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What is an IT Managers Role?

There were a lot of nasty things said about IT Managers in a recent post
http://discuss.joelonsoftware.com/default.asp?joel.3.426281.21

I think the developers (reporting to the manager) don't have a clear understanding of what is "job definition" of an IT manager truly is.

I hear a lot of developers sharing a chuckle about "how their manager doesn't know the difference between Schema or DTD" or between the intricate implantation details of "Technology A vs Technology B".

I don't think it is expected of an IT Manager to know lowest level details of implementation. That is the job of the (senior) developers to research and present objective recommendations to the IT Manager, to help him/her decide which way to go.

The Manager's role is (among other things):
* To ensure the team is provided all the necessary resources (hardware, software, productive working conditions etc)
* To make ensure they provide a career path to their team members that is customized to meet their aspirations.
* To work as a layer of abstraction between the project sponsors, management so the developers can spend more time doing what they like to do.

To summarize, a manager's role is to "serve" his or her team. To make sure they are happy doing what they are doing.
mashedup
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
 
 
Developers generally only have an issue when technically ignorant managers insist on making technical decisions.
mwtb
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
 
 
Anyway, I worked better under technically educated manager than others.
Management is not a subject indipendent from what is actually managed.
Sevenoaks Send private email
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
 
 
I worked under a non-technical manager who was great - I guess I just got lucky. He was a good MANAGER. He didn't make decisions outside his skillset (he always soliticted our opinions, and often times took a vote on technical issues).

If they are a good MANAGER, they won't make decisions outside their knowledge areas. If they aren't, all bets are off.
analamous
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
 
 
"Developers generally only have an issue when technically ignorant managers insist on making technical decisions. "

Exactly. Or even better .. they don't know squat about the platform nor the code, yet they seem to know how long it should take to complete.

Another example of a moron: We had a new manager come in who as his first order of business sent an email to all developers and contractors that they were to clean their desks and keep them clean and free of clutter every evening before leaving for home. We had senior SAP developers, a SQL Server book author and frequent conference speaker, and the head of a 6 man ASP.NET firm on the team. This schmuck didn't know anything about data warehousing and yet somehow he was in charge of the BI team.

2 weeks later, after he never spoke a word to anyone on the team, we find out that he bought a $350,000 web front-end tool for BI reporting. Unfortunately this thing didn't work with Analysis Services, the BI tool we were using.

Withng 3 months, the whole team was gone and he replaced them with one vendor's firm. That was a year ago, and they had to scrap the whole datawarehouse and re-start twice already.
Cubicle Zombie Send private email
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
 
 
http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/DevelopmentAbstraction.html

Ideally, an IT Manager would do everything Joel recommends in that linked article, plus be technically competant. Realistically (and in practice), analamous and Cubicle Zombie are closer to the mark - they handle all of the business stuff well and they accept that they don't know the technical stuff.
TheDavid
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
 
 
It's hard to lead ... from the rear.

We're all familiar with the idea of "manager as logistics expert".  That's the type of manager that restocks the fridge, fills out paperwork, goes to meetings and does everything except the work of the team.

It's a nice theoretical concept.  But it is ideal to have a manager who understands the work and takes charge as well as doing the other "team infrastructure" stuff.

Sometimes, a manager with management and technical ability isn't available.  So, the choice is between a technical expert with no management skills and a manager without the appropriate technical skills.  So, you pick the lesser of two evils: possibly, the manager without the appropriate technical skills.

But that's a stop-gap.  If companies treat it as a good solution, they are choosing to be second best.
Daniel Howard Send private email
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
 
 
"We had a new manager come in who as his first order of business sent an email to all developers and contractors that they were to clean their desks and keep them clean and free of clutter every evening before leaving for home."

Cool. I put out a related  post on this very subject this morning -

http://xndev.blogspot.com/2006/12/few-of-my-favorite-things-iv.html
Matthew Heusser Send private email
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
 
 
"It's a nice theoretical concept.  But it is ideal to have a manager who understands the work and takes charge as well as doing the other "team infrastructure" stuff."

Daniel is right. Part of the problem has to do with how the term IT Manager is defined.

In a large corporation, the IT manager reports directly to the company president and/or the Chief Information Officer and is responsible for well, setting up the technical side of the business. Presumably, he has regular managers and project managers working for him who "lead from the front."

In small businesses, the IT manager takes more of a day to day role, and may take direct control over individual projects. In such a scenario, the more technical expertise he has, the better.
TheDavid
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
 
 
I believe it's essential that an IT manager have a level of technical knowledge and experience (I'm talking about PM-level management here, not CTO level).

Why? Because part of the the Manager/PM's role is to check that everything is being done and you have to have a notion of what those things are. For example:

- What's the backup/recovery strategy for your new web-app?

In a large team there will (at least) two different groups that need to be involved (development and sysadmin). It's possible that these two groups will consult each other spontaneously and come up with a solution, but mostly they won't.

As the Manager, it's your job to

a) Realise that this issue exists
b) Arrange for it to be solved.

I like to define the PM's role (in part) as: "The person responsible for the issues that no-one else thinks they're responsible for"

For example: "development thinks sysadmin is across the backup strategy. Sysadmin thinks it's waiting for a list of files to back up from development. Both parties think the other is responsible for the problem, therefore it's actually the PM's problem" :)

It's a truism that promoting technical people to management is bad because their technical skill is lost to the organisation but I'm not sure it's as bad as all that because they bring the benefit of their experience to evaluating the work of their team.
AndrewR Send private email
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
 
 

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