The Introduction to IT Management Course
Welcome to this free IT Management course. We will first dive into a general overview of information technology (IT) management and then try to grasp the history of this technological field. We’ll explore what’s on the horizon as well as the challenges and opportunities in the field. We will then end the course a next steps section for IT Managers.
- What Is IT Management?
- History of IT Management
- Future of IT Management
- Challenges & Opportunities in IT Management
- Next Steps for IT Managers
This free online IT Management course guides students toward free videos, podcasts, and resources coupled with questions to aid in processing the information technology field. Each module is created to encompass two to three hours of learning material.
Whenever you see this icon, it is time to stop and watch, listen, or read and then reflect.
At the end of each module in this free IT Management course is an opportunity for to invest further. These suggestions offer books, courses, or certifications within a wide range of financial and time investments, to further studies and enrichment in the field of IT Management.
1│What Is IT Management?
IT is not just the guy you call when you have computer issues. The field of Information Technology is incredibly varied and plays an exceptionally important role across industries today. At its most basic, information technology uses technology to solve organizational problems. IT includes IT governance, which are the procedures and policies that make IT systems run effectively, as well as in-line with the needs of the organization. Then there’s the area of hardware and infrastructure, which are the physical aspects, such as the maintenance or set-up of laptops, routers, servers, and other equipment. IT operations are the daily work of an IT department; this means providing tech support, maintaining the network, providing security, and managing devices, including hardware and software.
An IT manager works to ensure that
- their organization is getting the technical support they need,
- the systems and technology the organization has purchased or adopted is being used to its fullest,
- data and other information for the organization is safe, and
- they are aware of the rapidly changing landscape of technology.
But IT management entails so much more than just these areas.
Spend some time listening to this webinar from Community IT Innovators. Community IT Innovators is an IT company that works with nonprofits to advance their missions through the effective use of IT. So, as you listen, consider the ways that you as an IT manager can work with the rest of your organization to advance their mission.
Hardware V. Software
Most IT managers need to have a background in both hardware and software since the two work in tandem, and that’s super important to understand. Hardware refers to the devices and components that you can physically touch. This includes everything from your motherboard to your keyboard. Whereas software includes data, programs, operating systems, or applications.
In this video, IT professionals at Xbox and Amazon discuss how software and hardware work together. After you watch, jot down how you understand this relationship to work in a few sentences, just to make sure you’ve got the gist.
The Information Technology Umbrella
IT is, truly, a vast term. It covers a multitude of areas, from the obvious like software development to less obvious project management. Basically, anything that could be considered computer management has become part of IT. By the same token, to be an IT manager, you’ll also need a broad range of skills not only as they relate to the technology side and hard skills, but also when it comes to the business side, which tend to be more soft skills.
This article lists 12 soft skills that are important for IT managers to have. As you read, jot down the ones you know you’re strong in and consider which ones you could bolster.
If you’re brand new to the galaxy of IT, take some time to watch this free course on the fundamentals of IT. Taught by a support specialist at Google, it covers all you need to know to gain a general grasp of all things IT. It’s an almost four-hour course, so get comfortable.
If that free course on IT fundamentals was inspiring for you, take the full IT support program from Coursera. This five-course certificate program was created by Google and will equip you with everything you’ll need to gain an entry-level IT job.
2│History of IT Management
The field of Information Technology is a forward-thinking one, which isn’t surprising. So much of what we do now, and what we will do in the future, hinges on our relationship with technology. But, as is the case with anything, to look forward with wisdom, we also must look back with curiosity to understand how we got where we are today. And to plan for the future, it’s so helpful to understand the past.
Back to Papyrus
Generally speaking, information technology deals with data processing by computers. When you think about information technology, you don’t usually think of, well, paper. Or handwriting, for that matter. But at its core, a handwritten chart of accounts is information and thousands of years ago, the creation and spread of papyrus or the like was, in fact, new technology. And these are precursors to today’s computers. So, if we really want to look at the history of IT, we’ve got to go back. Way back.
In this TED Talk, Christopher Blackwell, a professor of classics at Furman University, lays out how the technology of ancient civilization gave way to our technology today. As you watch, consider two questions. First, in what way is your consideration of what technology is narrow or limited? And second, if you broaden your idea of what technology could be, what kind of possibilities do you see in the future of information technology?
1958 – Harvard Business Review
In a 1958 article in the Harvard Business Review, we see what might be the first reference to “Information Technology.” This article discusses information technology as divided up into computational data processing, decision support, and business software. As you read through this Management in the 1980s article, note the predictions it makes about the role of IT in businesses. What of their predictions is now common practice? What, if anything, isn’t, and why do you suppose that is?
1970s – Nolan’s Stages of Growth
In the 1970s, Richard L. Nolan created a theoretical model for the growth of information technology in an organization. His theory was originally posed in a Harvard Business Review article in 1973 with three stages, which was later expanded to six stages by its final form in an HBR article in 1979. The model proposed a slow integration of information technology into an organization, starting with the initiation stage and ending with the “maturity stage,” with the organization exercising increasing levels of control through the evolution.
Take some time to read Nolan’s 1979 HBR data processing article. How could this model be useful for an organization when it comes to identifying and moving forward with information technology, if it’s useful at all? Also, read through his four-stage model from the 1974 article and compare the two.
It’s important to examine other narratives of history, for a broader understanding. Many would lay out the history of IT as the mainframe era, the PC era, the Internet era, and the post-PC era. These are all focused on hardware, and as we discussed earlier, you can’t have IT without both hardware and software. So, another way to explore the history of IT is through the timeline of the digitization of data.
Read this article by Gil Press for his take on a short history of IT. This piece was written back in 2013, so a lot has happened in the intervening years. Press wraps up his piece with a hypothesis on the cloud. From what you learned about looking at IT from the lens of data and digitization, and what you know has happened with the reach of the cloud, do you have thoughts on what comes next?
Like any field, the history of information technology is wide and deep. But there are IT history enthusiasts out there, who have created the IT History Society, an organization dedicated to creating and preserving the IT historical record. Spend some time exploring the vast array of resources on their website.
The Evolution of Information Technologies and Social Transformation Report is based on a symposium from the National Academy of Engineering that examined the mutual impact of information technology and social institutions. Written in 1985, it explores possible futures in IT as well as the historical record and how IT impacts other aspects of society.
3│Future of IT Management
New World. New Strategy
It’s true that our world has fundamentally changed since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. With that has come significant changes to the way we use and depend upon information technology. As a result, how we think about and strategize our use of IT has also needed to adapt.
Watch this webinar on the future of IT strategy from the University of Ottowa’s Telfer School of Management. Was there anything that these IT experts said that surprised you about where they see the future of IT strategy going? What do you think about the connections the webinar makes between IT and digital strategy and how these two areas have rapidly become obviously interconnected?
Artificial Intelligence is one of the areas of information technology that is rapidly developing. However, it’s an area with much ambiguity. Artificial Intelligence covers a wide span of systems and technologies, and as a result, what AI is and does is a bit of a mystery to many. At its core, it’s a program used to teach a computer to do something.
In this TED Talk, Gerardo Salandra talks about the wide future of AI. Salandra is the founder and CEO of Rocketbots, and he also has experience in growth hacking, chatbots, and machine learning. In his talk, he discusses how for the first time, rather than the human knowing how to interact with a computer, with AI, the computer instead needs to know how to interact with the human. This, at the core, changes how we interact with information technology. What are areas, industries, problems, systems do you feel would benefit most from the application of AI?
Democratization of Technology
AI is just one factor that has led the way to the democratization of technology. The democratization of technology is the process of making technology widely accessible. These technologies help organizations scale more quickly while also lowering barriers, such as cost.
With the impacts of COVID-19, many argue that the democratization of technology is more important than ever before. The access that this democratization can open doors to the innovation needed to create meaningful technologies, to reimagine industries, and help communities thrive.
What are some innovations you’ve seen due to the democratization of technology in the past or currently? One example is in the realm of geospatial information. Read this article on the power of tech democratization from Geospatial World and consider how you might already be seeing the impact of democratization of technology in this field.
Ultimately, for many, a democratic state of technology is about not just improving organization efficiency but improving people’s quality of life, as an article from Forbes argues. Do you agree with this worldview? Feel it’s idealistic? In the current state of our world, do you think it’s even possible?
If you’re interested in AI, consider learning more about areas like Big Data and data science, which are used in tandem across the spectrum of technological innovations. In the coming years, the demand for trained data scientists should continue to grow. Here are nine free courses in Big Data and data science. Pick one that you know the least about to expand your knowledge in the IT world. Plan to start after completing this free online IT Management course.
The topic of information technology is not only vast but deep. There are so many books written on numerous IT subjects. But since we just discussed the democratization of technology, here are a few books on the subjects to help you dive further into these aspects of IT.
Liberation Technology will help shed light on the intersections of technology and democracy through the lens of the more recent revolutions in the Middle East.
The Driver in the Driverless Car discusses three questions we should be asking about emerging technology. First, could it benefit everyone equally? Second, what are the rewards as well as the risks? Third, does this new technology create dependence or promote autonomy?
4│Challenges & Opportunities in IT Management
We’re going through a period of fundamental changes when it comes to disruptive technology – think AI, Internet of Things, cybersecurity, and the list goes on. These technologies offer both challenges as well as opportunities for IT leaders and CIOs.
Low-Code Technologies and Innovation
There is a lot of pressure for CIOs and other IT leaders to address emerging challenges while lacking the necessary resources. And yet, many are also tasked with driving organizational innovation. But if IT leaders don’t even have the resources they need, the idea of innovation is almost laughable. So, where to start? One solution is implementing tools that will help your IT team deliver on solutions without a lot of resources. The low-code market is rapidly expanding in part because it does just this.
Learn more about the low-code market in this article from Forbes. It’s likely you’ve used these tools already at some point. What is the key takeaway regarding the adoption of these low-code technologies? This will help free up talent and time to innovate. Obviously, simply enacting a low-code technology isn’t the silver bullet when it comes to freeing up capacity and money for technological innovation. So bigger picture, what are some other strategies, like low-code, that can be used?
This innovation article helps IT managers consider ways to make structural changes that can help cut costs and risks associated with innovation, as well as how to identify high-rewards projects. Taking these ideas, what could you do for your own organization to help free up time and budget from your IT team to allow for space to innovate?
Along with the growth of new technologies, organizations are facing a gap in the number of qualified IT managers and other IT professionals. IT leaders, such as managers and CIOs, are faced with covering skills gaps while also staying up-to-date on what’s next in technology.
What solutions would you propose to your organization facing this talent gap? As you consider this, read this IT skills gap blog post with six possible strategies. Did these strategies give you any new insights?
In this episode of CIO In the Know podcast, host Tim Crawford interviews Brian Hoyt. Hoyt is the CIO of Unity Technologies, which is a tech company that has a real-time 3D development platform. The two discuss this issue of a talent gap, or in Hoyt’s words, an issue of not having the right people with the needed skillsets. Why does Hoyt see this happening, and what is his solution to solving it? How does this work in tandem with the blog post you just read or with other strategies you’ve seen?
Cybersecurity threats on organizations, in particular, ransomware threats, are on the rise. In fact, ransomware attacks increased 300 percent in 2019, despite decreasing for consumers. Why might that be? Read this ITPro Today article for some perspectives on this growing challenge for IT managers.
No organization is too small to be a target of cybersecurity breaches, and it’s not enough to have great cybersecurity software. IT leaders must be proactive and have a plan to protect their organizations against attacks. Read this ransomware prevention article that lays out steps to take to accomplish this and then spend some time drafting one for your organization.
CIO is a magazine for Chief Information Officers and other executives in IT. Check out their website for a wealth of information or sign up for one of their many CIO newsletters. In particular, check out the IDG Tech Talk: The Future of Work. It discusses ways for IT managers to reimagine how their organizations run.
Of course, there are more challenges facing IT managers beyond the ones we discussed here. Here is a list from Global Knowledge of 12 challenges for those in IT. Global Knowledge is an authorized training partner for organizations like Amazon Web Services, IBM, Microsoft, and Cisco. As you read through this list of challenges, if one of these challenges particularly interests you, consider taking one of Global Knowledge’s courses on the topic, which are linked in the article.
5│Next Steps for IT Managers
Humans & AI
We discussed how AI is part of IT’s future (and present). But is AI going to take over all our IT jobs? Not likely. AI can’t deal with ambiguity, context, nuance, and grey areas. But what does that mean when our economy is continuing to be digitized and automated? Where do people fit in?
ZDNet has put together this IT leader’s guide to help clarify and direct those interested in IT management toward the right jobs at this time. What are they suggesting about how to make it through this fourth wave of industrialization? Where do you foresee your career trajectory headed based on their research and data, and does that work for you?
Be a Lens, Not a Mirror
As we discussed earlier, IT is often the place leadership goes to for innovation. But it can be a challenge to do that innovating when you’re, as Ralph Loura puts it, being a mirror instead of a lens. Ralph Loura, SVP and CIO at Lumentum, discusses how to add value to your organization by being a lens. Meaning, bringing your own experience and perspective to a problem rather than just addressing what your organization is directly asking for. According to Loura, many in IT tend to take a backseat when it comes to sharing their opinions. But for a team that is often given the challenging task of providing innovation for an organization, this can be a detriment.
As you listen to her episode of State of the CIO podcast, what value do you see in Loura’s encouragement of being a lens, not a mirror? What issues do you foresee in this strategy, especially when it comes to the idea that to have a voice in an organization, all you have to do is speak up at the table?
New Leadership Possibilities?
Something to consider, regarding the approach that Loura is championing, is how IT managers and higher are simply looked upon as tech experts. The reality is, as dependence on technology continues to grow, especially in light of what might be irreversible changes in the business landscape due to COVID-19, moving into other C-level positions, beyond CIO, might become more attainable than it was previously for IT managers. Consider this CIO article on the subject. What’s your perspective? Do you feel that it will be easier for IT managers to move into other positions of leadership with our rapidly changing new reality?
In any profession, there can be deep value in being part of a professional association or organization. Take some time to explore the ones that are out there for IT managers. Since IT is such a broad field, look for an association that aligns with your particular niche. To help you start looking, here are few IT professional associations to check out.
Many in IT have four-year or advanced degrees, but others have done much of their learning on their own. With the talent gap and ever-evolving positions open in IT, you could land a great job in the field even without a degree if you’ve got the background. To expand on this free IT Management course, consider Coursera, which has a plethora of IT courses from beginner to advanced. Spend some time exploring IT management course offerings and enroll in one, or a few of them, in an area of IT management you have an interest or would like to move into.
This is the end of our free online IT Management course. We hope it gives you a good background on the topic and launches you into further advancement of the field!