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to management is outdated.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 waterlet'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 workergood and
baddepending on the organization, management and accountability.
I realize politics is part of doing businessbut 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
Name withheld by request