So you want to be a network manager, Part 2

Being a network manager isn't just about management and technical skills; understanding how IT supports the business goals of the organization is critical.

In So you want to be a network manager, part 1 I discussed some management strategies and skills that can help you in your pursuit of a network manager position.

But it's not just about management and technical skills; understanding how IT supports the business goals of the organization is critical. Here are some business-related tidbits to broaden your skill set to help in your pursuit of becoming a successful network manager.

Understand the business and apply the technology.

Certainly, many aspects of the network manager's position involve learning new skills that have more to do with the business than with the technical details of networking. However, that doesn't mean you should stop your technical growth. On the contrary, not keeping up with the latest trends and technologies in networking can lead to poor decisions -- and career suicide.

Consider this scenario: The CFO returns from a business technology convention where network access control was discussed as a method to implement access policies. She asks you about company NAC plans. You had better not only be ahead of her with an answer but understand the technical benefits and limitations of NAC and how to most effectively use it to further the business's goals.

Become proficient at budgeting.

Chances are, as a network administrator, you would submit a proposal to your boss for a new switch, router, NAC appliance or some other gadget that you felt was needed. You may have included a detailed analysis showing why it would be good for the company and why the company should purchase it. Your boss made a decision, and you either purchased the equipment or you didn't.

Moving up the ladder, it's you who will need to make the buy/no-buy decision. You'll need to understand budgeting, including the future costs of a purchasing decision. It's often these unforeseen future costs, for example, of network equipment support that managers surprise company accountants with, according to Allen Falcon, president of Horizon Information Group.

Not that you need to be an accountant, but you'll need to be able to talk to and understand them. "You should have the equivalent of a high school accounting course," explains Falcon, and understand basic concepts such as the difference between capital expenditures and expenses.

Network equipment, infrastructure, services and support aren't cheap. They usually represent a significant portion of the overall IT budget. Lacking basic budgeting skills could increase network operations costs, and you may find yourself needing to explain to the CIO and/or CFO why networking is consuming an inordinate amount of IT resources.

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