What is the role an IT manager?
IT managers occupy a unique role in any organization. This is because you typically serve as a strategic leader as well as in a supporting role. You implement direction from the chief information officer (CIO) and executive team while also setting strategy for a core functional group.
Your responsibilities are broad — you determine IT plans, set and monitor departmental goals, establish team workflows, choose technology to invest in, and facilitate collaboration across the organization. In short, the work you do keeps the IT team and larger organization moving forward.
Depending on the organization, you may be in charge of one or more functional areas, such as architecture, infrastructure, networking, security, software development, or support. At a smaller organization, you may only need a couple years of experience before becoming a manager. At the enterprise level, you typically need five to 10 years of experience managing large teams and complex infrastructure and environments.
What skills does an IT manager need?
Most IT managers have hands-on experience with coding and using the same tools that the IT team uses. Even if your role calls for less tactical work than an individual contributor, you need to maintain your technical skills to help guide the team.
As an IT manager, you will be called on to lead and mentor teammates, manage the IT roadmap, and report on team performance. Skills that will help you excel in IT management include:
Strong technical or programming background — with contributions on GitHub
Experience designing and deploying IT infrastructure and applications
Strong problem-solving and critical thinking skills
Ability to link high-level strategy to day-to-day projects
Experience managing budgets and tracking KPIs
Leadership skills, with experience facilitating cross-functional work
Strong project management skills
IT managers typically have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in management information systems (MIS), information technology, computer science, or a related field. Others gain practical skills — on-the-job experience as a developer, analyst, or manager can be just as useful as a degree in IT.
What are an IT manager's responsibilities?
Your responsibilities as an IT manager will vary widely — depending on the size and structure of your organization. Some managers will report directly to the CIO; others will report to a VP or director of IT. The reporting structure itself matters less than how much it may influence your responsibilities. Is your role horizontal across all IT functions? Do you need expertise in one area specifically?
Regardless of areas of ownership, most IT managers will work cross-functionally with engineers, operators, security practitioners, product managers, and folks across the organization. This is because the applications, tools, and systems that you manage will be used by internal and external customers alike.
At a high level, IT managers are responsible for these areas:
IT managers set the strategic direction — defining objectives, building the IT roadmap, and allocating the budget. You work closely with the CIO and other IT leaders to establish best practices, policies, and team workflows.
IT managers hire, train, and mentor a team of IT administrators, engineers, security practitioners, and other IT specialists. You perform capacity and resource planning, some of the most important and challenging areas of IT.
IT managers are involved in project planning — developing systems and guardrails to support the organization and keep projects on track.
IT managers help organizations evolve by evaluating IT investments and identifying areas of growth. You look for opportunities to increase the organization's productivity, adaptability, and reliability.
Each management role requires its own demands and expertise. Succeed as an IT manager by demonstrating your ability to use technology to transform the organization. Ultimately, it is about serving your customers well and providing technical solutions.