The basic requirement for the job of an IT manager used to be that one could code. You had to be able to trouble-shoot and correct using the Windows Command Prompt, and then you were in good shape. Those days have gone.

Today and in the future, the requirements for the IT manager are less technical and to a far greater degree relate to a broad understanding of systems, good communication ability and strong leadership skills.

In this article, we have collected a handful of the most important skills that you need to be a successful IT manager – now and in the future.

5 key skills for the IT manager of the future

Perhaps you will look at the list below and think, “These are all soft subjects – what happened to technical expertise?” In the long run, you’re right. In future, it will be the soft skills which are decisive for your success as an IT manager,

The development that we are currently seeing is towards greater specialisation in the IT sector. The development is towards more complex solutions, requiring highly-specialised experts. This development is being driven by requirements from users, who want user-friendliness, automation and deep machine learning.

That means that the IT system of the future will be dependent on external suppliers and on your ability to attract staff with expert knowledge.

So no, many of the core skills in the future for you as an IT manager are therefore not technical. They are soft skills.

#1 You must have insight and an overview

It is your responsibility to choose the right software to solve your company’s challenges. It is your responsibility to match your IT system with the needs of your users.

In order to make the right decision, it is therefore important that you keep yourself updated about new currents in the IT sector. You need to be familiar with the new software types and you need to know which apps and systems are appropriate for different types of usage.

This knowledge is important, both when you need to choose new IT solutions for your company and when you need to decide not to invest in the latest IT fashion.

At CapaSystems, we keep track of developments on these pages among others:

  1. Version2 (in Danish)
  2. TechRepublic
  3. Gartner
  4. Forrester

#2 You need to be able to lead

The IT department is continuing to grow, in line with the fact that apps and automation are becoming a normal part of everyday work. From the time when computers spread at the end of the 80s until today, where all staff are equipped with at least two devices, there has been steadily increasing pressure on the support and development department.

The increased pressure for rapid problem solution and continuous development of the IT system means that even small IT departments today need a skilled leader.

You need to be able to delegate and follow up. You need to be able to manage a scrum and you must be able to take effective decisions when your staff need them. And then you need to understand the frustrations of your staff and have the courage to show great empathy – not something that necessarily comes easily to IT managers of the old school.

In our own leadership development, we rely on these pages, among others:

  1. https://hildebrandtbrandi.com/videndeling/ (in Danish)
  2. Professional leadership organization (in Danish)
  3. 10 good tips for leadership development (in Danish)
  4. The book ”We are best when we are happy” by Mikael Kamper (in Danish)

#3 You need to be able to communicate

The IT budgets are growing. They will keep growing in the future. It is therefore becoming ever-more important that you are able to communicate the value that your IT work creates for other colleagues without IT expertise.

It goes without saying that you need to communicate your value to the Head of Finance who has to approve the budget. But you actually also need to be able to communicate the value of your development projects to the rest of top management and the heads of department, since they naturally ideally want the system to fit exactly with their own agendas and their own needs.

In many cases, you actually need to be able to communicate your IT prioritisations to all the ordinary staff. They are the people who have first-hand experience of your system, so they need to understand, for example, why your security policies need to be so strict and complicated.

If you need to train in communication, we recommend these resources:

  1. The book ”Præsentation & Formidling” [“Presentation and Communication”] by Mette Hald (in Danish)
  2. Lederweb [Leadership website] (in Danish)
  3. Mikkel Svold’s communications blog (in Danish)
  4. 10 gode råd til dig, der vil være bedre til at præsentere [10 good tips to improve your presentations] (in Danish)

#4 You must understand your users

It is interesting that many IT managers consider the younger generation to by “bad at IT”. Especially as this is despite the fact that they are dealing with a generation born to a digital existence, who have had an iPad in their hands since they were able to walk.

The problem is therefore unlikely to be that your users are IT novices. The problem is that the people with whom you are comparing them will typically be super-users of precisely your system, experienced staff who have been involved since the first computers found their way onto your desks.

The problem is also that young users are used to “no nonsense” IT. IT systems developed by the IT mammoths who are familiar with user journeys and UX design and who have IT software that runs on oiled wheels.

The younger generation are used to the idea that if an app isn’t working, one can just get another one. They can’t be bothered to wrestle with systems and have far less tolerance of complex systems than we see in grey-haired colleagues.

So you need to know your users. You need to know what makes them tick, what their needs are and the problems that prevent them from doing their work as effectively as possible.

In reality, this is easier said than done.

You need to take the time to visit your users. Go and study them, follow them for a day and observe how they work with your systems. In this way, you will anticipate a great many problems before they develop and will have a strong basis for prioritising your development projects.

#5 You need to rate your suppliers

There used to be something in primary school called “source criticism”. It must have been in the history lessons – we weren’t really listening. Today, this is a problem.

Dig out your old knowledge, because as an IT manager you will need your ability to criticise sources. You need to be able to smell exaggerated specifications and false “of course we can do that” promises from10 kilometres away.

Because the IT system of the future depends so much on external service suppliers, you need to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. You need fixed and reliable approaches when you rate your subcontractors and you need to be able to write a Service Level Agreement so that it cannot be interpreted, twisted and abandoned without it having consequences.

So yes, the IT manager of the future is stuffed with soft skills. Skills that ensure good cooperation, good decisions and smooth IT development.

Even though it may be alarming for IT managers of the old school, that is the way the development is going. So get a grip on your “soft” skills. Train them and be ready to meet the IT challenges of tomorrow with full power.

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