Virtual IT manager, real risk

Why have an expensive IT manager, asks BT, when it'll do the job for less?
Written by Leader , Contributor

It's official. IT managers are cleverer and better paid than almost any other job function apart from finance. A recent survey showed IT managers earn on average £830 per week — some £170 more than other executives. And most tech managers have degrees: most non-tech managers don't.

BT would rather some of those smart people didn't have jobs. It decided that instead of paying their salaries, companies would be better of diverting the cash into its coffers. Aimed mainly at those smaller outfits who may not be able to afford to pay a living, breathing and apparently well-compensated IT manager of their own, BT claims its new service will give small businesses "their own IT manager at a fraction of the cost of employing one".

The launch of BT Business IT manager is a move — and a sound one — for a company trying to use its own telco and IT expertise to escape from the ghetto of telecommunications. It's also not a bad idea for its target companies.  The actual impact on the IT management job pool will be negligible, as those businesses wouldn't be hiring a full-price body anyway. Hardware is increasingly affordable and, when combined with the pricing flexibility offered by hosted applications, then the costs of actual technology is no longer the main limiting factor for smaller companies looking to improve their use of IT. Being able to buy in just enough expertise could be a very smart move.

However, while the strategy is sound, the jury is still out on the execution. BT's track-record in IT services is chequered at best. Its most high-profile project to date — its role as lead consultant on the multi-billion NHS contract — has already resulted in delayed payment due to missed deadlines, and there can be few companies of any size who don't have war stories concerning BT's unique attitude to customer support in the past.

The concept of a virtual IT manager makes sound business sense but only for those who accept the very real risks of dealing with a company in transition. Those who fancy the idea of a virtual IT manager should be certain that the real consequences of things going wrong are manageable.


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