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Unqualified IT managers

By wordworker ·
Recently I was in a meeting with a vendor, a company who licenses software to one of my healthcare clients, and I couldn't believe my ears. The Chief Technology Officer of this high company (with >$500 million annual sales) didn't know what VMware was, and had never heard of Citrix.

Is it just me, or is there a really bad trend in corporate America to promote "business" people to high-level management positions within IT? I mean, how can any self-respecting person function in a CTO position with so little knowledge of the IT world?

No wonder there aren't any career paths for REAL technology professionals -- airheads are being promoted instead of gearheads.

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Good advise

by romeroGT In reply to Airheads vs Gearheads

Macleemac is right, for some time I worked as the "tech consultant" for CTOs, this lets you learn about what managment really is. I'm now in middle managment at IT and our CTO is helping our team to improve managment skills and get "above" the techie world, that is, for the ones who would love to be CTOs or start our own companies.

I've worked with tech and non-tech CTO/CIO, in both cases there where some that where really good and others not so much (I have allways learned from them, so I cannot talk bad about any of them). Sometimes a techie might be more an obstacle if he is has biased opinions about technologies, just as a non-techie would drive you crazy when you need to explain why you need to invest in antivirus, firewall and IDS.

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Well said, and thank you!

by EDHinSanDiego In reply to Airheads vs Gearheads

I couldn't agree more. As the non-gearhead IT Director/CIO for a university, I find that I am called on to participate in all aspects of our organization, not just IT. I believe this is because I have held positions on both the administrative and the academic side of the higher ed house, and have experience at both small and large, public and private institutions. Obtaining that experience and the academic tickets, with a couple of "subject matter expert" side trips working in the software arena, paved the way for me to obtain this leadership role, both for our IT unit and in our organization as a whole. And did I mention how much reading and research I do to keep up, how many conversations I have with all the managers, directors and VPs at our university to understand their needs, and how well all the techies work with my techy managers on our wonderful team? And that we have the results to prove it?! And how in the end, no matter what organization you work for, it takes a group of committed people with many talents making decisions every day, large and small, and working hard, every day, to bring a great product or service to your customers? Best regards, Eileen

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Well said, but.....

by jdmercha In reply to Airheads vs Gearheads

"My job is to make sure you have the tools you need to do your job..." I agree 100%. Too bad not many other managers do.

" all the paperwork that you don't like doing...". Maybe some people, but I bet most of us would trade jobs with you (and salaries) in a heartbeat.

"Thus senior managers will probably have technically competent middle managers..." True, but a senior manager can be technically competent too.

"...senior managers making very expensive business deals want to deal with other senior managers" True again, but I think a technically competent senior manager has a big advantage.

"The trend to promote 'business' or 'sales' people into high-level management won't change anytime soon. " Too few people look at the complete history of things. This is a cyclical thing. As IT spending goes up, business managers will be promoted to top IT positions, to cut costs. Then as businesses fail to maintain a technological edge technology people will be promoted to the top IT positions, to regain that edge.

"..then work out a professional development plan with your manager that will get you the education and varied business experience you'll need to get there " I've never come across a manager willing to do this. And getting the education and experience is still no guaranty.

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IT Management

by jcowie In reply to Unqualified IT managers

In my experience the best IT Managers/CIO's I have met and dealt with have a mix of business and technology.

I have found managers who started in technology retail business and then moving into corporate/government circles gives the manager the skills to be able to set a technical direction and develop a stratgey that assists the business side of his/her company.

I have seen some managers with 100% technical background take over departments and completely ailenate the company managers and develop a technical startegy that does not fit the company.

On the flip side I have seen some managers with 100% business skills and no technical skills run an IT dept and stuff it up completly as they leave all decisions to vendors who preach that they have your companies interest at heart.

Managers today must be able to develop an IT vision but also find the best business fit to achieve this the manager must posses both skills.

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The Fear Factor

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to IT Management

Personally I'd be intensely suspicious of manager who was technologically up. They'd come up with the clever idea of hiring in a gopher, paying it peanuts and allowing me to find a more rewarding career opportunity, thereby saving the company a considerable amount of money. Equally if I was profoundly up on finances and salesmanship and still a technological wizard (impossible in my opinion) they'd be scared stiff of me and do me up the back at the next golf session with the CFO.
I like my box, I'll stay in mine if you stay in yours.

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Business 1st, tech 2nd

by Greg Houston In reply to Unqualified IT managers

Witout good business knowledge, tech prowess is useless at the management level. The reason for non-tech CIO's in many firms is that the alpha geek who had the job before escalated the cost of IT and didn't provide good customer sat. Money is tight, and must be spent wisely - seldom on the leading edge solution geeks want. Solutions must be rock solid & easy to use for our customers, the employees of the firm.

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How about an English major as CFO?

by isapp In reply to Business 1st, tech 2nd

When was the last time a non-financial person was named Chief Financial Officer? If a CFO must understand financial and accounting procedures, why doesn't a CIO need to understand technology? How can a CIO make intelligent decisions when he/she doesn't know what resources are available to implement best practices?

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My humble opinion

by Seamus In reply to Unqualified IT managers

Management is more about people skills than it is about Techie skills.

Many techies are more interested in working with the computers and locking themselves in their office fixing the problem than interacting with the different levels of the companies.

That is not to say that a CTO shouldn't know what Citrix is or what the different technologies are of course they should. After all it is the responsibility of the upper management to look at the issues and develop strategies.

As far as being able implement it that is a waste of resources. He should be there making sure that the tech's have what they need and removing obstacles of the techies. More the political wrangling type stuff.

Before you write back I am a techie making the move to management and having a hard time taking my hands off and leaving the real tech?s get the job done.

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Communication vs technical skills

by zaferus In reply to Unqualified IT managers

Often executives prefer an IT manager who has good communications skills. I've seen both the good and bad of it.

Really an IT manager who's a good communicator can get the resources that are needed and "sell" that new IT project that needs to get done. Also since these personality types are good at being part of the 'exec club' they can bring a lot of gain to IT departments which are generally negatively viewed and often our fiscal needs are misunderstood by management.

However, the bad of it is that IT techs who are really good BS'ers and behind kissers normally are all too good at snowing an IT manager who doesn't know a compaq flash card from a ram dimm. Politics can get really bad in IT departments and the good techs can get frustrated and disheartened.

As well non-technical managers have a really bad habit of saying "yes" to executive management in projects that are nightmares in the making without understanding the technical requirements or risks.

Just my experience.


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VMware and Citrix - a litmust test

by rkannan In reply to Unqualified IT managers

Apologies if I sound little rude.

Cannot count the number of citrix/VMware experts
who do not know the abcs of enterprise architecture
or integration.

I would consider this as a blessing as the CTO
will not run around stuffing citrix and VMware
into everything.

Thanks. Since when did these two infrastructure
components become litmus test for being a capable

I would have thought,
being able to relate business goals into technical capabilities
sdlc and sei cmm
roi on IT projects
application partitioning
SW Project Portfolio
etc to be signatures of technical skills for a
CTO not to mention the soft skills.

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