Keep calm and evolve with the new SysAdmins
Our perception of the SysAdmin role needs to change, to enable us to truly leverage their skills.
SysAdmins are not becoming obsolete in the new technological landscape. In fact, they are changing how we leverage it through the evolution of the role itself. While IT now has tools to procure services and servers, the focus has shifted from hardware and infrastructure to services delivery — and this has opened the role for innovation.
In late 2016, we surveyed 650 system administrators from 49 countries to get a ‘state of the SysAdmin’ and find out how their jobs are changing, how they spend their time and what their priorities are. The survey responses are clear — IT departments and technologies are changing and SysAdmins have to change with them.
In fact, we found in our survey that 30% of respondents indicated that their job has changed completely in the past five years. Also, nearly half of the respondents, 48.6%, indicated that their job has undergone “some change” in the same period. Only 5.7% of respondents thought that their job was the same as it was five years ago.
There is a significant gap between how SysAdmins are spending their time and how they prefer to be spending their time. According to the survey responses, SysAdmins are spending the majority of their time on internal support, maintenance tasks and ensuring office productivity.
However, what they would prefer to be spending time on is very different, including implementing new hardware, evaluating new products and solutions, and focusing on cybersecurity and firewalls. Clearly, they are spending most of their time on tactical, reactive tasks when they would rather be spending more time on strategic, forward-looking projects.
Also, we asked what technology services they are using or are actively planning to implement. Among the top responses were virtualisation, cloud, cybersecurity and network monitoring. Few of the respondents reported plans for projects with IoT, big data management or software-defined networking.
One thing that may reflect the changes in the time spent on their day-to-day job is their titles and how they describe themselves. Among the respondents, the majority identified themselves as generalists, while only 28.7% described themselves as IT specialists.
The survey results showed that Microsoft certifications are most popular (45.6% of respondents), followed by Cisco (26.8%), VMware (17%) and CompTIA (13.8%). For education, 40.8% of those surveyed had an academic degree, compared with 35.6% with vocational training and 23.6% who learned on the job.
As the SysAdmin role evolves, our perception of their responsibilities has to change. As the IT industry moves towards BYOD and cloud infrastructure and virtualisation, traditional SysAdmin jobs have altered to become variations of what they once were. Perhaps as perception catches up with the reality of today’s SysAdmins, the overall, industry-wide understanding of their responsibilities will improve — enabling us to truly leverage their skills for the improvement of our organisations.
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