The need for organizations to incorporate existing and future technologies in order to remain competitive has become a more pressing issue over the last several years. As electronic commerce becomes more common, how and when companies use technology are critical issues. Computer and information systems managers play a vital role in the technological direction of their organizations. They do everything from constructing the business plan to overseeing network security to directing Internet operations.
Computer and information systems managers plan, coordinate, and direct research and design the computer-related activities of firms. They help determine both technical and business goals in consultation with top management, and make detailed plans for the accomplishment of these goals. For example, working with their staff, they may develop the overall concepts of a new product or service, or may identify how an organizationís computing capabilities can effectively aid project management.
Computer and information systems managers direct the work of systems analysts,
computer programmers, support specialists, and other computer-related workers. These managers plan and coordinate activities such as installation and upgrading of hardware and software, programming and systems design, development of computer networks, and implementation of Internet and intranet sites. They are increasingly involved with the upkeep and maintenance and security of networks. They analyze the computer and information needs of their organization, from an operational and strategic perspective, and determine immediate and long-range personnel and equipment requirements. They assign and review the work of their subordinates, and stay abreast of the latest technology in order to assure the organization does not lag behind competitors.
The duties of computer and information systems managers vary with their specific titles. Chief technology officers, for example, evaluate the newest and most innovative technologies and determine how these can help their organization. The chief technology officer, who often reports to the organizationís chief information officer, manages and plans technical standards and tends to the daily information technology issues of the firm. (Chief information officers are covered in a separate Handbook statement on
top executives.) Because of the rapid pace of technological change, chief technology officers must constantly be on the lookout for developments that could benefit their organization. They are responsible for demonstrating to a company how information technology can be used as a competitive tool that not only cuts costs, but also increases revenue and maintains or increases competitive advantage.
Management information systems (MIS) directors manage information systems and computing resources for their entire organization. They may also work under the chief information officer and plan and direct the work of subordinate information technology employees. These managers oversee a variety of user services such as an organizationís help desk, which employees can call with questions or problems. MIS directors also may make hardware and software upgrade recommendations based on their experience with an organizationís technology. Helping to assure the availability, continuity, and security of data and information technology services are key responsibilities for these workers.
Project managers develop requirements, budgets, and schedules for their firmís information technology projects. They coordinate such projects from development through implementation, working with internal and external clients, vendors, consultants, and computer specialists. These managers are increasingly involved in projects that upgrade the information security of an organization.
LAN/WAN (Local Area Network/Wide Area Network) managers provide a variety of services, from design to administration, of an organizationís local area network, which connects staff within an organization. These managers direct the network, and its related computing environment, including hardware, systems software, applications software, and all other computer-related configurations.
Computer and information system managers need strong communication skills. They coordinate the activities of their unit with those of other units or organizations. They confer with top executives; financial, production, marketing, and other managers; and contractors and equipment and materials suppliers.
Computer and information systems managers spend most of their time in an office. Most work at least 40 hours a week and may have to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines or solve unexpected problems. Some computer and information systems managers may experience considerable pressure in meeting technical goals within short timeframes or tight budgets. As networks continue to expand and more work is done remotely, computer and information system managers have to communicate with and oversee offsite employees using modems, laptops, e-mail, and the Internet.
Like other workers who sit continuously in front of a keyboard, computer and information system managers are susceptible to eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Computer and information systems managers held about 284,000 jobs in 2002. About 2 in 5 works in service-providing industries, mainly in computer systems design and related services. This industry provides services related to the commercial use of computers on a contract basis, including custom computer programming services; computer systems integration design services; computer facilities management services, including computer systems or data-processing facilities support services for clients; and other computer-related services, such as disaster recovery services and software installation. Other large employers include insurance and financial services firms, government agencies, and manufacturers.
Strong technical knowledge is essential for computer and information systems managers, who must understand and guide the work of their subordinates, yet also explain the work in nontechnical terms to senior management and potential customers. Therefore, these management positions usually require work experience and formal education similar to that of other computer occupations.
Many computer and information systems managers have experience as systems analysts; others may have experience as computer support specialists, programmers, or other information technology professionals. A bachelorís degree usually is required for management positions, although employers often prefer a graduate degree, especially a masterís degree in business administration (MBA) with technology as a core component. This degree differs from a traditional MBA in that there is a heavy emphasis on information technology in addition to the standard business curriculum. This is becoming important because more computer and information systems managers are making important technology decisions as well as business decisions for their organizations. Some universities specialize in offering degrees in management information systems, which blend technical core subjects with business, accounting, and communications courses. A few computer and information systems managers may have only an associate degree if they have sufficient experience and were able to learn additional skills on the job. To aid their professional advancement, though, many managers with an associate degree eventually earn a bachelorís or masterís degree while working.
Computer and information systems managers need a broad range of skills. In addition to technical skills, employers also seek managers with strong business skills. Employers want managers who have experience with the specific software or technology to be used on the job, as well as a background in either consulting or business management. The expansion of electronic commerce has elevated the importance of business insight, because many managers are called upon to make important business decisions. Managers need a keen understanding of people, management processes, and customersí needs.
Computer and information systems managers must possess strong interpersonal, communication, and leadership skills because they are required to interact not only with their staff, but also with other people inside and outside their organization. They also must possess team skills to work on group projects and other collaborative efforts. Computer and information systems managers increasingly interact with persons outside their organization, reflecting their emerging role as vital parts of their firmís executive team.
Computer and information systems managers may advance to progressively higher leadership positions in their field. Some may become managers in non-technical areas such as marketing, human resources, or sales. In high technology firms, managers in non-technical areas often must possess the same specialized knowledge as do managers in technical areas.
Employment of computer and information systems managers is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2012. Technological advancements will boost the employment of computer-related workers; as a result, the demand for managers to direct these workers also will increase. In addition, job openings will result from the need to replace managers who retire or move into other occupations. Opportunities for obtaining a management position will be best for workers possessing an MBA with technology as a core component, or a management information systems degree, advanced technical knowledge, and strong communication and administrative skills.
Despite the recent downturn in the economy, especially in technology-related sectors, the outlook for computer and information systems managers remains strong. In order to remain competitive, firms will continue to install sophisticated computer networks and set up more complex Internet and intranet sites. Keeping a computer network running smoothly is essential to almost every organization. Firms will be more willing to hire managers who can accomplish that.
The security of computer networks will continue to increase in importance as more business is conducted over the Internet. The security of the Nationís entire electronic infrastructure has come under renewed focus in light of recent threats. Organizations need to understand how their systems are vulnerable and how to protect their infrastructure and Internet sites from hackers, viruses, and other acts of cyber-terrorism. The emergence of ďcyber-securityĒ as a key issue facing most organizations should lead to strong growth for computer managers. Firms will increasingly hire cyber-security experts to fill key leadership roles in their information technology departments, because the integrity of their computing environment is of the utmost concern. As a result, there will be a high demand for managers proficient in computer security issues.
Due to the explosive growth of electronic commerce and the capacity of the Internet to create new relationships with customers, the role of computer and information systems managers will continue to evolve in the future. Persons in these jobs will continue to become more vital to their companies. The expansion of the wireless Internet will spur the need for computer and information systems managers with both business savvy and technical proficiency.
Earnings for computer and information systems managers vary by specialty and level of responsibility. Median annual earnings of these managers in 2002 were $85,240. The middle 50 percent earned between $64,150 and $109,950. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $47,440, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $140,440. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of computer and information systems managers in 2002 were:
Computer systems design and related services
Management of companies and enterprises
Depository credit intermediation
Colleges, universities, and professional schools
According to Robert Half International, average starting salaries in 2003 for high-level information technology managers ranged from $82,750 to $151,500. According to a 2003 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, starting salary offers for those with an MBA, a technical undergraduate degree, and 1 year or less of experience averaged $54,643; for those with a masterís degree in management information systems/business data processing, the starting salary averaged $43,750.
In addition, computer and information systems managers, especially those at higher levels, often receive more employment-related benefits such as expense accounts, stock option plans, and bonuses than do non-managerial workers in their organizations.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2004-05 Edition,
Computer and Information Systems Managers, on the Internet at
(visited July 09, 2004).