There's long been an acknowledged need for greater unification of the business and IT visions within organizations. Although the question of how to accomplish this is far from resolved, many are looking to IT management to facilitate the needed marriage. And more and more of those in IT management are hoping that continuing education will give them the tools to achieve what's expected of them. Perhaps it comes as no surprise then that in response to the demand for business-knowledgeable IT pros, many business schools have created a new hybrid, the technology-management master's, or the IT MBA.The IT-focused MBA programs, many established during the last few years, combine business and technology fundamentals into one curriculum, often within a single course. As a general rule, the IT MBA is designed for those who are already engaged in the management of technologies and who want to advance into a role with more responsibility. Undergraduates need not apply.
Just as an IT manager's role can vary radically from one business environment or company to the next, IT MBA programs also differ in areas such as design, scope, curriculum, and organization. Since each company demands a different degree of business intelligence and every IT professional has a different skill set, no single course of study is going to suit every prospective student. In some cases, a two-year program will far surpass a company's requirements. In others, especially in high-tech companies or non-tech companies with a strong Web component, it will be just the thing.Ask a successful IT executive what it takes to score a high-level position, and you're bound to hear something about the importance of understanding business strategy. It is now considered crucial for up-and-coming IT pros to not only help deploy and maintain new business systems, but also to conceptualize, develop, market, and sell these cutting-edge systems to their business counterparts. Perhaps this is why a growing number of IT professionals in mid-career have opted to supplement their already aggressive diet of continuous technical learning with a little business education pie. // Additional reporting by Andrea Williams, a writer and personal coach located in northern New England.