itmWEB TechWeekly

February 6, 1998

IT Executive Survival Skills (Part 2) 

A two part look at the essential skill sets for today's technology executives.

Applied Materials executive Mark Nelsen talking with Garter Group's Ray Bender
Mark Nelsen and Ray Bender

As noted in Part one of this series, survival as an IT executive in the late 1990's has become an even greater challenge. More complex technical environments, more sophisticated end users, and soaring business expectations all have made the job of an IT executive downright hazardous.

Recently, our local Austin AITP Chapter invited Ray Bender, a nationally known IT executive researcher and consultant from the Gartner Group, to speak to our meeting regarding IT executive survival. I had the good fortune of attending Ray's excellent presentation.

This second part of the series will be a discussion of IT executive success traits and important survival action steps. These points were taken from a Gartner Group study referenced by Ray during his presentation. Below each bullet point I have added my own personal observations and opinions. These do not reflect Ray's statements at the meeting.

Executive Success Traits

Ray's first slide on this topic presented a long list of traits which Gartner found to be important for a successful IT executive to possess. According to Ray, an IT executive should be:

  • Creative

    I am finding that the IT profession presents new and unique challenges daily. One challenge is the fact that rapid business evolution is requiring more innovative thinking. Another challenge is that posed by new opportunities resulting from quickening technology advancement. Turning this flood of changing business processes and supporting technology into an optimum IT strategy requires careful thinking and focused creativity at the IT executive level.

  • Flexible

    An IT executive is at the focal point of many competing ideas, demands, and agendas. Balancing all of these competitive priorities clearly requires cautious fexibility and a healthy dose of patience.

  • Open-Minded

    An open minded listening ability is an essential quality for IT executive survival. Ideas and suggestions from the IT staff or from the business various areas should be given respectful and considered attention. In addition, an open minded approach encourages others to share new insights, ideas, and criticism. This insures a more complete information viewpoint for quality decision making.

  • Pragmatic

    An IT executive must be the voice of reason for the IT department as well as for the greater company. In addition, he or she must also be the primary calming influence during any times of crisis. Maturity and experience count for quite a bit in this category.

  • Reliable

    This trait highlights the importance of meeting both departmental and personal commitments. Enough said.

  • Positive

    An IT organization is a service organization. It is also a primary resource for solving business problems. The IT organization should not be perceived as a source of issues and roadblocks. An important IT executive trait is the demonstration of a positive, "we can do it" attitude which reflects this mission.

  • Organized

    The IT organization is responsible for the electronic foundation of the company. The business expects that this foundation is orderly and solid. The process for tracking requests, for executing projects, and for building systems should reflect organization and inspire confidence. I firmly believe that the IT executive's own personal organizational traits are the starting point for this important organizational quality.

Survival Action Steps

Another helpful slide that Ray shared with the group was this list of recommended actions to further insure IT executive career survival:

  • Never Panic
  • Be an Active IT User
  • Be a Politician
  • Be Results Oriented
  • Practice Constant Learning
  • See the Big Picture
  • Learn to Multi-task Effectively
  • Display Energy
  • Utilize Good Vendors
  • Maintain Good Health
  • Survive!