Tech Thursday: The Ins and Outs of IT Leadership

Tech Thursday: The Ins and Outs of IT Leadership

In the last few articles, we’ve discussed how to build an effective IT team that will help your business to grow and succeed. But your team will also need effective
leadership -- managers, directors, and executives who can chart a path for your IT department that keeps your business competitive.

Managers and Team Leads

Once your IT department is made up of several teams, you’ll need managers to ensure that the work keeps flowing and that day-to-day decisions can be made quickly and effectively. This is where managers and team leads can be quite useful.

For example, you may have an infrastructure team, a user support/help desk team, a telecom/datacom team. The managers of these teams should be able to regulate the workflow so that each team can accomplish its purpose. On larger teams, you may also have sub-teams that focus on a specific technology or discipline. For example, you may have dedicated storage, messaging, or database admins on your infrastructure team, and each of these could have a team lead as well.

Managers and team leads are often promoted from within -- a senior engineer, for example, may have the technical knowledge and experience to oversee a group of technicians and engineers. But in some cases, they may not have the experience (or the desire) to manage others, and so trying to force them into that role can be counterproductive. So, it may be necessary to hire someone with management experience for this role.

IT Director

For your IT department to function smoothly, you’ll need someone at the helm who has the experience necessary to meet the demands of your business. This is where an IT Director comes in.

The IT director is focused on managing the day-to-day IT operations of the company. This can include giving approval and direction on large projects and initiatives, as well as coordinating work among the various teams and stakeholders involved. This is one position where it can pay to hire an expert -- someone with both a technical and managerial background who can manage the resources and personnel needed for your IT department to function smoothly.

Chief Information Officer (CIO)

To many people, the terms CIO and IT Director seem interchangeable. Both are focused on helping the business use IT resources to succeed. But, if you’re truly dedicated to making IT an asset and investment, rather than simply a cost center, hiring a CIO is a must.

As we discussed previously in this series, the “information” part of IT is about leveraging technology to generate insights about the processes in use in your business, and optimizing them to help your business grow. And the CIO is the one who’s in charge of making that happen.

A CIO has a more strategic focus than the IT director/manager. While the IT director is focused on the day-to-day operations, the CIO is interested in the long-term strategy of the IT department. For example, the IT director is the one who makes sure that everyone’s email gets delivered, while the CIO is the one who makes sure that the company’s email system will be able to scale up as the company expands.

Of course, in smaller organizations one person may be called on to both manage the IT department and develop strategies for growth -- but be alert for the signs that it’s time to divide those responsibilities so that you can be sure that your IT department continues to be an asset to your company.

Many companies have found that delegating some IT responsibilities to a managed service provider (MSP) can help them scale their IT resources in a fast and cost-effective way. Next week, we’ll look at some ways that your company can benefit from the services of an MSP.