IT Career Skills Series: IT Director
In the digital age, required skill sets are constantly changing. You may be looking to upskill your current team or hire new talent to fill those skill gaps. Or maybe you’re looking to elevate your own skills and career. Whatever your goals, welcome to the IT Career Skills Series. In this 10 part series, we will breakdown the top skills for each role your need on your IT dream team.
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Nearly every company relies on technology for some part of their daily operation that means having an IT organization to support it. At the head is the IT director, responsible for the management, strategy and execution of IT infrastructure for an organization.
What Does An IT Director Do?
IT directors may be responsible for overseeing the technical infrastructure within an organization, leading a team of IT staff, determining business requirements for IT systems, managing the design and implementation of IT infrastructure, and eliminating security risks. In some cases, they also oversee the organization's help desk.
9 Essential Skills for IT Directors
Finance, strategy and negotiation are some of the business skills the IT director must have a firm grasp of to be successful.
Financial Skills – Management and budgets go hand in hand, therefore the IT director is expected to be fluent in all things budget-related such as forecasting, researching, planning and executing.
Strategic Thinking – Managing an organization’s technology is all about constant, strategic manipulation of four basic areas – the IT team, budget, technology and vendors – to devise a game plan that meets the organization’s objectives while maintaining operational efficiency and security.
Negotiating – IT directors are in constant negotiations inside and outside the organization. Internally, working with stakeholders on technology objectives and budget, or with other teams when upgrading or deploying new infrastructure, all to ensure the current and future requirements of these groups are effectively translated into technologies, standards and processes that will meet those requirements. Externally negotiating and managing vendor relationships to maximize value and ensuring vendors meet performance and service objectives outlined in licensing agreements.
Whether managing a crisis or a new project, IT directors must have the ability to break down issues then analyze the pieces to determine where relationships and interdependencies exist in order to weigh options and make good decisions to move the IT team and organization forward.
To be an effective IT director means mastering the management skills of planning, organizing, delegating and controlling. Creating tasks, schedules and checklists and keeping that organized to move projects forward is a big part of the work, but so is providing adequate time to think through issues and execute the work which means knowing when take control to push back on unrealistic expectations from stakeholder or customers, or to intervene when a team or an individual struggles to complete a task. Delegating work is a balancing act between the needs of the project and the needs of individual team members. It involves understanding the strengths and weaknesses of team members then structuring projects and delegating tasks in a way that makes the most of individual skills while still providing opportunities for individuals to grow.
The effective IT director has a clear vision of their objectives, how to achieve those objectives and what success looks like. Clear articulation of that vision is critical as is how each team member can contribute. Having responsibility for a team also means taking responsibility for the decisions made planning for, or during projects, as well as in the face crisis. Without taking responsibility the IT director cannot hope to gain the trust and respect of either IT team members or stakeholders. To achieve any of this the IT director must have a thirst for knowledge, thus strike a balance between managing people and managing technology. Understanding the current technologies as well as staying abreast of new technologies adds to overall vision and in tying technological change to bottom line results.
Strong communication skills, both written and verbal, are important for any team member but communication at the IT director level has far reaching effects internally up and down the line as well as externally in terms of customer satisfaction and the organization’s bottom line. Asking questions, actively listening, providing clear and concise answers and feedback all reflect on the IT director’s perceptiveness, decisiveness, mental stamina and overall ability to execute managerial duties.
IT director’s manage technology as much as they manage people, therefore must have an aptitude to understand the technology they are tasked to manage. This does not mean having an in-depth knowledge, but understanding enough to evaluate a technology’s relevance to the organization, and if needed, devise implementation strategies.
The IT director plays a vital role in the overall performance of an organization with ever-changing demands. Because of these demands the IT director is required to constantly evolve, yes in technical knowledge, but more so in management technique in order maintain vision and order over an IT infrastructure that is rapidly growing, changing and becoming more complex.
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