Progression of IT professionals to the most senior levels lies largely in their own hands, the Energis study says.
"IT's low profile is not helped by the self-effacement of IT managers themselves, who are too bound up in day-to-day problems to sell and promote their services and abilities more widely at senior level," says Energis director David Shaw.
"IT managers with real ambition need to think and act laterally to promote their broader abilities.
"A new super-breed of IT and telecoms professional is emerging. Specialist knowledge and relevant experience continue to be the major requirements, but a new trend has emerged. Employers are also looking for softer, creative skills, and outgoing personalities."
Chris Edwards, of Cranfield University, believes IT managers now have a chance to get to the very top through the emergence of a director role in e-commerce or knowledge management - but fears that these jobs could also go to people from sales or personnel.