7 skills every IT manager needs to survive the 2010s

Pure technology is out, communication and business insight are in

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Essential IT skill 2: Become an arbiter of risk

Odds are they didn't teach you about risk assessment in college. But as you seek higher positions of authority and responsibility in your organization, you'll need to have this skill. If your superiors respect your risk awareness and mitigation abilities, they'll view you more positively as senior management material.

If your organization is risk-tolerant, being a proponent of cutting-edge technologies may add business value. But there's a strong chance that in the lean years your organization has become more risk-averse. So rather than position yourself as cutting-edge or conservative, you should offer the business management choices organized by degrees of risk and complexity, particularly with new tech investments. They'll appreciate your ability to think this way -- after all, it's how executive managers think and decide.

That's certainly the case at Gallo, which has instituted such thinking in its IT project evaluation process: "We have a business case discipline for IT projects that captures lifecycle costs and business risks before they get approved," says Kushar.

"All IT managers and above have to understand risks and how to mitigate risks," says Lamb, the former consultant. "Few organizations talk about it overtly. But it's a requirement for all jobs and it's as a smart manager it would be prudent to understand the risks and how to mitigate them."

Essential IT skill 3: Build strong working relationships

Can you build strong working relationships with customers, coworkers, and suppliers? If not, you need to learn to do so.

In politics, the quality of charisma -- or likeability, if you prefer -- is a valuable trait. But in dealing with coworkers, it's even more important to be respected. The trouble is, IT managers -- just like everyone else -- tend to be more concerned about whether they're liked than whether they're building a strong working relationship.

The difference? An IT manager should be able to level with a business "customer" by asking questions such as "What are you trying to accomplish and am I in the way?" You can build tremendous credibility in an organization by showing that you can listen. It's a necessary step to achieving your ends.

Another area where you can demonstrate -- and sharpen -- your skills in building working relationships is in how you navigate the consolidation of suppliers as the IT industry matures. One consequence of that consolidation is that IT customers often must rely upon fewer key vendors, so there's more time to develop deeper relationships. But as your choices diminish and you have fewer alternatives, the vendor gains more power over you, so you have to be better at extracting the most value from the smaller field of vendors. For IT managers, the bottom line is that managing a key vendor relationship effectively demonstrates your strategic value to an organization.

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