Taking a managerial position in the IT industry may be or may have been your dream. Being in charge of a team working with technology can be tempting and compelling. As with any other position though, this one also has its challenges. For some people, these are drawbacks, to others – chances to expand their skills. No matter how you treat it, you must face these IT Managers’ challenges.

We’ll go through the most significant challenges IT managers face. We’ll also find skills, that IT managers need to have, to deal with them successfully.

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In this post, we’ll cover the following challenges IT Managers have to face:

IT Managers’ challenge 1 – mating IT with business

You don’t work for yourself. Of course, you work to gain your experience and sharpen your skills. But you’re paid for delivering value to a business. If you don’t give the business what it wants, you can soon be replaced by someone who does. And what does the business want?

What does the business want?

The business wants tools and features to make their work easier. And they want them to work well. Well for them means the way they expect it to work. But how it is exactly? Here comes the first struggle. The more questions you ask the more obvious it gets that they have only a vague illusion of what they need. Before you design a solution, you usually have to design the process it will support.

Why it’s like that? Well, first of all, we as humans, think like that. We can visualize what’s missing in a particular situation. But we find it very difficult to design a comprehensive solution. Secondly, non-technical employees don’t understand the way the software works. They think the human way by fitting the solution to each situation individually. They treat it instinctive to adjust their actions to small differences in their tasks. Computers don’t have instinct – they need instruction for each version of the task. Even if the differences between each instance are very small. People find it non-intuitive to provide instructions for every detail.

Of course, IT managers hire business analysts to find out what the business wants. But when the business analyst fails, the IT manager is the one who takes the escalation. IT managers also work with management teams on defining what they want.

What do you – as an IT manager – need to do these tasks well? In two words – active listening. You want to master the fine art of asking the right questions. You also have to understand not only what people say, but what they want to say. These are often two different things…

The business doesn’t care how you make things work

You work with your team every day to maintain your IT infrastructure. You keep patching and upgrading your systems and applications. You modernize hardware and reconfigure the environment for best performance. You care about the backups, disaster recovery plans, redundancy, etc. And guess what? As long as everything works well, the business doesn’t care about it at all. Employees can’t see any real effect of these activities. Of course, you know that keeping everything working well takes a lot of effort. But users take it for granted.

Is it bad? Not at all! This is how good IT services are designed! If the IT team is working well, the job results are invisible. Redundant and properly managed systems take care of all outages. Users don’t even see them. This is how it should be.

It’s your – IT Manager’s – job to tell the business how much work IT team puts to keep all services available. You also have to communicate how many other resources – infrastructure and software – are needed to keep it secure and in good shape.

What do you – as an IT Manager – need to handle it? Fine marketing and negotiation skills. Advertising how your team’s work rescued a business from disaster helps a lot. If a serious outage was prevented thanks to good configuration – tell it to the management board. Translating technical nuances into business benefits does the job. Management Board members like to talk about your team’s SLA. Use it. Tell them what you need to meet the goals!

IT Managers’ challenge 2 – limited resources

Unfortunately advertising your successes to the management board won’t solve all the issues. It will benefit you, but you’ll still have to face several other struggles. One of them is the limited amount of resources. It applies especially to the capability of your team. In modern organizations, IT teams rarely have time to take a break. The tasks list and portfolio of projects are usually way bigger than the IT department can handle. What you can do about it?

The first thing is to rank tasks. Some of them are always more urgent and important than others. There is a limit to extinguishing “fires” though. Taking care of them won’t take you any closer to solving the underlying root causes. To eliminate the real reason for issues you have to let your team work on bigger projects. Sometimes it’s necessary even to purposely postpone extinguishing some “fires”. It will give your team chances to push projects forward.

The second way is to outsource everything you can. Usually, you’ll need a budget to do it, but not always. If you have several maintenance contracts, you can ask the vendors to let you know when they come to an end. If you stack them and outsource them all to one vendor, he will have a better understanding of your environment. As a result, he will be able to give you ideas, which will make the management of maintenance even easier.

The last way of dealing with a lack of resources is of course to have more of them. It’s not your responsibility that the number of IT staff is scarce. You have to constantly negotiate more resources for your team with your management board. It doesn’t mean telling them “I need more people” every week or even every month. You have to be more sophisticated than that.

You probably already know what skills – as an IT Manager – you need to deal with limited resources. Organizational and analytical skills are necessary for proper prioritization. You’ll also need interpersonal skills and negotiation skills. They’ll help you to work with vendors and the management board to get what you need to do the job.

IT Managers’ challenge 3 – keeping IT team together and motivated

As you have not enough staff on your team, you have to take care of those onboard. Well-educated, experienced employees with good technical and communication skills are priceless these days. Many sectors have to get used to it. In IT we know it for at least a decade.

Skilled IT employees can choose the job they want. No matter which position they decide to take, they earn money, which allows them to live a decent life. At this level of earnings, money won’t keep people motivated or even stay in your company. Simple orders won’t make them willing to fulfill the job too. As soon as they start to feel significant inconvenience, they’ll look for a better place to go.

How to make people work together to achieve great results? What the IT Manager needs to keep his or her team together and motivated to do its job? Leadership skills of course. When you communicate the vision of great achievement, you gather people around it. When you recognize the value they deliver, they will feel how important they are to achieve the goal. You can also acknowledge the effort they put in every day to generate value. They will be so grateful for that, that they will do almost everything for you and the company in return.

IT Managers’ challenge 4 – keeping up-to-date with technology

We keep talking about the soft or – as some prefer to call them – social skills. Active listening, marketing, negotiation skills, leadership skills… So, what’s the difference between an IT Manager and a politician?

What about technical skills? How you – as an IT Manager – should make decisions about the technology? Infrastructure, architecture, business applications, external services of many kinds… How to keep up with constant changes in all these and many other areas? Can one person know it all and manage to stay in tune with all the improvements and new features?

Of course not! Even if you learn it, your knowledge will become obsolete in a few years, sometimes even months. Before you finish learning all the topics, you’ll have to start learning from the beginning. What you need to know is a wide range of basics. What about the rest – the advanced stuff? Yet, you constantly have to make decisions about cutting-edge technology… How to do it?

Your team will tell you all the aspects of the decision you need! You have to know as much as you need to talk with your technical team members. Having the basics, all you need is more… social skills. Active listening again. You have to ask the right questions and listen to what your people tell you. You want to ask then for the main concerns of each choice. Your team will tell you them all. Even if they don’t know, they’ll find it faster and better than you would. And they will explain it to you quicker than you would read and learn it.

Is it everything? Not exactly… You also need analytical skills. You need to put all the data you’ve got together and process them into valuable insights. Having them, you’ll make decisions with ease and confidence.

IT Managers’ challenge 5 – managing all the processes

You may be a service desk manager or software development manager. You can be in charge of infrastructure, or applications teams. You can also be an IT Director or CIO, who heads many IT teams. The higher you get on the career ladder, the more processes you oversee. How to make decisions about all these processes?

First of all, as we’ve already told you, you have to delegate. Do it as much as you can. The more technically or organizationally specific the given issue is, the more you should delegate it to the specific team. If the problem can be solved inside the one of teams, let the manager of this team take care of it. It means that you need competent and smart managers for all teams. It’s not easy to find them, like any other IT staff, as we just said several paragraphs above. You still have to do all you can to find these guys or ladies. When you have them, develop their skills, and don’t let them go away.

Having the best people around is still not everything. It’s the same case as with technical skills. You don’t have to be an expert in all topics and areas. What you want is to understand at least the basics of a wide range of processes.


Being an IT Manager is not a walk in the park. You have to have a wide range of skills. As you can see, technical skills are the least important here. You should focus on active listening, leadership, marketing, and negotiation skills first. You’ll also see a lot of value from awareness of management best practices like ITIL or agile project management.

For you, as a manager your team – your people are everything you have. Without them, you’re just a smartass in a suit. Work with your team, ask them for advice, explanations, for help in making a decision. Make them feel wise, important, and listened to. Show them the big vision – a goal bigger than they are. This approach will let you solve all the issues, deal with struggles and build an awesome name for your team and yourself as an IT Manager.

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