Letter to the editor

This is in reference to the Letter to the Editor, "Inept managers hurt government IT."

I also would like to comment on the "IT workforce hurting e-gov" article dated July 26, 2001. In my 25 years of experience as an information technology professional, IT managers are not chosen for their IT experience and vision but for their political foothold.

In the organization I currently work in, we have had four directors in the past 11 years and all four did not posses an IT background. Based on their IT expertise, the first year is spent learning the difference between an application and a network; during the second year, they finally make a decision to test their IT knowledge; and the third year they move on to pursuing their political careers.

So do you need an IT professional to run an IT organization? IT technical and personnel issues could possibly be more understood by a manager who possesses an IT background. It also allows IT professionals an upward career path while staying in their area of expertise. IT professionals have gained significant knowledge of the business functional areas by the mere fact they automate those functions and usually have experience or education in other business areas beyond their IT expertise.

And while we are on the topic of managers, should a management job be a position they are bestowed for a lifetime. Maybe our conventional approach to management is outdated. What do we do with poor managers in general? What about management burnout? Management complacency or apathy?

Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water—let's address the issues. Do managers running IT organizations know their technical experts? Do managers possess the ability to assess their technical staff and hold them accountable? Do they ensure adequate training is provided? Are there appropriate processes in place that ensure communication and consistency? Is there appropriate mentoring and technical transfer approaches being done to ensure all personnel keep their skills up to date? Is information sharing rewarded? Is teamwork promoted with individual ideas welcomed and nurtured?

Similar to other professions, an IT professional is a different breed. We usually love our field and wish to stay in our field. We tend to be less politically motivated and pride ourselves on technical results.

On another point, privatizing is not the panacea to many of the issues I've mentioned. Poor managers definitely exist in the government-contractor sector. In fact, a government contractor resembles a government worker—good and bad—depending on the organization, management and accountability.

I realize politics is part of doing business—but to what degree, to what cost? But if you want solutions then you better ask some fundamental questions. And as a taxpayer, government employee and IT professional, I implore us all to go beyond the politics and do our best to make ethical and sound decisions.

Name withheld by request


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