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What Makes a Good Director of IT?

I'm looking at a move to Director of IT. Right now I'm on the analyst side of IT and am curious of what programers and programming manager think makes a good director.

Thanx in advance for your input.

Stevie Ray
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Simple. The director's boss thinks a good director is someone who looks professional, sounds intelligent, and most importantly, keeps the sh*t off their back. Beyond this, every company has its own requirements.

The director's underlings think a good director is someone who signs all purchase requisitions, holds meetings to a minimum, and keeps the sh*t off their back.

IMO (FYI, I have been offered more than one "Director" job), a good director is simply one who's good at "directing". This means you are a natural leader of people, know instinctively what works and what doesn't, can solve the organizational/political problems nobody else can, and create new business opportunities on a regular basis. Anything less than that and you are just a glorified manager/worker bee with the "director" title. Anything more and you should be a consultant or start your own business.

StickyWicket
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

In my opinion, a Director should not manage a department.  While this may seem self-evident, often it's not.  Hiring good managers and trusting them to do their job will make everyone more effective.

Figurehead managers (those with no actual "power" to do anything) who must go to the Director for everything are dead weight.  While acquiring good, trustworthy people to manage is a difficult task, it makes everything work more efficiently.

A Directory who micro-manages over their managers' heads (without talking to the managers) makes it difficult for the worker bees like me to get anything done.

Jeff MacDonald
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Director should not micro manage.

Director should provide the big vision, and have enough IT savy to make sure that all the IT projects are working together.

More importantly, Director should understand the business benefits of projects, and have enough clout and balls to nix projects, and stop sending good money after bad.

Tapiwa
Tuesday, September 09, 2003


"IT Director" is often misleading.

According to fortune-500 jargon, a "Director" is a manager of managers.  That is to say, the director has 3-5 direct reports who are "managers", and each "manager" has 5-10 line workers.  Sometimes the "managers" has 2-4 "team leaders", and each "Team Leader" has 2-4 "Team Members."

This implies that a director has a total of 18 to 80 reports.

HOWEVER, lots of companies have an "IT Shop" with JUST a director of IT, or else a "Director" plus 2-4 other people.


IN OTHER WORDS --> In non-It Businesses, often an "IT DIRECTOR" is a 1st level supervisor.  Of course, they keep the company running, so they are awarded an impressive title.

However, it can be misleading, when someone tells you they are/were an "IT DIRECTOR" or you are interviewing for the position, because you are all impressed an intimidated by this large organization, and it's really three guys who run the network.

So, I'd clarify they type of business and the role.  IF the company doesn't do any programming, the IT Director is the guy who keeps the boxes and the network humming, and provides end-user tech support.

If the company has a "true" CIO or a higher-level IS organization, IT is probably help desk, PC's, and network, perhaps also mid-range systems admin.

If not, and the company has a web presence or does some custom programming, the  Director may manage 1-2 programmers, or, more likely, will manage the relationship with an outsourcer.

What makes a "good" IT director?

Keep the boxes working and the network humming.  Keep the reports serving.  You want to radically increase uptime and support so that it all looks easy - but keep you boss aware that it -isn't- easy, especially in regards to budgeting.

Remember:  In non-IT companies, IT is a COST CENTER. That means that the simplest way to make money is to cut IT.  So, your boss has to look good because of you, and you have to have a reputation for enabling the profit-making arms of the business.

Just my $0.02.

Matt H.
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I remember what some said of Ernie Northrop the airplane designer: extraordinary engineer, manager, and people person: the total package. My best manager obviously tried to improve on these every day.

Congratulations on your opportunity. Realize that the IT Director will probably have to do everything: hire, fire, budget, plan, deal with management, micromanage/train weak managers, settle disputes, set priorities, deal with difficult people, participate in community activities, ... The Director will have to prove himself every day to bosses, peers, and subordinates; get there early and stay late. Some folks thrive on it. Quite a challenge.

We need more good ones.

tk
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Knowing that developers are humans too and treating them accordingly.

Dino
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

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