Job Descriptions, Definitions Roles, Responsibility: Computer and Information Systems Managers

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.