Hello LH, I'm a young accountant working at a small-medium enterprise (SME). I manage a bunch of finance, admin and sales staff along with my finance duties. My manager is leaving for greener pastures and the flow-on restructure will result in me becoming the IT co-ordinator and officer managing the department.
I'm a novice tinkerer at best when it comes to IT. I try most of the hacks you post at Lifehacker and Gizmodo, but I have no serious IT technical skills so I'm a little worried about managing the IT department. How can I effectively manage this technical area and the staff without looking like a newbie? I'm very passionate and keen to take on the role and learn more about the area but there's only so much I can effectively do as a finance guy. Thanks, IT n00b
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Dear IT n00b,
Congratulations on the impending promotion. While it can be daunting to take on managing a team who have expertise in an unfamiliar area, the key is to remember this: your job is to manage the process, not the technology. Your role isn't to be the subject matter expert: by the sounds of your description, there are already people in place who can do that. Your role is to make sure that the IT team delivers what the business needs, and that it gets the resources it requires to make that happen effectively.
The key to doing all that isn't technology expertise, but communication. There are a few basic things you can do to make the process go more smoothly. Talk with whoever your previous manager reported to and establish clearly what they want from the role you'll be stepping into. Ultimately, they'll be the ones who judge whether you're performing effectively, so expectations in this area are crucial.
Then, talk with the current IT staff and find out how they think that the current IT function is working, and where the problem areas are. Be cautious in doing this, and definitely don't promise changes you can't deliver. Look at it as a chance to understand where potential problems might arise and where improvements can be seen in the future. As you're already managing teams in other parts of the business, you should have some ideas already about where technology is being used effectively and where changes could be made.
Passion unquestionably helps here; it means that you recognise that what the IT staff are doing is both valuable and interesting. That isn't always the case. Combine enthusiasm with a willingness to communicate and you'll quickly master the basics — then you can decide if the role requires you to perhaps get a little more technical education on the side. But don't sell yourself short. Your employer is confident you can perform this task; remind yourself of that if you're feeling tentative.
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