sysadmin-evolutionBetter Cloud Blog has just completed a wide-ranging survey on the effect of Cloud on the most critical of IT roles, the Systems Administrator. In a recent post, “How the shift to Cloud is Creating Agents of Innovation”, they look at what is happening to Systems Administrations roles. What they are doing less of, more of, and how innovation is being unlocked as a result.

For many years, IT admins have been subjected to job descriptions that included words like “upkeep” and “maintenance.” Admins are often viewed as enforcers instead of enablers. Yet, the emergence of cloud IT is altering perceptions by freeing up valuable time that cloud IT admins are using to become proactive decision makers in their organization, rather than reactive troubleshooters.

As Sysadmins have more time on their hands, they are undertaking more proactive work, rather than reactive. The traditional areas of maintenance, storage management, data recovery, and upgrades are all decreasing in terms of time required. Strangely enough, the higher your Cloud footprint the more time the Sysadmins will have on their hands.

It is a good finding, because it proves, at least across this survey, that utilising Cloud will reduce the mundane tasks you need to carry out, as it promises.

What is interesting then, is what the Sysadmins are turning their hands to in the proactive space. These are categorised into six sections:

  1. Improved collaboration and end-user training. Believe the hype. Collaboration is a thing and it’s being used more and more. As a result, Sysadmins are spending more time on the front line training staff in the use of those services rather than turning the crank on them in the background. Sysadmins are coming out from underground.
  2. Application integration and development. No surprises here. Integration is on the rise and who better to do that than the Sysadmins, the people who understand how it all fits together.
  3. Infrastructure and security enhancements. As data moves off premise to Cloud it reduces the need for your own infrastructure and your service levels are enhanced. Security is also being upgraded.
  4. Strategic planning. Less fires means more time to think about overall IT strategy and road maps. Sysadmins are using their free time to plan IT’s future rather than worrying about fixing broken stuff.
  5. Data analysis and project work. A bit of a strange combination, however Sysadmins are increasingly moving into the data analytics area as well as other longer term projects. Basically, Sysadmins are getting to do project work rather than maintenance work.
  6. More professional training and research time. Sysadmins are investing far more in their own education.

For every IT admin, the cloud has the potential to expand their roles and reverse the “cost center” perception that IT departments often wear like a scarlet letter.

One of the trends that the survey picks up is that move away from the “department of no” to one of service broker. With more time and more options on the table IT is starting to lose that reputation of a sunk cost, hard to deal with, complex business unit. And they have to, as we know Shadow IT is pervasive, in fact it’s not really even “Shadow” any more, it’s just right out there in the open.

For Sysadmins the move away from mundane tasks and into new areas is unlocking creativity which in turn spawns innovative ideas. Who would have thought, when you take some of the most skilled IT resources and set them on solving business problems you end up with some fantastic results.

For line managers with large change programmes, being able to free up Sysadmins to act as Project SME resource not only saves money it also guarantees a quality result. The days of having to bring in skilled external, expensive, resource, is reducing.

A warning for managers as well. Thinking that Cloud will allow you to reduce your Sysadmin FTE footprint is a dangerous folly. You need those skilled resource that understand the way things integrate in order actually move to and consume cloud. Re-purposing Sysadmins over time into the new roles that you will need to manage Cloud, is critical to it’s success.

Every admin has a different agenda depending on the needs of their organization, but with more time, and less busy work, cloud IT admins have an opportunity to become agents of innovation for their organization and truly capitalize on their emerging role as enablers.

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