The cloud and the silver lining: The relevance of IT admins

Just as writing has come to mean texting, blogging or any form of digital writing, the cloud today means one or all of the three Cs: computing, connectivity and communication. And just as nearly all thought to putting pen to paper has disappeared, all reference to the natural cloud is long forgotten. The three Cs have altered the way we consume services. The adage, “change is the only constant,” holds true in the IT landscape like no other, forcing IT admins to constantly learn new skills and make strategic decisions.

What does the rapidly changing IT industry mean for IT administrators?

The changing times demand that IT admins become business-aware and are equipped to transcend to roles beyond enabling IT. For instance, a typical IT admin may need to play the role of a developer, a quality analyst or a data analyst, even while remaining in control of IT operations. Moreover, with 74 percent of enterprises moving into multi-cloud environments , another area IT admins may need to tackle is cloud heterogeneity. Market consolidation, the exponential rise in cloud adoption, and digitalization practically mandate blended expertise for IT admins of today and the roles that await them in future.

On top of all of that, IT admins are on the cusp of yet another digital revolution — dubbed by some as the third digital revolution — where they will have to keep up with market conditions to stay relevant. Until recently, it was widely speculated that IT admin jobs would be wiped out with these developments. Undeniably, traditional IT admin roles will fade away, but they will be replaced by far more exciting roles that deal with the cloud and digitalization. With the emergence of IoT and so many businesses being driven by user behavior, IT admins can foray into roles such as cloud architects, IoT architects, DevOps specialists and data scientists.

How is the digital revolution effecting the transition?

Information technology and business are inseparable, as this survey by Computerworld confirms, whereas it used to be that virtualization aligned IT with business. According to the survey, 42 percent of the enterprises surveyed want to hire professionals who have combined tech and business backgrounds that will allow them to articulate the value of IT in meeting business goals.

This transition has replaced the uncertainty around IT admin jobs with the certitude of the same people being involved in IT in ways like never before. If an IT admin is now responsible for sourcing and deploying solutions to manage infrastructure or services, analyzing and troubleshooting problems, an IoT architect, according to Drue Reeves, research director for Gartner, “is responsible for the vision, strategy, architecture and shepherding of IoT solutions from inception to deployment.”

How will IT admins step up to meet these challenges?

Adapting to cutting edge challenges is nothing new for IT admins. In the 2000s when virtualization gained traction, IT admins stepped up their skills to manage IT and the new variables introduced by virtualization. The current transition is merely another opportunity for IT admins to learn new tools, technologies, processes and methodologies. The last decade has seen it all: components connected by wires, wireless technology, virtualization, mobility, cloud, wearables and now IoT. To rise to these challenges and grow, IT admins will need to extend themselves by learning about business, analytics and DevOps, not to mention developing a deep understanding of how every change will impact business.

What will the new role need as far as skills?

IT communities are abuzz with discussions on what new IT roles will entail. The good news though is that IT admins are already aware of some aspects of these roles. Learning, deploying and implementing solutions; managing IT infrastructure on the LAN and WAN; and troubleshooting performance issues and bottlenecks are great examples. And, in some enterprises, IT admins are already involved in evaluating the flexibility, accessibility and cost of business applications. Most skills are acquired on the job, and there’s nothing to worry about. On a broader level, during the transition, it’s best to follow a multi-pronged approach of learning basic development, operations and analysis. Here are some suggestions to get started:

  • Take a do-it-yourself approach to learning, including basic tasks such as getting an AWS account, creating cloud instances and using a few cloud-ready tools to manage them.
  • Get an Opscode account and use Chef to deploy and manage applications or servers.
  • Get the hang of configuration and build tools like GitHub, Jenkins and Docker.
  • Learn about business intelligence, data science and cloud analytics tools for analysis and reporting.
  • Actively participate in communities that discuss technology, tools and trends.
  • Acquire soft skills as interacting with teams and users becomes a necessity.

Like so many searches on minor health issues that lead people to results on life-threatening ailments, the search for the future of IT jobs leads to voluminous information and can be as overwhelming. Getting acquainted with the concepts, trying a couple of tools and actively engaging with peer groups on relevant communities can make it easy to gear up for the roles in store.

So, will IT admins remain relevant?

Yes, however there may not be IT admins in the traditional sense. Instead, they will fit into different molds, as their jobs demand. Their roles will not just be about enabling or keeping IT together but will also be about enabling business. Going cloud and digital will keep IT admins challenged. They will be on the constant quest for knowledge to keep pace with the changes cloud and digitalization bring. However, there will be one constant through all the transitions: their tryst with technical challenges and their ability to meet them. No matter what titles they go by, for this one reason, IT admins, in their new roles, will still be known as IT superheroes.

Vidya Vasu is head of the ManageEngine community and Free Tools. ManageEngine is a division of Zoho Corp.

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