completed. Now, it’s time to execute. The team that has prepared best and goes out and executes the best will be the winner, , , maybe.

Another factor is going to be which team can react to the other team’s game plan the best and what happens during the game. Often, the team that gets the fastest start is not the ultimate winner, , , it happened last year when the New Orleans Saints came from behind to beat the Indianapolis Colts.

You can draw a parallel between your IT organization and a Super Bowl football team. You prepare your team and you execute well, , , but are you adjusting in a timely manner when game changing events occur in your company?

An IT organization has to be somewhat flexible. Business needs change, and at times they can change quite often due to real issues that come up and affect the company. Some of these issues may be negative impacts, , , others can be unforeseen opportunities.

In either case, your company may need to react to surprise situations, , , and when they do, IT support is often needed.

It’s important for you to develop an IT strategy to support your business. I emphasize this in many of my works. At the same time, be careful not to put a strategy in stone where you can’t adjust to new things that come up and impact your business.

Openly discuss these things with your senior management team. Ask them how rigid or how flexible you need to be when developing your IT strategy. Building your strategy in partnership with your senior management team is much more beneficial for everyone than developing it alone.

Senior management probably doesn’t want to be involved in the details, but they will normally be more than willing to provide guidance and advice about how flexible the plan needs to be.

Once the strategy is agreed upon and you are executing the plan, , , be observant and watch for things that occur in the business that may need you to adjust your focus. When you do, be sure you pull some things off the list so you are still working within your organization’s capabilities and capacity.

Today’s game should be a good one, , , at least on paper. I like both teams so it doesn’t really matter to me who wins, but I need to make a choice so I’ll go with the Green Bay Packers over the Pittsburgh Steelers  —  27 – 20.

Make others the hero

Wow, this is a tough one, , , or at least it was for me for many, many years. It’s also one of the more important lessons you can learn.

As a high achiever, you are mentally “programmed” to strive for success and to be the “hero”. We like to succeed, and there is certainly nothing wrong with this. In fact, you should be proud of being a high achiever and always want to accomplish great things.

That’s certainly the type of people we want on our team – right?

A challenge many of us have when we transition from technical expert to manager is that we tend to want to continue being the hero.

Key point of the article
If you don’t pick up anything from this article but the following point, it will be worthwhile. The key point is, “The manager is the hero when and only when your employees are successful and they are heroes.” As a manager, it becomes more important for you to help others become the hero.

Let’s take some examples:

A.  Make your employees the hero
In late 1999, I joined a small company as their new CIO and quickly identified a few key needs for the business. One of the projects was implementing e-mail services across the company if you can believe it. I made these projects a priority, got them approved and funded, and made it happen. In a national manager’s meeting the next year, I received a standing ovation when I announced the delivery of these key projects, , , something the former CIO had promised but never delivered.

Instead of taking credit for this effort myself, I gave credit to two of my IT employees and asked the managers (about 100 of them) to tell my employees how much they appreciated their effort, , , or maybe even send them an email message.

The point, , , yes, I made it happen by going after the money and placing a priority on the work, , , but the real work was done by my employees. They are the ones who really deserved the credit.

“the real work was done by my employees

Do you think these two employees appreciated me passing the credit to them? ABSOLUTELY,  and they worked even harder for me in the months to follow.

B.  Make your customer the hero
In another company, I identified some tangible cost savings that could be achieved by simply making a management decision.

Our postage cost was significantly higher than it should be because we were sending FEDEX packages to every office every day of the week. By making a management decision to limit overnight deliveries to twice a week and for emergencies, we cut out $15,000 a month in postage cost in a company that was challenged by poor cash flow.

As a young manager, I would have gone to my boss, the CEO, and become a hero in identifying this easy cost savings opportunity. We’re talking about some very low hanging fruit here, , , literally no effort to get the savings, , , in fact, it also reduced significant effort in our Mail Room.

The problem with this is that if you go to the CEO and become the hero, you alienate the CFO. He should be all over this issue but he wasn’t because he wasn’t doing his job. Now talk about something hard to do, , , help someone be a hero who isn’t doing his job.

I can tell you it is extremely hard to do this, but you need to make yourself approach a situation like this by giving the CFO the information and let him be the hero with the CEO, our boss.

The reason is because you need the CFO on your side and will need his help often in future situations. It is better to build these alliances than to try and be the hero and end up making enemies. You need to evaluate the cause and effect of how you handle things, and make a situation like this a win-win because it truly is.

C.  Make your vendor the hero
Give your vendor credit as much as you can. When your Vendor knows you are supporting him, he will work harder to support your efforts.

Summary
It’s all about building good teamwork around you. You never have too many allies and partners. When you build a culture where people are looking for ways to give others credit where credit is due, it’s a very positive and healthy work environment.

As I mentioned before, some parts of this are NOT easy. Giving someone opportunity to be a hero when they aren’t doing their job is difficult, , , truly difficult. The key thing to remember is that your gift can come back many times over and if you create a “giving” environment, you will have many people in the company trying to make you the hero over time.

Always try to be aware of the support you need within your company and make conscious efforts to develop and reinforce them.

Are you a good boss or a great one?

I just read an excellent article in the Harvard Business Review titled, Are You a Good Boss – or a Great One?

The research behind this article suggests most organizations have a group of managers of different levels of competency:

  • a few great managers
  • some capable managers
  • most are mediocre
  • poor managers
  • some awful managers

It’s a classic bell curve as you might expect.

Authors Linda A. Hill and Kent Lineback suggest that the primary reason the vast majority of managers becomes “stuck” at levels below GREAT is because they stop working on themselves.

I have to agree with their conclusions because I have seen the same thing in my career in working with thousands of managers. But, I think there is more to the issue:

  • In an IT manager’s case, we often do not know how to develop our management skills
  • In addition, most companies do not have anyone in the company who knows how to develop an IT manager’s management skills
  • If you look for training for an IT manager, good luck in finding something practical that works in a true operational management situation

Let me comment on this final point. In every IT Manager Institute program I deliver, I continue to hear managers say they have been looking for help but could not find anything until they stumbled upon my information.

It’s a big reason I devoted my life to developing practical tools and training to help IT managers achieve more success ten years ago.

How can a manager become “Good” or “Great”?

First of all, your objective should be to become a GREAT manager. The authors of the HBR article suggest you need to ask yourself, “How good am I?” or “Do I need to be better?”

Take a look at the bell curve above. Where would you place yourself? Most would rate themselves a bit better than their actual performance would indicate.

A better question, “Where would your clients (senior managers and Department managers of your company) rate your performance as a manager?”

The good news is that there is a path to becoming a GREAT IT manager. It’s available to you if you choose to invest in yourself, , , and investing in yourself and your career is something we should all be doing for our entire career. For example, I try to invest in at least two training programs a year that will help me become a better small business owner.

CLICK HERE to read the rest of the HBR article, , , it is well worth your time.

Be careful when cutting IT expenses you don’t cut “muscle”

The big movement in companies for well over a year now has been to cut expenses and reduce the cost of operations. The IT department has not been immune to this push from the top of companies nor should it be.

When revenues decline, stockholders still expect the companies they invest in to operate profitably and to keep the stock price up. What this means is that we have to find cost savings.

I’m a strong proponent of managing company expenses in line with revenues. I’m also a supporter of understanding the IT expense as a percent of company revenue and using it as a measurement guideline.

The problem comes into play when cost cutting initiatives cut into “muscle” as opposed to eliminating “fat”.  There are critical resource requirements to provide basic levels of technology support. In normal cases, a few areas need to have some amount of backup or depth in case a key member of the team leaves for some reason.

When you begin any cost cutting initiative, you should take a very close look at the support needs of the company and how you are organized to provide that support. Identify critical support requirements that must be in place to support core competencies of the company, i.e. the IT “muscle” that’s required.

You want to try to eliminate these key resources and expenses related to the support they provide from your list of potential cost cuts. By identifying the true “muscle” of your IT organization, you help ensure that the primary business support need will be taken care of. Be objective with this exercise and validate with senior management.

If you have “star” staff members in areas that are being looked at to be eliminated, consider shifting them to your core competency support areas, , , but when you do, you may still have to cut staff somewhere in the organization. The point is that the team you want to end up with should be the very best of the staff you have today and when you have to eliminate staff, you owe it to your team and the company to lose the weakest of the bunch.

You must stay objective when doing this – it is a tough assignment.

Always try to find business opportunities that allow you to make IT investments that will save the company much more than what will be saved by cutting IT expense. Most companies have these opportunities but if you wait until the “cost cutting” message comes down, it is too late.

One of your best assets is a track record of success and one that shows you constantly focus on things that provide business value to your company. The more you work in IT the more you will discover that the biggest cost saving opportunities are things you can do to help other departments in the company, , , not usually what you can save in IT. Don’t rule out technology cost savings, , , just be aware there may be bigger fish elsewhere in your company.

We are tops at IT Business Edge

Do you know who IT Business Edge is?

Maybe not, but I’ll bet you probably know TechRepublic, , , right?

Well, the same group of 4 people started both companies. They started TechRepublic from scratch in the 90’s and built it’s readership to one of the largest in the IT industry, , , then sold it to Gartner around 2002. They started IT Business Edge, I believe in 2003.

I’ve worked with both companies quite a bit. In 2001-2003, I wrote over 100 articles on IT management for TechRepublic, , , many of which are still published from time to time.

In 2004, I accidentally discovered IT Business Edge in a phone interview with a writer. We began a joint venture and they started promoting my IT Manager Development Series.

Today, I received an ITBE e-mail promotion and was excited to see that my IT Manager Development Series still tops their list of Premium Tools, , , they have done so since IT Business Edge (ITBE) began telling their readers about them, , ,  for 7 straight years.

Here is the excerpt from the e-mail message I received today:

“most popular Premium Tool we’ve ever offered”

“Our Best Value Ever — And Our Most Comprehensive IT Manager Training Package”

What a great feeling seeing comments like these from ITBE, , , but the best part is the thought of how many IT managers we reach through the efforts of ITBE and other partners like them. If you were to subscribe to one of ITBE’s newsletters, you receive a free copy of my e-book, IT Management-101, , , , just like you do when you subscribe to my newsletter. We know that ITBE has distributed well over 300,000 copies of IT Management-101 since 2004.

Interested in learning more about ITBE’s #1 Premium Product?

Go to ITBE’s web site —-  https://www.itbusinessedge.com/commerce/?c=168

Or go to my web site  —-  www.mde.net/cio

Interested in learning more about IT Business Edge?  Great resources for IT managers!!    Go to   www.itbe.com

Management requires special skills

Moving into management is tempting to many IT pros. But before jumping into a position you’re not ready for, there are a few issues you need to examine. Review these five steps and decide if you’re prepared to move successfully into management nirvana.

I’ve been fortunate to have managed thousands of employees in my 20-plus years of managing IT resources. One of the interesting things I’ve consistently noticed during that time is how many employees want to become managers.

I absolutely love managing IT organisations and the people within them, but it’s not all glory and accolades. There is also hard work, frustration, and tremendous challenges required to do the job right. So before you start applying for that open management role, you should take a closer look at the job.

Answering the “why?”
When interviewing or counseling employees, I’m often confronted with someone’s desire to become a manager, and the first question I ask is, “Why?”

The response can provide a useful perspective. Here are a few examples that I’ve gotten over the years:

  • “I want to be the boss.”
  • “I want the authority and prestige of the position.”
  • “I want to direct others on what they should do.”
  • “I don’t know; it just seems like the natural course for my career.”
  • “I want to attend management meetings and learn what the company is planning.”
  • I want to build a big organization

At the time, the staffers who provided these responses didn’t have a clue what an IT manager’s job involved. In fact, most IT professionals don’t, and too many get thrown into management positions with little or no real preparation to do the job effectively.

The answer to “Why do you want to be a manager?” reveals a great deal about what you want from a job and how you view the role of IT in the company. Many technicians see the role as one that defines the technology direction of the company and determines what tools to use. For them, the allure of a management position is the ability to make these decisions. To some extent, that’s true, but many don’t get the fact that what really drives those decisions is the company’s needs and not necessarily the technical knowledge that the manager may possess.

Current competency isn’t all that’s needed
Being good at what you do does not necessarily prepare you for a management position. Let me repeat that: Just because a person is an outstanding consultant or support pro doesn’t mean that the person will be a good, or even an average, manager.

The growth of technology in the last 20 years has created a large demand for more IT managers, and many have found themselves in the role without anything more to help them than what they knew in their former positions.

Certainly, knowing how to program can benefit you in a programming manager role, but it can also be a limiting factor. When you take the best programmers and make them managers, the company and CIO often lose their best productive resources, and a very green person is now placed in a management role that directly influences many others.

For far too many years, it was thought that the best resource in a technical area could effectively manage the rest of the team. That’s not only a false idea; it can also be a dangerous one for the company, the IT organisation, and employees touched by such a move.

The fact is that effectively managing employees and technology resources has very little to do with how technical you are and more to do with your ability to facilitate, persuade, plan, organize, motivate, and communicate. You don’t hear anything very technical in those terms.

Suddenly, what becomes more important is not what you can do yourself, but what you can get accomplished through others.

Management is like any other skill. You can learn it, but the key issue is that it’s a different skill set from what you have used as a technician. Of course, the fact that you have been successful as a technical resource does give you a head start, because it helps you relate to others who have technical roles.

When you become a manager, you have to let others do the technical part so you can focus your time and energy on doing the management part. With technology changing as rapidly as it is, you simply cannot continue to be the technical expert and expect to be an excellent manager.

If you take nothing else away from this article, take the message that when you decide to become an IT manager, you have to focus your time and full energy on issues that help you succeed as a manager. If you like solving problems, learning new technologies, and implementing new tools and technology, you may want to stay in your technical role. Managers don’t have time to become experts in the new technologies and do their management jobs well.

Positioning yourself for management
I’m not suggesting that you can’t become a manager if you truly want to. Take my insight as a message to prepare and understand what the job is really all about before taking the leap. It’s not about giving orders and telling others what to do as much as you might think. If that were the case, it would be a simple deal.

Here are five steps to take in your current role to prepare for a management position:

  • Learn how to manage projects and establish a successful track record of managing projects that are delivered on time and within budget. Developing sound project management skills is the best preparatory step, as the role requires many of the skills needed in a management position.
  • Observe successful managers managing and motivating employees. When you see something that’s effective, add it to your skills “toolkit.”
  • Find a mentor who has a successful management track record and is willing to help you develop management skills and offer you insight. Mentors are invaluable and can help you save time, avoid wasted effort, and reduce frustration because they know the shortcuts that are effective as a manager, just as you know the shortcuts in your technical role.
  • Tell your current supervisor that you’re looking to move into a management position and would like help preparing for the new challenge.
  • Ask for more responsibility so you can develop new management skills. Be sure you preface the request so that it’s clear that you want it to help you develop skills that will prepare you for a management role.

There’s no quick shortcut
Depending upon your background and experience, you may have a long road ahead in your preparation efforts. Don’t expect to be offered a management position the week after you ask for it. You need to realize that management roles require new skills, so you should be prepared to make the investment to develop those skills.

Over the years, I’ve turned down many management/promotion requests from staffers who were not ready to become managers. But for those who showed a genuine desire to become managers, I made an investment in that goal, and many turned out to be exceptional technology managers. If I had moved them into management roles, unprepared in both perspective and skill set, I would have been negligent as a manager myself and could have damaged their careers.

In every case, the first question I ask is, “Why do you want to be a manager?” In most cases, the initial answer is not the same answer given a year later when they better understand the role.