If you love networking and are attracted to a problem-solving, fast-paced, IT role, you'd be a great information systems manager

An information systems manager is responsible for the computer systems within a company. You'll need experience in the sector, in areas such as technical support or operations, before becoming a manager.

You will:

  • oversee installation;
  • ensure back-up systems operate effectively;
  • purchase hardware and software;
  • provide the ICT technology infrastructures for an organisation;
  • contribute to organisational policy regarding quality standards and strategic planning.

As an information systems manager, you could work in any organisation in the industry and service sector. You will be in charge of a staff of technicians, programmers and database administrators.

Although the title of information systems manager is becoming more common in the ICT sector, job titles may vary. For example, you might be known as a:

  • functional manager;
  • service delivery manager;
  • systems manager.

Responsibilities

In this role you'll be responsible for the implementation of technology, directing the work of systems and business analysts, developers, support specialists and other computer-related workers.

You should have experience and technical expertise, coupled with an understanding of business and management principles.

Duties depend on the employing organisation and the complexity of its information systems, but standard responsibilities are likely to include:

  • evaluating user needs and system functionality and ensuring that ICT facilities meet these needs;
  • planning, developing and implementing the ICT budget and obtaining competitive prices from suppliers to ensure cost effectiveness;
  • scheduling upgrades and security backups of hardware and software systems;
  • researching and installing new systems;
  • guaranteeing the smooth running of all ICT systems, including anti-virus software, print services and email provision;
  • ensuring that users adhere to software licensing laws;
  • providing secure access to the network for remote users;
  • securing data from internal and external attack;
  • offering users appropriate support and advice;
  • managing crisis situations, which may involve complex technical hardware or software problems;
  • mentoring and training new ICT support staff;
  • keeping up to date with the latest technologies.

Business process re-engineering entails re-designing the way the work is done to meet the organisation's goals and reduce costs. Companies undergoing this process may well look to you to deal with change management. You will need an understanding of the capabilities and constraints of technology and resource implications in terms of budgets, as well as the training and recruitment of specialist staff.

Salary

  • Typical salaries range from £40,000 to £55,000 as you usually require experience and knowledge to work in this role.

Salaries are dependent upon location and type of organisation.

Income data from IT Jobs Watch. Figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You should expect to work unsocial hours to undertake planned security maintenance and upgrade work. Much of the work is project based, which may require extended hours at critical times.

You could also be called out at any time to resolve crises.

What to expect

  • Self-employment or freelance work is possible in areas where the ICT sector employs contractors.
  • Project management work is available on short-term contracts if you have extensive experience in the role.
  • Since this is a management job requiring up-to-date technical skills in a rapidly changing field, career break opportunities are unlikely.
  • There are more men than women working in the industry. However, opportunities for women to enter the IT sector have never been greater. Various groups support women in IT and technology, such as BCSWomen, TechFuture Careers and techUK, which has formed the Women in Tech Council to increase the representation of women in IT.
  • Jobs are available in most areas of the country, but are less likely to arise in rural locations.
  • Dress code is dependent on the organisation but is usually relaxed as the role is rarely client facing.
  • Threats such as outsourcing may arise, as an employer may decide that the IT department is not a core business concern and could be managed by external consultants.
  • Travel within a working day, absence from home overnight and overseas travel are occasionally required, depending upon the organisation and its client base. There are increased opportunities to work overseas particularly within international companies located in several countries.

Qualifications

Although this area of work is open to all graduates with relevant industry experience, a degree in information technology or related fields may increase your chances.

The following subjects may also help:

  • business management with computer science;
  • computer science;
  • information science;
  • software engineering.

The Information Technology Management for Business (ITMB) degree was established as a result of a collaboration between The Tech Partnership and top employers after a need for a qualification that addressed the skills gap and shortages in the industry was identified.

For information on the ITMB, visit The Tech Partnership.

The work is also open to all diplomates, but a HND in the following subjects may improve your chances:

  • business (information technology);
  • computing;
  • computing (ICT systems support).

You don't need a degree or HND if you have substantial relevant experience and ICT skills.

If your undergraduate degree isn't in information technology or a related subject, you might choose to take a postgraduate course in computer science. For further information, search postgraduate courses in computer science.

Skills

As a new graduate without experience, it's unlikely that you'd enter the profession at management level. Experience in computer operations, technical support or systems programming, as well as in project management, is normally essential.

In addition to technical skills, you will need to demonstrate the following:

  • leadership;
  • team work;
  • the ability to contribute to and implement organisational strategy;
  • the capacity to work with people at all levels in an organisation.

Unless the employing organisation is very small, you would be expected to manage a team of individuals, each a specialist in their own area, so knowledge of personnel issues would be useful.

Work experience

A range of experience in hardware, operating systems, software and team leadership through appropriate paid or unpaid work experience will enhance your skills portfolio.

If you have work experience abroad, even if not directly related to ICT, global companies may be interested in you.

You could consider applying for programming jobs and company training programmes as a first career step.

You could also take advantage of networking opportunities offered through membership of a professional body such as the BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT).

Employers

Opportunities exist at any organisation that makes use of ICT facilities, meaning the range of potential employers is vast.

Recruiters include organisations in the public sector, such as local and central government, universities and hospitals, and those in the private and not-for-profit sectors.

As an information systems manager, you can use your ICT skills in a sector that is of interest to you. You can work for organisations as diverse as charities, the media or in higher education.

Opportunities also exist within the ICT sector itself. Even household names in the industry need to ensure that their own systems are functional and well-managed.

ICT companies range from industry giants such as IBM to micro companies employing fewer than five people.

There are skill shortages in:

  • networking;
  • PC support;
  • systems design;
  • systems development.

Employers include ICT consultancy firms, software houses, ICT services providers and telecom companies; these are likely to place even greater reliance on, and have even higher expectations of, their ICT systems.

Opportunities also exist for self-employment and consultancy roles.

Look for job vacancies at:

Specialist recruitment agencies commonly handle vacancies, particularly for more senior positions.

Professional development

There are no widely-recognised training courses for this management role. However, you will find regular training in specific technical products, offered by product suppliers and ICT training providers on operating systems such as Oracle and Microsoft, essential to your career development.

Most training is likely to be technical in nature to ensure that you are up to speed with developments.

You will also need 'soft' skills so in-house courses may cover:

  • communication;
  • customer service skills;
  • project management;
  • time management.

To understand user needs, you must be able to work in multidisciplinary teams, so you may be trained in team work and team leadership.

You can also expect to be trained in company systems and procedures. The majority of training is on the job, supplemented by short, internal or external courses as appropriate.

Formal training is more likely in larger organisations than in small ones, where on-the-job training is the norm and the provision of books and e-learning courses for self-study is typical.

Larger companies may offer mentoring schemes and tailor training to facilitate individual development plans.

The BCS also provides information and guidance to assist its members in developing expertise and to recognise and plan learning needs; it is also an examination institute for service management qualifications such as ITIL.

For a range of courses, events and advice you may want to become a member of techUK.

Career prospects

Once in the role of information systems manager, you can work in a variety of organisations with varying career prospects.

Larger organisations may offer you a structured career path with increasing management and technical responsibility. Opportunities may exist, depending on the organisation and the nature of the role, in management and technical strategy at directorship level.

You may also progress into roles in project management and IT group management.

If you are an information systems manager in a smaller company, you are likely to have a range of responsibilities and may be able to customise the role to satisfy your interests while meeting the needs of the organisation. You can stay with that organisation, or use your skills in a different role in another business.

Some information systems managers choose to capitalise on their specialist technical knowledge and business experience by moving into technical consultancy, contracting or project management.

Qualifications and continuing professional development (CPD) programmes are offered by the:

The BCS also provides up-to-date information on career progression and areas of development.