Should there be a Professional IT Manager designation, in a word No.

Personally as a professional IT manager myself, I’d have to say that most “industry” professional designations and titles are little more than a nice piece of paper for covering the holes the wall from the last sucker to hold the job.

There is fundamentally something different between someone who is formally trained for 3-7 years in their field; who articled in a company specializing in their area of expertise; then needs to get themselves certified into their profession by an exam designed to fail people and create scarcity. In IT very few people go to the extent of being university graduates in computer science. For the most part we are certified by a vendor who “wants” us to be certified for marketing and product loyalty reasons, then we evolve into the roll of manager or project manager as appropriate or required by our employer.

Want to see the difference in other terms then think about a professional engineer, architect, lawyer or doctor. These are true professions and there is a reason. They have mandatory government recognized colleges and governance. Each individual is regularly scrutinized by their piers (think second opinion) and has mandatory participation rules. The individuals need to be licensed in their jurisdiction and carry professional insurance. While similarly to IT they will need to stay current with latest requirements and technologies the single most important face is they don’t become an “insert title of choice here” by default or promotion.

Take a look at the typical Canadian IT manager. How many of them do you think could write a formal business plan, develop an IT strategy, write or perform an information risk assessment, develop a business continuity plan, perform a total cost of ownership assessment, or build a business case based on ROI or TCO. The simple fact of the matter is that the typical Canadian IT manager is not a business manager first, but a technologist. Very few have the formal business training to be a manager let alone a professional manager.

We have good technologists in this industry, but it is not a profession in the traditional sense. In the 90’s the various engineering professional associations took offence to the use of the word engineer in titles like software engineer or certified network engineer. They did so to protect their own reputations and to clearly bring to the table the issue that none of these so called engineers could meet their entry and licensing requirements.

Groups like the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) now have their generic titles like the Information Systems Professional. I may be cynical, but I sure don’t see the value in their training and certification. It may come into vogue for a few years, but in the end the profession will be little further ahead.

If you have a desire to be a professional IT manager, I recommend going to college or university

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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