I agree with Bill that the Type 42 manager is still relevant. There are several reasons for this:
1. Whilst I agree that things like networks and VLEs are more mainstream, it doesn’t follow that managers don’t need to know about them. I’m not talking deep technical knowledge, but a good enough understanding of what they do, how they work, and what the maintenance issues are to use them properly. To draw an analogy with the roads network, I need to know about A roads and motorways and their pluses and minuses in order to use them properly. This doesn’t mean I need to know what type of tarmac they use.
In fact because things like networks and VLEs are so mainstream I think it’s even more important we know about them.
2. You have to have the foundations in order to look at innovation. An example is all the Web 2.0 stuff you mention, and especially social networking. How can we use this effectively and how will it fit in with what we’ve got? Does it make sense to publish timetables on Facebook? Is it right to use Twitter for event planning (think: flash mobs)? When you make these kinds of leaps you need to understand impact on your core systems, e.g. a tutor might think it’s great to send timetable updates via Facebook, but what if this isn’t reflected in the corporate timetable system?
3. IT-awareness is like business awareness. As a manager I don’t have to be an accountant, but I should know how to manage a budget; nor do I need to be an HR expert, but I should know how to do workforce planning. IT is as much “core” to the business as finance and HR, so managers should have skills commensurate with that. Where I work it’s mandatory to attend “training” when certain new HR or finance policies are created, but there is no such mandate for IT – why not? If you roll out a new e-mail system why should this not attract mandatory training?
By they way, I don’t know who Gwen Van Der Veldon is, but her statement that “If whatever you’re building needs a manual then it’s of no use to me. I need solutions that can be picked up and used with as little learning as possible” is both naive and stupid. If she’s saying (as I think she is) that systems should be designed to be as intuitive as possible, then I agree; but many systems are very complex and even if they are intuitive you still need training/the manual to use them properly. The only time her maxim does apply is for very simple apps that do just one thing – i.e. I think it does apply in the mobile apps marketplace at present. But even here things will trend towards greater complexity and we’ll start to see multi-purpose apps arise: which brings us right back to the need for training and manuals.