guestbloggerDon Spencer (Waterloo, ON, IT Manager of Pano Cap Canada)

Cross-post from Bringing Closure.

So, I have a bit of a reputation as a geek at work. That's not entirely a bad thing, I guess, for an IT Manager. Some of my colleagues poke good-natured fun at me (for the most part) wondering whether there is any more room on my belt for the next gadget to occupy. How will I ever get the flat screen monitor to hang from my belt?

But if there is a refrain that IT managers need to listen to regularly these days it's this - being a geek is OK, but you need to be much more than that. You also need to understand the business and to provide strong leadership. And not just any 'ole leadership will do; it has to spring from a clear understanding of business objectives and a coherent alignment of IT with those objectives.

That's sometimes hard for geeks to grasp. Yes, there will always be a role for a computer technology chief cook and bottle washer, but that's not really what IT management is all about these days. No matter how large or small the company we serve, no matter whether our business context is survival, maintenance, or market breakthrough, no matter how many servers, printers, scanners, pocket PCs, and firewalls we manage, no matter how large the staff - IT managers need to embrace the business and understand the value propositions of their business.

Yes, there are only so many hours in the day. And while it is obvious that you can never have enough knowledge of specific technologies that could benefit your company, it is more important that the technology you do manage be put in service of the goals and vision of the business itself. In other words, technology should always serve business, never the other way around.

If you are like me, the lone-wolf IT person in your organization, then the refrain may be something you know by heart. The real question becomes, "how do I do this?" It's different in every company, of course, and if I had the answer, then it's very likely I wouldn't be blogging about it. All I know for sure is that we need to talk about this, not only with other non-IT colleagues in our organizations, but with our peers and friends in our professional organizations.

For example, in our IT Pro users groups and information processing societies, it probably makes sense to balance the occasions when we show off our technical competence with times of vulnerability when we plead for help in understanding the larger business picture. Sure, iSCSI and SANs and turbo-charged WiFi will get the engines firing on all cylinders in a room full of geeks. But perhaps when we gather together, we need at least 50% of our time talking about how to manage business process re-engineering. What tools and techniques and skill sets do we need to become the business leaders that are needed in IT today? The gadgets can wait...