In response to your article, What makes a great IT pro? (CW, September 21, p1). Firstly, one thing will never change; all great IT managers are excellent communicators. Regardless of whether they are talking to a factory worker, a sales clerk or the CEO the IT manager can actually decipher between what the people say, what they actually want and how to achieve it.
Evolution has, like the rest of the planet, been inevitable. And it is not easy to spot some of the subtle differences. For instance five years ago the manager had an IT budget to stick to; today there are two and three budgets. An IT maintenance budget, an IT investment budget and last but by no means least these days, a communications budget. For people inside the industry, other changes are easier to spot: five years ago if you wanted a career change you selected one of the many positions advertised, you would be one of a couple to apply, and then you named your own remuneration. Today, you wait for weeks for the right position to be advertised; you are one of a couple of hundred to apply and they have finished interviewing even before they have read your CV.
So we have had to change. Five years ago, it was best if the manager came from a technical background, developing their people and business skills on the way. In five year's time that won't matter: it's their business acumen, ability to align the IT department to the direction business is taking; it's their ability to stay on top of the emerging technologies and what use they may, or may not, be to the business; it's their ability to cope with vendor management and stay on top of their legal and moral obligations in respect of the Internet, company and data security.
Why should we be surprised? Looking at the rest of society, these changes have not just been brought about through the continuing technological advancements. Take a child's math question for instance; it used to be that 2+2=5 was wrong, now apparently it needs more work. Evolving to the next level of requirements is part and parcel of life, and in our business if you are not learning something new every day, then you are in the wrong business. It used to be that you had a general manager, a financial controller and an EDP manager; today it is a CEO, a CFO, a COO, a CCO and a CIO. Who knows what the next five years will bring? One thing is certain: flexibility, adaptability and the ability to manage change (not only of others but also of one's self) will be a key requirement for the IT manager of the future. They will also need to be great salespeople, their ability to create a future requirements' plan and sell it into the budget will be paramount to their capability of being effective in maintaining competitive and employee efficiencies all the while, not just keeping a handle on running costs, but endeavouring to reduce them.
Five years ago the IT manager was charged with the task of securing an ERP (or similar) system that would provide the business with a competitive advantage. In five year's time that person will be responsible for ensuring that their systems don't fall behind so as to give the business' competitors that advantage.