Computer and Information System Managers
Nature of the Work
The need for organizations to incorporate existing and future technologies in order to remain competitive has become a more pressing issue over the last several years. As electronic commerce becomes more common, how and when companies use technology are critical issues.
Computer and information systems managers play a vital role in the technological direction of their organizations. They do everything from constructing the business plan to overseeing network security to directing Internet operations.
Computer and information systems managers plan, coordinate, and direct research and design the computer-related activities of firms. They help determine both technical and business goals in consultation with top management, and make detailed plans for the accomplishment of these goals. For example, working with their staff, they may develop the overall concepts of a new product or service, or may identify how an organization’s computing capabilities can effectively aid project management.
Computer and information systems managers direct the work of systems analysts, computer programmers, support specialists, and other computer-related workers. These managers plan and coordinate activities such as installation and upgrading of hardware and software, programming and systems design, development of computer networks, and implementation of Internet and intranet sites. They are increasingly involved with the upkeep and maintenance and security of networks. They analyze the computer and information needs of their organization, from an operational and strategic perspective, and determine immediate and long-range personnel and equipment requirements. They assign and review the work of their subordinates, and stay abreast of the latest technology in order to assure the organization does not lag behind competitors.
The duties of computer and information systems managers vary with their specific titles. Chief technology officers, for example, evaluate the newest and most innovative technologies and determine how these can help their organization. The chief technology officer, who often reports to the organization’s chief information officer, manages and plans technical standards and tends to the daily information technology issues of the firm.
Because of the rapid pace of technological change, chief technology officers must constantly be on the lookout for developments that could benefit their organization. They are responsible for demonstrating to a company how information technology can be used as a competitive tool that not only cuts costs, but also increases revenue and maintains or increases competitive advantage.
Management information systems(MIS) directors manage information systems and computing resources for their entire organization. They may also work under the chief information officer and plan and direct the work of subordinate information technology employees. These managers oversee a variety of user services such as an organization’s help desk, which employees can call with questions or problems. MIS directors also may make hardware and software upgrade recommendations based on their experience with an organization’s technology. Helping to assure the availability, continuity, and security of data and information technology services are key responsibilities for these workers.
Project managers develop requirements, budgets, and schedules for their firm’s information technology projects. They coordinate such projects from development through implementation, working with internal and external clients, vendors, consultants, and computer specialists. These managers are increasingly involved in projects that upgrade the information security of an organization.
LAN/WAN (Local Area Network/Wide Area Network) managers provide a variety of services, from design to administration, of an organization’s local area network, which connects staff within an organization. These managers direct the network, and its related computing environment, including hardware, systems software, applications software, and all other computer-related configurations.
Computer and information system managers need strong communication skills. They coordinate the activities of their unit with those of other units or organizations. They confer with top executives; financial, production, marketing, and other managers; and contractors and equipment and materials suppliers.
Computer and information systems managers spend most of their time in an office. Most work at least 40 hours a week and may have to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines or solve unexpected problems. Some computer and information systems managers may experience considerable pressure in meeting technical goals within short time frames or tight budgets. As networks continue to expand and more work is done remotely, computer and information system managers have to communicate with and oversee off-site employees using modems, laptops, e-mail, and the Internet.
Like other workers who sit continuously in front of a keyboard, computer and information system managers are susceptible to eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Strong technical knowledge is essential for computer and information systems managers, who must understand and guide the work of their subordinates, yet also explain the work in nontechnical terms to senior management and potential customers. Therefore, these management positions usually require work experience and formal education similar to that of other computer occupations.
Many computer and information systems managers have experience as systems analysts; others may have experience as computer support specialists, programmers, or other information technology professionals.A bachelor’s degree usually is required for management positions, although employers often prefer a graduate degree, especially a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) with technology as a core component. This degree differs from a traditional MBA in that there is a heavy emphasis on information technology in addition to the standard business curriculum. This is becoming important because more computer and information systems managers are making important technology decisions as well as business decisions for their organizations.
Some universities specialize in offering degrees in management information systems, which blend technical core subjects with business, accounting, and communications courses. A few computer and information systems managers may have only an associate degree if they have sufficient experience and were able to learn additional skills on the job. To aid their professional advancement, though, many managers with an associate degree eventually earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree while working.
Computer and information systems managers need a broad range of skills. In addition to technical skills, employers also seek managers with strong business skills. Employers want managers who have experience with the specific software or technology to be used on the job, as well as a background in either consulting or business management. The expansion of electronic commerce has elevated the importance of business insight, because many managers are called upon to make important business decisions. Managers need a keen understanding of people, management processes, and customers’ needs.
Computer and information systems managers must possess strong interpersonal, communication, and leadership skills because they are required to interact not only with their staff, but also with other people inside and outside their organization. They also must possess team skills to work on group projects and other collaborative efforts. Computer and information systems managers increasingly interact with persons outside their organization, reflecting their emerging role as vital parts of their firm’s executive team.
Computer and information systems managers may advance to progressively higher leadership positions in their field. Some may become managers in non-technical areas such as marketing, human resources, or sales. In high technology firms, managers in non-technical areas often must possess the same specialized knowledge as do managers in technical areas.
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