Who wants to be an IT manager?

commentary Being an IT manager isn't a very attractive proposition at the moment. With lots of pressure and little room for failure, it is hard to find an upside.



commentary Being an IT manager isn't a very attractive proposition at the moment. With lots of pressure and little room for failure, it is hard to find an upside.

Apparently it is hard being the CEO of a company -- all the decisions you have to make, keeping on top of the market, and making sure the company is going in the right direction. You need to have the balls to restructure -- or remove -- the business arms that aren't working, and the initiative to explore new markets. Not to mention being responsible for millions of dollars and shareholder return. This is why they get paid the big bucks we are told. So when the next CEO walks away from his post (not to be sexist, but it usually is a "he" in Australia) and receives a multi-million dollar payout, he deserves it for all the pressure he has been under -- even if the company lost millions under his leadership. At the very least he needs a few mill to buy presents for the family to make up for all the time he has been away from home.

So let's all take a minute to feel sorry for CEOs everywhere. Actually let's not, because I think there are much harder jobs in a company than being CEO -- today I am sparing a thought for the IT manager.

The hours are long, the pressures are high, and demands come in thick and fast. I am sure you can come up with many reasons why your job is difficult, but one that stands out for me is the need to be on top of so many products and services across such a wide variety of technology. It can't be easy.

Tech departments are called on for their expertise for all things IT and expectations are high. And with so many people using the technology, the pressure to pick the right available product must be difficult, because if it doesn't do the job you will soon know about it.

Darrell Ryman, technology fellow at technology integrator Avanade, sees businesses struggling to find the right solution. He cites one example of a project manager stalling a major project because he no longer knew how to manage it. A well-branded software product was selected because it was deemed to be one of the best in the market, however it wasn't a proper fit for the company. This left the project manager trying to get his team to fit company processes to the technology, instead of the other way around. Hence the stall.

With costs mounting for every day of no work, not to mention the possible cost of starting over, you can practically see the sweat forming on this guy's brow. The really scary part is that Ryman used this example as a typical problem scenario he has observed. If this sounds at all familiar, read on (and you have my sympathy).

Pressures on IT managers have changed in the last three years, says Gerard Florian, chief technology officer at Dimension Data. As people have become more knowledgeable about IT, there are now a lot more "experts" within organisations. Florian says it is now more common to have people from other departments approach IT about technology they have heard of, which ups the ante on the IT manager to have a greater understanding across a breadth of technology.

Company executives are more familiar with IT these days as well, and are taking a closer interest in what the IT department is spending money on and if they are receiving the promised benefits or return. Florian says no longer can the IT department get away with choosing a technology that doesn't produce returns, because the executives are watching and will come back in year or 18 months and demand accountability.

And there will be consquences for project failure. If the project was only a small one, you can breathe easy knowing that your job is safe, but it will probably become a lot harder with executives losing trust in the IT department's ability to get the job done. And if the new company "experts" are demanding action from IT and don't get it, you run the risk of other deparments bypassing IT and coming up with their own solutions, says Florian.

The worst-case scenario is the project worth millions gone awry because of a purchasing decision made by the stressed-out IT manager. You can expect your job to be on the line.

This change in pressure for IT managers is cause for concern, you have got to wonder what kind of purchasing behaviours this is causing. The saying used to be that no one got fired for choosing IBM, but what is the update to that saying?

And there is more bad news -- I don't know about you, but I haven't heard of any multi-million payouts for fallen IT managers who lost the company millions on a bad technology solution.

I know which job I would rather have.

This article was first published in Technology & Business magazine.
Click here for subscription information.