2012: the outlook for IT managers

Regulation will be a big challenge in 2012, and will have a big impact.

"As organisations open up new markets, they are dealing with compliance on a global scale," says Allen Brown, president and CEO of the Open Group, the IT membership body behind the TOGAF standard. "Regulation will be a big challenge in 2012, and will have a big impact." He also expects companies to continue to move to implement IT methodologies such as service-oriented architecture (SOA), to bring more flexibility.

The interest in such systems had tailed off, says Brown, as companies tackled the impact of the downturn. But companies are now renewing their interest in the technology, not least as they look to integrate the cloud into their infrastructure. And IT managers will be at the forefront of ensuring that those services work with the business.

Shiny, happy, T-shaped people

This, in turn, is having an impact on the type of people who are successful in IT management roles. Again, as with IT professionals, the job is becoming more varied, but less technical. And if anything, the shift at IT manager level is the most pronounced, as a mid-tier of technical staff are replaced by or retrain for roles as business architects, project managers and even IT-business liaison specialists.

Other IT managers are increasingly finding that their roles involve sourcing, contract negotiation and supplier management, as well as line management of more junior technical staff.

These roles can be a significant challenge, especially for managers with a purist IT background, and those who have worked entirely in IT, or come from other parts of the IT industry, and may lack direct experience of working in other parts of their organisations' operations. But IT managers are critical in ensuring that the business understands what its technology can do, and how to make the most of it.