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What's on IT managers' plates in 2007

Our recent survey asked IT managers to rank the most important aspects of their jobs. Site editor Katherine Bull studied the results and offers some insight on what you'll want to focus on in the future.

Katherine Bull
Previously, I wrote about the results of our readership survey and the answers gleaned from respondents regarding what they do and what major IT initiatives they are planning for their companies in 2007.

We also asked these IT managers about the five most important aspects of their job. We delved deeper into four of those areas and asked about an up-and-coming job element that IT managers feel they may find themselves more responsible for in the near future.

Problem management

Problem management ranked the highest on the list of most important aspects of an IT manager's job. Of course, it's natural that some of the highest scores in this area are the tactical types: Managing problem assignments and troubleshooting (59%), incident management (56%) and determining and assigning problem management resources in a crisis (25%). IT managers live and breathe fighting fires that crop up every day (or minute!) in the infrastructure.

This is not to say that planning and training isn't critical; IT managers said they also spend a lot of time doing proactive activities, such as evaluating and choosing problem management software and tools (27%), staff training (27%) and analyzing problem management reports (24%).

Capacity management

There is increasing pressure for cost containment and ROI considerations from upper management. Topping the list of capacity management activities for IT managers is evaluating server consolidation (44%). If you look at how much time IT managers who participated in our survey spend on monitoring, analyzing, modeling and optimizing capacity (40%) and automating, tracking and managing capacity management software (32%), it makes perfect sense that server consolidation is on everyone's mind. They know they have to reduce the time spent on such activities or, at the very least, be more efficient about it.

Help desk management

More than half (52%) of the IT managers said they spend time managing help desk assignments and troubleshooting and 34% spend time on staff training. They participate in analysis and planning related to help desk management, primarily in the form of analyzing help desk reports (29%) and developing corporate-wide help desk policies (29%). Help desk management will remain the pinnacle of firefighting activities for IT managers, but corporations are putting more pressure on them to institute user policies in the hopes of reducing the number of incidents.

Disaster planning management

Disaster planning has always been a critical part of an IT manager's job, but in the last five years, focus on this area has really become intense. Upper management constantly wants to know what IT is doing to proactively stave off disasters from a business perspective, and IT managers spend a good amount of their time doing just that (38%). To that end, architecting a disaster recovery solution (65%) and evaluating and choosing disaster planning management software and tools (58%) are the two biggest disaster planning management activities for IT managers in our survey.

Service-level agreements management

A service-level agreement (SLA) is a contract between a network service provider and a customer that specifies, usually in measurable terms, what services the network service provider will furnish. Many Internet service providers (ISPs) give their customers an SLA. More recently, IT departments have adopted the idea of writing a service-level agreement so that services for their customers (users in other departments within the enterprise) can be measured, justified and perhaps compared with those of outsourcing network providers.

SLAs have typically been constructed and managed by a CIO or CTO at a large company, and in our survey, only 19% of the respondents said they are responsible for SLAs. Still, more and more IT managers are taking over developing SLA terms (31%), reviewing and monitoring SLAs (40%) and evaluating and choosing SLA software and tools (27%). So, don't be surprised if your 2007 list of goals includes something related to SLAs.

Our survey also focused on technical aspects of an IT manager's job, such as migration to Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Longhorn, their plans to move to 64-bit hardware, and Windows/Linux/Unix application mix plans. Look for more details about those areas and what your fellow IT managers think about them in subsequent columns.

In the meantime, let me know what you think of our survey results and how they line up with your company's plans and your responsibilities as an IT manager. Write to me at

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