As businesses are increasingly reliant on technology, your role as IT manager is crucial to business continuity and success.
You will be advising organisations on IT solutions that will best help them grow and perform more efficiently. You’ll work with companies from beginning to end, outlining the most effective resources and oversee projects through design, development to completion.
You’ll be working closely with the client to ensure projects are completed on time and to budget. You’ll be in charge of your project team and it’ll be your responsibility to ensure everyone is doing the right thing at the right time.
It can be a highly varied job, and you’ll find there are opportunities to work alongside a wide range of sectors. For example, you might be helping to create a new patient database for the NHS or assisting a private company to switch to a new phone system.
Whatever project you’re working on, your daily tasks may include:
• Speaking to your management team/clients to find out what they want and to advise them objectively on where IT might make a difference to the business
• Planning the stages of the project and how each affects the business
• Coordinating the project team
• Agreeing costs, timescales and standards to be met and monitoring these throughout the project
• Adjusting the plans where needed
• Making sure there is a smooth change over from the old system to the new one
• Keeping management and clients updated on progress
• Evaluation of each project stage and once completed
If the flexibility and diversity of self-employment is something you’re looking for, you could move into freelance work as a consultant or contractor. The additional advantage of freelance work is that you can organise breaks between projects, for example, to get a qualification or go travelling.
Promotion prospects for IT managers may often depend on the size and type of organisation you work for. Wherever you are, it’s likely you will be able to work towards a more strategic role. You’ll find many large companies have structured career paths, which lead to acquiring more management responsibility.
As IT is such a diverse field, you could choose to take a more technical path instead of a management role. It’s possible to then specialise in a specific sector or computer platform like SAP or Oracle. Alternatively, you could work towards becoming an IT specialist or technical architect.
If you’re looking to become an IT manager, employers will be looking for the following attributes:
You should have:
• Excellent organisational skills
• Strong leadership and decision making skills
• Excellent analytical and problem solving skills
• Understanding of complex information and requirements
• Good prioritisation skills and be flexible enough to adapt plans
• Great IT skills combined with a good head for business
• Ability to explain complex systems in simple terms
• An ability to work to tight deadlines and within constraints
You'll generally need a degree and several years of relevant experience to get started in IT management. It's better if your degree is in an IT-based subject or a business degree with some technical element (like maths or engineering).
Opportunities still exist if you don't have a degree, but lots of experience; particularly if you can demonstrate more responsibility for the development and implementation of projects.
Some IT managers come from another background and have worked in another sector before moving into IT. If this is the case then you'll need to show evidence of your project management skills, preferably in some way related to IT. And you'll need to have taken some kind of IT course to get your technical knowledge up to scratch.
One qualification that employers are increasingly looking for is PRINCE2 (Projects in Controlled Environments). It's not essential but it looks good on your CV and shows that you’re serious about your career. PRINCE2 is also a prerequisite for many public sector projects, so can help you win business too. Some employers will send you on this training course as part of your ongoing development.
Training is taken very seriously in the IT industry; More is invested in ongoing qualifications and training than in any other industry. As an IT manager, it’s likely your employer will offer you a mix of business and technical training.
If you have an IT background, it’s possible to gain a number of IT project management qualifications through the Association of Project Management (APM) and the Information Systems Examinations Board (ISEB).
If you come from a general business background, you could take some more generic project management qualifications, such as a degree or postgraduate course or NVQs.
You could ask to go on courses that will help you develop your communications and leadership skills, as working with people will be an important part of the job.
Hours and environment
Your hours as an IT manager will often be between 9am to 5pm, but there is a high possibility that the hours will be more flexible than this. Extra hours will be needed at times to meet deadlines and when working with clients, it may be necessary to follow their hours rather than your employer’s.
Although you'll be working within an office, it’s likely you’ll spend a lot of time at client’s premises, so travel is often a common aspect of the role. Depending on your employer and clients, it can also be necessary to work away from home and even sometimes overseas.
Part time roles are quite rare, however self employment is popular with IT managers as it means you can take breaks between assignments if you want to.
As an IT manager, you can typically expect your starting salary to be around £23,000 to £32,000.
At a senior level, it’s possibly your salary could range far higher and could even reach levels of up to £100,000 a year once you've got 10 to 15 years of experience. At this level, your salary would depend largely on your performance.
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