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IT Management vs. IS Management: Which Is Right for You?

By DeVry University

February 23, 2022

8 min read

 

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in Information Technology (IT) or leveling up your skills, you may have thought about the differences between IT Management and Information Systems (IS) Management. What do the two fields involve? Where are they similar, and where do they diverge? In this article, we’ll do our best to answer questions related to IT management vs IS management and help you determine which pathway might be right for you.

What Is Information Technology?

Information technology (IT) is a broad term used to describe the use of computer systems or devices to access and manage information. It’s used by businesses of all sizes, from local vendors to global corporations. As individuals, we’ve made IT part of our everyday lives by using it to connect with each other, shop, pay bills and socialize. Trends in IT management include cloud computing, cyber security, artificial intelligence, IoT, robotics and software development, with new applications emerging constantly.

What Does an Information System Include?

An information system is defined by Britannica as an integrated set of components for collecting, storing and processing data for providing information, knowledge and digital products. Businesses of all kinds use IS management in human resources, promoting their products, running supply chains and more. Some major businesses, such as eBay and Amazon, are built entirely around information systems. 

There are 3 main parts of an information system:

  • People: These are the people who use the system and interact with the process it’s focused on. This could be a particular task or something broader.

  • Business processes: Activities that are carried out to reach a particular goal and are interacting with the information system in various ways.

  • Information technology: The use of computer hardware and software is essential to the operation of the system. If a computer program is required to gather, organize, retrieve or analyze data, it must be integrated with the system itself. Depending on the type and purpose of the information system, this could entail a single software program or a variety of programs.

Differences in Management Between the Two Fields

When making a side-by-side comparison of the responsibilities in IT management vs IS management, the differences become clearer. IT management is focused more on the management and maintenance of the hardware and software required to operate an information system, while IS management focuses on data management and analysis.

IT Management:

  • Puts processes in place to maximize IT’s efficiency and benefits for an organization while trying to minimize risks.

  • Purchases new hardware and software

  • Effectively manages assets that are already owned by the organization, including rotating, maintaining and reusing hardware.

  • Creates a framework to identify the hardware and software needs of the people interacting with the information system.

IS Management:

 

  • Examines how raw data can be processed within systems to meet challenges and leveraged to create new opportunities.

  • Analyzes large amounts of data to help organizations gain a competitive advantage.

  • Optimizes data systems. 

  • Creates information systems strategies that align with an organization’s objectives and business functions.

Skills Required To Be an Effective IT or IS Manager

TechTarget outlines an IT management skillset which may include budgeting and cost management, regulatory compliance, governance, monitoring and upgrades of IT systems. They also emphasize that the complexity of this position also requires a variety of soft skills that include the following:

  • Communication and interpersonal skills: As a liaison between the IT department and those in your organization, you will be expected to communicate well as an IT manager. This skill may help you build teams, encourage staff members and help them adapt to new technologies, work with vendors and prepare and present reports to senior-level management.

  • Problem-solving and decision-making: Strong decision-making capabilities are essential as IT managers analyze current situations and consider the risks and rewards associated with their decisions. Your decision-making processes may require analyzing and evaluating quotes and proposals from multiple vendors. Decisions involving hiring, promotions and other personnel issues may also be within the scope of your responsibilities.

  • Business skills: Business skills like strategy, project management and financial know-how can help you to effectively plan and oversee projects, plan resources and make budget projections based on business strategies. These skills can also help you to control risk and minimize any interruptions or snags during upgrades in IT infrastructure.

  • Organization and time management: As in most other management roles, the IT manager should have strong time management skills to balance and prioritize multiple demands on their time. Organization skills can help you delegate tasks based on the strengths of each of your team members and be a strong multitasker as you manage multiple projects and, in some cases, multiple teams.

  • Self-improvement: IT managers should make a commitment to lifelong learning. This means staying up to date on emerging technology and trends in the field and new cyber security challenges. It also means committing to your own professional growth, which may require obtaining and renewing certifications and committing to the continuing education this entails. 

In addition to soft skills, two valuable information technology skills that will serve you are: 

 

  • Coding: If your role involves software or web development, you will utilize this skill. Common coding languages include Python, JavaScript, Java, HTML and PHP. 

  • Data analytics: If you’re responsible for analyzing and optimizing large amounts of data, using it to solve problems or determine more effective ways to perform certain tasks is an important skill.

Job Outlook for IT and IS Managers

The occupational outlook for roles in IT and IS management is healthy, as reflected in growth projections by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). With organizations’ increasing reliance on information technology services, the need for employees to manage hardware and software needs rises. This includes the demand for information systems managers, which is expected to be strong. 

The BLS projects that the job outlook for information systems managers will grow 16%, on a national level, between 2021and 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.1  

But IT managers aren’t the only ones seeing growth potential. The BLS projects the overall employment of database administrators to grow 9%, on a national level, faster than the average for all occupations.2 The BLS attributes this growth to the continuing data needs of companies in nearly all sectors of the United States economy, and acknowledges the critical role these professionals play as organizations migrate data to cloud environments.

Education and Previous Experience Required

What education is required to pursue a career in information systems information technology management? According to occupational outlook information from the BLS, computer and information systems managers typically need a bachelor’s degree to enter this field and some organizations may require their managers to have earned a master’s degree. 

The BLS further states that most jobs in information system management require candidates to have several years of experience in a related IT job, but the number of years of experience required will vary with the organization doing the hiring. Lower-level management positions may generally require only a few years of experience, while careers at the director level are more likely to require significant work experience.  

For database administrators, a bachelor’s degree in computer and information technology or a related field is typically needed, and certain positions may require additional training or certifications as well.

Similarities Between the Two Fields

You may have noticed the terms “information systems” and “information technology” being used interchangeably. This is because many of the tasks performed by professionals in both IS management and IT management are similar. 

  • Both are related to business strategy: IT and IS management play an important role in the modern information system. They are both concerned with the strategic implementation of information technologies to better inform business direction and objectives. 

  • Both are indispensable in risk management: As organizations place a high priority on protecting sensitive data and data systems from cyberattacks, both fields work to protect systems, uncover and resolve vulnerabilities, encourage best practices to defend against attacks and implement security systems.

Which Career Path Is Right for You?

If you’re considering pursuing a career in information systems or information technology but aren’t sure about which career path to take, it may be a good idea to consider a basic difference between the two careers.

Information systems is the “big picture” career, involving the people, processes and technology that comprise the information system. Information technology is the design and implementation of information within that system, thereby focusing on the hardware and software used to manage information and keep it secure. 

Asking yourself if you enjoy working with people and taking part in strategic planning and collaborating with other departments, or if you prefer a more hands-on role that consists mostly of working with equipment and software may lead you toward the path that works best for you.

Pursuing a Career in IT or IS Management? Customize Your Graduate Degree at DeVry

Here at DeVry, earning your master’s degree in IT or IS management is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. We help you to pursue an education experience that’s tailored to your career interests and goals. 

Our online Master’s in Information Systems Management program focuses on the application of IS concepts and skills to practical situations and provides a real-world professional’s perspective on how the information systems industry works. You can choose to concentrate your master’s degree in Information Security, Data Administration or Project Management. Depending on the specialization you choose, you can prepare to pursue a variety of roles, including data security analyst, information system analyst and IT project manager. 

Our online Master’s in Information Technology Management can help you prepare for management roles in IT by improving your knowledge of information systems and networking technologies. Choose between two program emphases Data Administration and Management or Information Security and prepare to pursue careers like computer and information systems manager, information security analyst or data communications analyst. 

Let’s talk about how we can help you take the next step in your education. Classes start every 8 weeks.

1Growth projected on a national level. Local growth will vary by location. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/computer-and-information-systems-managers.htm#tab-1

2Growth projected on a national level. Local growth will vary by location. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/database-administrators.htm#tab-1

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