Saturday, February 12, 2005

IT management

Many colleagues enquire what is IT management, and many are quite afraid of such assignment because they do not possess the technical skills. I therefore try to share my experience on IT management assignments with you. I have only been formally posted to an IT management job for less than a year, but I was involved in IT management work in almost all my postings. It is everywhere and it is essentially managerial duty.

First of all, technical skill is of second importance to such work. In fact, too much technical skill is hazardous to good performance in IT management. If you have a whiz kid who does ICQ all night, he probably will not be a good IT manager. It is necessary though to have some knowledge in IT, same as other jobs such as HRM or FM that you need to have the basic understanding of the respective area. IT job has a technological aspect which should be handled by the technological people. I would suggest that no matter how good you are with the technology, you will not be able to compete with a professional network engineer or a professional web designer in the technical arena. So even if you have a degree or the technical training in IT, please don't downgrade yourself to the technician level. Remember you are paid to be a manager.

I observe that IT management work for EO normally are in three categories: office network and web, dedicated MIS and other computer projects.

Office network and website management
Many colleagues are now involved in the management of the office network and website. It is normally part of the job for departmental administration or the General Section. Many applications common to all government departments have to be implemented in the office network. These include e-mail and confidential mail, file servers, anti-virus, government bulletin and most recently departmental portal and eLeave, etc. There are a lot of rudimentary technical work, as well as clerical duties in daily system administration. They are usually performed by technical assistants and clerks. The higher level network engineering work is contracted out. IT managers maintain an overview in project planning and implementation. You can easily obtain the necessary information and help from ITSD and other colleagues on such duties. All required information are posted in the InfoStation website and all departments are doing the same thing.

Website management is essentially information or content management. Just consider yourself maintaining a detailed newsletter for which content should be updated regularly. The technical and the design work are normally contracted out. If you browse various Internet websites at leisure, you are already equipped with the skill to manage one, i.e. to appreciate whether the website is effective in conveying the message. Do not be tempted to design one yourself. Leave it to the design people who can do it better and need it to earn a living.

Dedicated MIS
By dedicated MIS, I mean those information systems that are dedicated to the normal work of EO, such as HRM system, document management system, financial information system, and other databases system for event management or information analysis for which EO are responsible. As EO are the main users of these systems, they are assigned the duties of managers, team leaders, senior users or chairman to working committees. These systems are meant for our areas of work and there should be no problem of our understanding the data, the functionality and user requirements. For the technical part, it is again contracted out. IT managers have to work closely with the contractors and exercise their managerial ability. The golden rule is: always leave the technological aspect to the technical people, but always check the results to see if they are working in compliance with the user requirements.

Other computer projects
This is an area where we should compete as IT managers capable of performing managerial duties in managing any IT projects. Computer projects in this category are not for normal EO work; examples are: computers for schools, computerized building plans, immigration control system, etc. Departmental officers are using these systems and the functionality and user requirements come from them. Sometimes they need help in project management which can be performed by either departmental staff, IT staff or EO. If we can demonstrate our managerial ability, departments will be willing to draw in EO to the project teams. EO are good resource and system managers. We also have knowledge on HR and financial management which are crucial to any projects. Again, the work involved are mainly project management which is not heavily technologically related.

I shall also share with you some information on IT project management later. I wish to state that IT management is way beyond IT technology. I read the curricula of some IT management Master Degree courses, and note that the knowledge required does not centre on technology. IT management has been declared an EO job and is also one of the core competencies of EO. According to our posting policy, we should post those without IT management experience to IT management jobs. To be practical, we should develop IT management expertise at an early stage and expose EO I and II to these jobs, and then groom some colleagues with aptitude for the job intensively in such work stream.

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