What Basic IT And Financial Skills Do IT Managers Have To Have?

by drjim on March 14, 2013

What are the IT and finance building blocks that every IT manager needs to have…

What are the IT and finance building blocks that every IT manager needs to have…
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Big data, Hadoop, Facebook, income statements – whew! At times the amount of information that an IT manager needs to understand and process can seem to be overwhelming. Let’s take just a moment to take a step back. Just what exactly are the very basic IT manager skills that evey IT manager needs in order to be successful in their career?

IT Skills That Every IT Manager Needs To Have

As IT managers you would think that we’d need to have some serious IT skills, right? Well, actually no. Yes, we do need to be able to understand what our team is doing; however, what is even more important is to understand why they are doing it. What we need is a list of the IT manager training that we all need to receive. The following list represents the bare minimum set of IT skills that any IT manager needs to have:

  • Typing: Wasn’t this a class back in high school? Look, no matter if you spend your time with a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone, you are going to be doing a lot of typing. The ability to quickly and accurately type is a skill that every IT manager must have just to keep up with how fast the modern workplace moves.
  • Word Processing: We don’t just type for the fun of it. We create documents. No matter if it is a business plan, a budget, a proposal, or a performance review, the #1 application that most IT managers will be spending their time using is going to be a word processor. Make sure that you fully understand the in’s and out’s of your particular flavor of word processing software so that you can get the most out of it.

  • Spreadsheet: Right after the word processor, the spreadsheet is an IT manager’s best friend. This critical tool allows you to both conduct “what it” tests and to talk with the finance arm of the company in a language that they will understand. Make sure that you learn how all of the different features of how spreadsheets work so that you can quickly build models to answer all of your finance questions.

  • HTML: The Internet has arrived and it has taken over the office. We use the web to communicate and to exchange information. The ability to create good looking web pages using HTML that clearly communicate information is a new skill that all IT managers must have.

  • XML: XML is the language that web based programs use to exchange information between them. The good news is that it is very readable by us humans. Since so much of each IT project has to do with getting different pieces of software to talk with each other, you are going to have to be able to speak the language of XML in order to understand this critical part of the projects that your IT team will be working on.

  • Project Management: Although IT managers are not necessarily generally thought of as being project managers, we are. We may only control a small part of any given project; however, we need to know how to break work down into smaller pieces, track its progress, and report on our team’s status on any given project.

  • E-mail: It seems sort of silly to include email on this list, doesn’t it? However, when you think about how much time each of us spends each and every day working on the email that we’ve received or creating new emails to send, you’ll start to understand how important this skill is. The one thing that you don’t want to spend any time doing is fighting with your email program. Learn how it works and then be sure to take full advantage of all that it offers to you.

  • PowerPoint / Keynote: The ability to communicate the ideas that are trapped in your head to a group of people and to convince them to support whatever idea you are presenting is a critical IT manager skill. Learn how to use PowerPoint / Keynote to create great looking slides that get your message across.

  • Photoshop: I added this skill at the last minute. What you really need to have is the ability to manipulate images using some form of software. The power of a well created image can be long lasting, but you won’t be able to tap into this if you can’t create the images that cause it to happen in the first place.

Finance Skills That Every IT Manager Needs To Have

I can almost hear what you are saying: I work in IT, not in finance. Well guess what, I’ve got news for you – we all work in finance! In order to obtain funding for your IT team and then to be able to report on how you are using the funding that you’ve been given you’ll need to be able to speak the language of finance. Here are the basic skills that you are going to need to have:

  • Budgeting: One of the most important skills that any IT manager can have is the ability to accurately create a good budget. Understanding what kind of funding your team is going to need and being able to make a proposal to get it is the mark of a successful IT manager.

  • Financial Analysis: Where is the money going and how much of it will we end up spending and when? Simple questions like these need to be answered by an IT manager on the basis of performing some financial analysis. This kind of knowledge will allow you to take action before your team encounters financial problems.

  • Cost Accounting: The ability to collect, process, and understand the costs that your IT team is creating is a key IT manager skill. You’ll need to be able to live within your budget and the ability to keep track of how much is being spend is an important part of being able to do this.

  • Forecasting: The ability to accurately predict the future would be a great skill for any IT manager to have. However, none of us have this skill. Instead, what we need to be good at is creating accurate forecasts based on the best information that is available to us at the time. Do this well, and your career will go far.

What All Of This Means For You

Here in the 21st Century it can seem almost overwhelming at times the number of skills and the amount of knowledge in addition to all of that needed IT team building talent that an IT manager needs to have in order to be successful. The good news is that once you strip away the hype, the actual skills that we need to have turn out to be a manageable number.

The IT skills that an IT manager must have are very different from the skills that a developer must have. On the surface they may appear to be fairly basic. However, a closer looks reveals that they are the IT skills that will be used every day. The same goes for the financial skills that an IT manager needs. They are basic, but they are the ones that will be used over and over again.

Being an IT manager is hard work. In order to make sure that you will be successful, you need to make sure that you have all of the basic skills that it takes to do the job right. If you are weak in any of the areas that we’ve discussed, take the time to get better so that you can maximize the value of the IT team that you are managing.

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

Question For You: Do you think that IT managers need to know a programming language well enough to develop code?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Hey IT Manager, just in case you’ve been living with your head underneath a rock, the world appears to have gone “big data” crazy lately. Your customers, your IT team, and probably the rest of the company have all started to talk about the problem of big data and just exactly what can be done about it. It looks like this is something that you are going to have to add to your list of IT manager skills. No matter what type of product you manage, it sure seems like you need to understand what the problem is – and how it can be solved.

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