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.
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"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.