Are IT Managers Really Needed?

by drjim on July 28, 2016

Are IT managers really needed in most organizations?

Are IT managers really needed in most organizations?
Image Credit: Alex Abian

As an IT manager, I’m pretty sure that you think that you are hot stuff. You provide your company with a valuable service and if you were not there, then they would miss you and your IT manager skills. However, there is a flip side to this thought – is it possible that you are no longer needed and if you weren’t there nobody would notice?

What Happens At Firms That Don’t Have IT Managers

The easiest way to start this discussion might to be by talking about the untalkable. Specifically, what might life be like at companies that don’t have any IT managers. We’ve not had any IT manager training that taught us how to deal with this situation. It turns out that there are actually a lot of these companies out there. The most famous of these may be the successful and high-flying Zappos.com.

At firms that don’t have IT managers, a number of interesting observations have been made. You actually can run a small company without any IT managers – when anything needs to be done, people just pitch in and help out. However, as the company starts to become larger, problems start to show up. This will show up as projects that are not being completed and as workers who are unsure of just exactly what they should be working on.

One of the key measures of any company is how productive their employees are. When you don’t have any IT managers, this can quickly start to go down. Middle managers are needed in order to coordinate work that is being done on multiple projects. Additionally, workers require supervision. This supervision includes getting praise when they do good work and being blamed when work does not get done.

Why IT Managers Are Important To Have

When you talk with workers who are not being managed by an IT manager, what you’ll quickly discover is that what they are missing is any reason to push hard to accomplish tasks. This is because nobody will know about it if they do. All too easily workers can start to get the feeling that not too much is really going to be expected of them so they don’t have to deliver very much. What’s missing here is some IT team building.

Another problem that shows up in work environments that don’t have IT managers is that it becomes very hard to make decisions. Endless discussions just seem to go on and on. Since any employee can join any discussion even if it is outside of their area of expertise, there never seems to be an end to any of these discussions. Unfortunately, what does come out of these types of discussions are few answer or plans. It becomes very hard for the company to keep moving forward.

Something that a lot of companies that are thinking about doing away with IT managers don’t spend a lot of time thinking about is where employees will get answers to questions if they don’t have a boss to go to. What happens is that there is a constant flow of questions from employees about small issues such as company expense polices and the only people who can answer these are the senior management. This means that the senior management’s time gets taken up dealing with lots and lots of small issues that really should have been handled by bosses.

What All Of This Means For You

Yes, it is true that if you read the newspaper or take a look at stories online, you will probably see more and more stories about companies that are trying out a new organizational approach where they do away with IT managers. This is trendy, popular and is getting a lot of press. However, is it the right thing for firms to be doing?

At firms that don’t have any IT managers, it turns out that the size of the firm really matters. The larger the firm, the greater the need for IT managers is. Larger firms without IT managers start to discover that projects are not being completed and workers are unsure about what they should be working on. Decisions become hard to make and despite holding lengthy meetings that are attended by people who really should not be there, no plans are being made or executed.

In the end, it sure looks like all of us need someone to tell us what to do. The reason that these firms are doing away with their IT managers is because they’ve gotten a bad reputation of hindering innovation and slowing things down. The firms that don’t have IT managers are now discovering that IT managers really are needed and in fact make the company run both faster and better.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: If your company proposed doing away with IT managers, how would you stop them?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental IT Leader Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental IT Leader Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So here’s an interesting question for you: have you ever become angry at work? If you’ve been working for any length of time, the answer to this question has to be “yes” – we all have. Now comes the much bigger question: what did you do about it? It turns out that there are right things and wrong things to do when we become angry at work.

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What can we learn from the recent high profile promotions of Indian managers?

What can we learn from the recent high profile promotions of Indian managers?
Image Credit: twitter.com

Just to be very clear about things: this article has nothing to do with bashing Indian managers. You will not hear me complaining that “they are taking all of the good jobs”. You won’t hear this, because it’s simply not true – there are a lot of good IT manager jobs out there for all of us. However, when Google announced that they were reorganizing and promoting Sundar Pichai to the CEO position, it suddenly struck me that a lot of guys from India have been doing well lately. What’s up with this?

There Seems To Be Something Going On

So the promotion of Sundar to lead Google is a major success for him. However, it turns out that he’s not alone. A lot of Indian IT managers have been doing very well for themselves lately. The most famous of these is probably Satya Nadella. It was not all that long ago that he was promoted to become the CEO of Microsoft. When this happened, I suspect that there were a lot of people like myself who said “Who is Satya?”

I guess that I really should not have been all that surprised. For you see there are more and more big name firms out there who are being run by (men) who got their start in India. These firms include Microsoft, Google, Nokia, and Adobe. I could understand one or two, but that’s a lot of CEO’s who all share the same trait of being from India. Clearly there is something that is starting to happen here. Is this all about having special IT manager skills?

I guess that it’s actually pretty clear that the firms that are placing Indians into their top-level spot have done a great job of getting over the need to have the company run by someone who looks like the last person who was doing it. Microsoft might be the best example of this: Satya looks nothing like Steve Ballmer. However, there has to be more going on here that just a progressive HR department. What is it about these Indian managers that makes their companies want to be led by them?

Why Indian IT Managers Are So Good

When we’re trying to find out why someone is doing a good job performing a task, sometimes it helps to get some outside help. In the case of trying to find out why Indian managers are getting selected for the top spot, it turns out that we can turn to a study that was done by the Southern New Hampshire University. What their study discovered was that Indian IT managers got the highest rankings in terms of having leadership traits.

What this study showed was that Indian IT managers were more future orientated than their peers. However, what was even more important was that these managers were found to have a “… paradoxical blend of genuine personal humility and intense professional will.” What attracted the attention of the people who were trying to fill the top spots even more was what the study had to say next: “These leaders achieved extraordinary results and built great organizations without much hoopla.” So it’s not about IT manager training, but rather about built-in skills.

What’s interesting about the Indian IT managers who have assumed the #1 spot in their company is that they are not the founders of the company. They joined the company after it had already gotten itself off the ground. After they join the company, they become respected managers. During their time with the company they end up holding a number of different positions and do well in all of them. Clearly these Indian IT managers have shown their firms that they have the skills and talents that are needed to perform IT team building and run the whole show.

What All Of This Means For You

As non-Indian IT managers (or even as Indian IT managers) there is a great deal that we can learn from the recent success of a number of different Indian IT managers. There is really nothing special about what country these folks come from. Instead, what matters is their management style.

What companies are starting to discover is that their Indian IT managers possess the skill sets that they need in order to move forward in their markets. These managers are not all caught up in themselves, but instead are focused on making the company a success. They have the ability to very quietly build great teams. These are exactly the skills that companies are looking for when they go looking for someone to run their company.

You and I can learn from this recent round of Indian IT manager promotions. Now that we understand the skills that companies are looking for in their IT managers, these can now become the skills that we spend our time working to develop. No, I can’t guarantee that you’ll eventually get promoted to run your company, but getting good at the skills that Indian IT managers have sure couldn’t hurt…

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that all Indian IT managers have the same set of desirable management skills?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental IT Leader Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental IT Leader Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As an IT manager, I’m pretty sure that you think that you are hot stuff. You provide your company with a valuable service and if you were not there, then they would miss you and your IT manager skills. However, there is a flip side to this thought – is it possible that you are no longer needed and if you weren’t there nobody would notice?

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