Walk into the offices of Millens Recycling in the foothills of New York's Catskill Mountains, ask for Timothy Millard, and someone might say, "Oh, you mean the computer guy." Yes, Millard's that, but he also has grown into a role at the 118-year-old family-run business that goes beyond keeping the PCs and servers running. Millard makes decisions about IT strategy, which technology projects to take on, and how to go about them. Unnoticed by most, Millens' computer guy has been thrust into the job of a manager.
Timothy Millard does double duty for Millens Recycling
Photo by Ken Schles
Slicing the Bureau of Labor Statistics data another way, managers now represent 11.2% of IT employment, the fourth-largest tech job category, up from 7.8% in mid-2001, when it was the sixth-largest job category. This trend is critical for IT pros to understand as they manage their own careers or make decisions about hiring and developing staffers. Even people who want to stay on a technical track must pay attention because this isn't just a matter of changing titles on business cards. The labor stats are based on people describing their work, not their titles. The surging number of managers reflects the skills that companies value and the way IT is used and implemented in business today.
Not About Direct Reports
The influence of the new IT manager isn't measured by the number of his or her direct reports, since many don't have any people who officially work "for" them. Instead, they're managing relationships inside and outside the company. That's a story partly about outsourcing, managing teams of offshore contractors who write code or support a business process. But it's even more about IT-savvy project managers pegged to coordinate initiatives that bridge departments, where the dotted lines on the org chart are every bit as important as the boxes.
Nearly a quarter of luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co.'s IT staff are managers. Their job descriptions involve coordinating the IT needs of a specific business operation, including supply chain, retail, inventory control, international, and e-commerce. IT directors work with business units to develop business strategies, and IT managers execute the implementation of tech-related business projects. "I had one of our senior VPs tell me, a person in my area knows more about that business than most of their people," Tiffany CIO Robert Davidson says.
The role of the pure technologist isn't dead. Besides managers, the other IT category that added a lot of jobs in recent years is computer software engineer, up 117,000, or 16%, since 2001. The three largest IT job categories--software engineer, computer scientist and system analyst, and programmer--still employ 60% of IT people. But even people who want to stay on technical tracks must develop some management skills, since the people most likely to succeed combine tech chops with business acumen (see story, "Careers: Seven Tips For Success On The IT Technical Track").
A study this year by the Society for Information Management, led by a team of academics, finds that even IT workers in the trenches must know how to make business decisions. The top three skills sought by IT employers for midlevel hires, not all of whom would be managers, involved managerial proficiencies: planning, budgeting, and scheduling; project leadership; and project risk management. Only two of the top 10 skills entail technical know-how, and those put emphasis on the big picture: systems analysis and systems design. Other sought-after skills include user-relationship management, negotiations, project integration and management, and knowledge of an industry, as well as the functions and processes of the business domain they support. "The word 'manager' implies something these roles aren't doing--formally supervising people," says Kate Kaiser, associate professor of IT at Marquette University's College of Business and one of the study's leaders. "What they're really supervising is the resources to get something done."
This story was updated Oct. 2.