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Is it worth doing an MBA if you're an IT manager? The answer is "it depends". IT managers Computerworld spoke to had mixed feelings on the qualification. Its value seems dependent on the background of the manager.

Is it worth doing an MBA if you’re an IT manager? The answer is “it depends”.

IT managers Computerworld spoke to had mixed feelings on the qualification. Its value seems dependent on the background of the manager.

“The old MBA is loved and hated,” says Richmond IT manager Ian Bell, who questioned a number of people about the value of the qualification when he considered doing one himself.

“My previous chief executive said ‘Well Ian, you don’t really need to do an MBA because you know enough about general business anyway that it wouldn’t add any value’.”

He says the meat processor does send staff on MBA courses, but they’re usually people who did other tertiary training with a specific technical focus and who have been moved into management roles.

“So yes, there probably is some value if you’re taking somebody in the IT industry who’s been a programmer and has quite a narrow technical focus and wants to grow and develop and become an IT manager.”

He says technical people wanting to move into management have to understand the basics of accounting and marketing, though he believes that good programmers know a lot about such things “without knowing that they know it”.

“If they’re had a broad experience of application development they’ll understand a lot about businesses anyway. I wouldn’t make a generalisation and say ‘yes, people moving into senior IT positions need to gain MBAs’. It’s [a case of sitting] down and working out where the skill gaps are and addressing [them] accordingly. It might be as simple as going on a two-week Ernst & Young mini MBA course or as comprehensive as doing a full three-year Massey University thing. There’s no one answer.”

The associate director of Otago University’s MBA programme, Glen Munn, says the university gets “a fair few” IT professionals.

“Usually they’re looking to change direction, particularly if they’ve been in technical positions. They’re mainly looking to broaden their horizons into more general management.”

Otago offers two MBA options — the Otago MBA, which Dunedin-based students study full-time for over 16 months, and the Otago Executive MBA, which students in Auckland study part-time for over two years. In Dunedin there is also a “mini-MBA” — a Diploma in Business Administration.

“It runs alongside the MBA,” says Munn. “It’s less than half of the size, but it’s at the same level. It’s really geared towards people who are in full-time employment and are looking to upskill and match the needs of their obviously busy work-life.”

Gough, Gough & Hamer infrastructure manager Gerard McQuilkin, however, believes an MBA is highly theoretical but not necessarily practical. He says it’s a good qualification but its usefulness depends on where the person fits into an organisation.

“It may break you into an extra 10% of the interviews. But you’ve got to have some solid background behind you … I think it’s what you’ve done in the past and what you can prove you can do in the future [that’s important].”

Natural Gas technical architect Bernie Goedhart says he struggles to see how an MBA fits in within an organisation’s IT support group.

“A lot of MBA stuff doesn’t really help you in a management sense in IT if you’ve already got some basic accounting skills and stuff through your degree.”

Goedhart says it depends on what degree you do. If you did a Bachelor of Science without any accounting or business-type papers, an MBA could be helpful.

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