Finding Your Ideal IT Manager – A New Approach is Needed

IT manager roles have changed dramatically over the past few years. Here are some tips on skills you should (or shouldn’t) look for when seeking out candidates.

Andrew Froehlich, President & Lead Network Architect, West Gate Networks

November 29, 2022

5 Min Read
white arrows going in one direction and a yellow arrow moving up
Cagkan Sayin via Alamy Stock

Have you ever thought you’ve got the right person to fill your open IT manager role, only to find out a few months later that it wasn’t the right fit? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. When it comes IT management roles, times are changing and so should your methods for finding qualified candidates. In many situations, the skills and talents desired in IT managers of the past are not the right fit for what’s needed today. Here’s a look at those changes and how they impact how you find your perfect IT manager.

Technical Prowess Isn’t as Important as It Once Was

At one time it was thought that IT managers required a deep background in enterprise technologies. This is not necessarily the case today as technology is ubiquitous and most have been exposed to it all their lives. However, it is important to note that enterprise IT is quite different from consumer-based IT. Thus, a certain level of familiarity of how today’s enterprise infrastructures is still warranted.

That said, keep in mind that technology management and understanding is no longer relegated to the IT department. Because we use technology across all departments, there are employees in finance, sales, and marketing, for example, who have collaborated closely with IT architects and integration specialists to implement a range of technologies that benefit their business department. As such, many of these employees potentially have enough understanding of enterprise IT to step into the role of IT manager.

A Deep Understanding of Business Processes and Flows

Over the past two decades, IT has slowly shifted from being a department that supports the business -- to one that helps lead the way. Business leaders are increasingly relying on IT managers to help them solve business problems and goals. Because of this, the skills of IT managers have shifted from one that simply suggests technology systems and architectures based to preformulated goals to one that helps identify and vet areas where technology can facilitate and streamline business processes.

IT managers with a comprehensive view on how businesses function as a whole is becoming increasingly valuable. This helps them to better understand where technology gaps exist in existing or newly needed processes and which technologies will fit best with current and future goals.

IT Staff Duties Are Changing -- This Impacts the IT Manager, Too

It used to be that a large portion of IT dealt with the build-out and management of various servers, network hardware, and cabling within privately owned and managed data centers. However, now that most businesses have adopted a cloud, hybrid, or multi-cloud architecture model with which to deliver apps, data, and digital services to end users, a significant shift from hardware-focused IT roles to software-centric roles has taken place.

In many cases, technical IT staff required new training to acquire new skills that moved away from physical installs to working in virtualized, containerized, and distributed IT infrastructures. While IT managers don’t need to have the level of depth that IT architects, administrators, and operations staff require, these managers do need to be able to visualize these changes at a high level and understand the basic terminology. When searching for an IT manager for your organization, be sure they are up to speed on modern infrastructure architectures and are not stuck in the past.

Slow and Steady vs. Fast and Agile – How About Both?

There are certain roles within IT that value speed and agility while others practice a slow and cautious approach. DevOps teams, for example, pride themselves as being able to push new updates through their development pipeline to get the latest and greatest software to their end users as quickly as possible. Network and system administrators, on the other hand, tend to take a more methodical approach to their work duties as any mistakes made in these job roles can impact the entire organization that brings all business operations to a halt.

Understanding these IT job role nuances is an important part of an IT manager as they have a solid understanding on how to set expectations for the entire organization based on the project and which IT teams are involved. In some cases, it may be prudent to push a team to get out a new software update knowing there is the risk of introducing a new bug. However, understanding that DevOps teams are agile and quick to identify and remediate the bug is likely a risk worth taking. Alternatively, this same manager may allow delays of a new data center or cloud build-out as they understand that creating a network and system foundation is key to long-term success and is often a nightmare to go back and retroactively fix.

Taking Advantage of Automation and Analytics

Now that we live in a software-defined workplace, IT managers must understand that the use of collected data, machine learning and automation of processes is a path toward IT efficiency. Managers must be capable and willing to work with and analyze collected data so that processes can be automated within the department. While the manager doesn’t necessarily need to possess the technical “know-how” in this regard, its important that they allow their technical staff to focus o­­n this aspect of IT and help to prioritize these types of projects whenever possible.

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About the Author(s)

Andrew Froehlich

President & Lead Network Architect, West Gate Networks

Andrew has well over a decade of enterprise networking under his belt through his consulting practice, which specializes in enterprise network architectures and datacenter build-outs and prior experience at organizations such as State Farm Insurance, United Airlines and the University of Chicago Medical Center. Having lived and worked in South East Asia for nearly three years, Andrew possesses a unique international business and technology perspective. When he's not consulting, Andrew enjoys writing technical blogs and is the author of two Cisco certification study guides published by Sybex.

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