Part 1 – The Why of it all
I started writing this article for three reasons. First, I wanted to speak for the good managers and leaders in the making, who give their best to their team, business and organization every day under exceptionally trying circumstances. Second, I wanted to clear the fog around the roles and responsibilities of a traditional IT Manager. Hopefully my defogger will dispel the myth that the role carries no real responsibilities. And finally, I could never give a satisfactory and pithy answer to the casual question “So what do you do?” Trying to encapsulate what I do in a sentence or two is like trying to stuff a pumpkin into a lunch box. So instead, I’m going for bit of an exposition here.
“To be a good general, you have to be a good soldier first”.
Who said it? I don’t know. It sounds something like what Sun Tzu might say but then again it could be Napoleon. However, the most popular is Aristotle’s maxim “He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader”. In my career, I have worked under a dozen or more front line managers. They run the gamut across the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s important that you experience this dichotomy so that you may recognize the occasional greats that may cross your path, and quite possibly imbibe and emulate the very same qualities when given the chance.
Part 2 – “So What Do You Do?”
So what does a manager do? At its very core, it’s problem-solving at a strategic and/or tactical level. You may say almost everybody at work is there to solve a problem. The difference is the breadth of problems a manager needs to be knowledgeable about and address which sets it apart from other IT jobs. For example, in many small institutions, you might see a manager acting as a Project Manager and Product Manager in addition to regular application development duties and team management duties. Depending on the size of the organization and structure, a Manager may be faced with problem solving in one to many of the areas below
- Team Management
- Application Development
- Budgeting and Forecasting
- Product Management
- Project Management
- Production Support
- Client and Partner Management
- Vendor Management
Personally, I’ve been all over the place depending on projects and resource constraints. From experience, I would say having a breadth of knowledge across all the above responsibilities helps a Manager tie in contributions from different class of contributors – business, execs, PMs, SME, BA, developers, clients, vendors, etc. across the organization without losing sight of the big picture. Let’s take an up close and personal look at each of the functions.