I’ve been reflecting a bit lately about what it means to be a general manager and how that relates to those who manage IT organizations. In the days that I’ve been thinking about this, a post on the same subject caught my eye called Can good IT make great business leaders?. There is a quote in the article that I want to highlight and discuss:
Largely shielded from the real work of the business, IT…
which is a key point in the article. IT shouldn’t be largely shielded from the real work of the business. Instead, it should be part of the business, part of the conversations, part of the planning and certainly part of the solutions. The mission of IT shouldn’t be something about IT, it should echo the mission of the whole enterprise. If the enterprise makes widgets, then the mission of IT should be to help the business design, make and sell great widgets. If IT has that kind of mission, then it is not shielded from the real work of the business, but it is the real work of the business.
I do think learning the language of the business is important as well as great collaboration and communication skills. In many firms, IT can be a $100M or larger business itself complete with contracts, infrastructure, sales, customer support, engineering and finance responsibilities. If you are the CIO you should run IT as a business and try to maximize your results with minimal costs. It seems that if you do these things, then you are on the path towards being a great general manager.