Technology: How Much Do Managers Need to Know?

Last Updated Mar 10, 2008 10:29 PM EDT

Tonight marked the midway point in our Technology Management class. Not surprisingly -- at least to me -- so far, the class has focused a lot on security, but we're not stopping there. I think we've finally hit on a course that's really applicable for would-be managers -- and I'm not just saying this because it's a class I understand.

And thankfully, I understand a lot. As an editor for for almost nine years, I have more than a passing familiarity with the subject matter of the class; I've been editing technical content for a while now, so it's good to know I've picked up some knowledge along the way. Getting lost in this class would have caused a bit of embarrassment at work, I'm sure.

That said, I'm definitely in the minority in class. Most people in my class didn't know a DoS attack from DOS, so there's definitely a learning curve. Hearing the multitude of questions has made me wonder if a six-week course will cut it.

Over the years, I've edited numerous articles about the importance of getting "nontechnical" managers to understand and support (read: fund) technology initiatives. I'm pretty familiar with the perspective from the IT side, but now I'm getting a front-row seat to the non-IT viewpoint.

Without a doubt, cramming everything you ever needed to know about IT into six sessions is an ambitious undertaking. And frankly, I don't think it's enough time. We've already rushed through security concerns and the IT aspects of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, but either subject could easily take up six sessions of its own.

One of my group members expressed similar concerns. He said that he felt the class needed to be more basic and thorough instead of presenting such a broad overview. After listening to him and other classmates, I can't help but agree.

At this point in class, it seems like students are learning just enough to be dangerous -- they're picking up on the lingo, but they don't really understand it. I've edited many an article that advised dealing with just this sort of manager.

Of course, how much technology a manager needs to be familiar with really depends on the job at hand. However, technology is only getting more prevalent in the workplace -- and don't expect that to change anytime soon.

So, what's the right balance? How much technology do you think managers need to know? MBA students, chime in: What kind of technology classes do your programs include?