Technology Implementation: Do You Have the Skills?
From the Trenches
Aug. 01, 2010
From the August 2010 Issue
Technology is getting more complex to select, install and maintain, and the
skills required to do so properly are becoming greater. Even very small networks
take refined skill to install properly. When your servers, desktop computers
or laptops are not set up properly, your productivity is reduced. In many cases,
you may not even know that your setup or configuration is wrong. We find users
who believe that since the technology has always worked a certain way, that
is how it is supposed to work. Let’s look at technology deployment and
how this changes the skills needed by your organization.
WE SEE THE FOLLOWING SITUATIONS FOR INSTALLING APPLICATIONS ON COMPUTERS:
1) Standalone computers,
2) Peer to peer networks,
3) Traditional networks with one or more servers,
4) Networks with most or all servers virtualized,
5) Software as a Service (SaaS) or Cloud Computing in use, and
6) Hosted applications in a data center, not to mention smartphone support
The skill set to maintain each of these scenarios varies widely from highly
technical to almost completely non-technical. One of the most important decisions
you can make this year is how you decide to install your technology. Hosted
applications and/or cloud computing have become price competitive with in-house
strategies. Simple virtualization of servers is less expensive than installing
traditional networks. Complex or high availability virtualization is more expensive
than traditional networks because of the cost of the sophisticated Storage Area
Network (SAN) technology.
For some organizations, it is less expensive to host a server in a data center
than it is to buy the server(s) and SAN technology. Hosting in the cloud takes
different IT skills whether you are using in-house IT people or outsourced IT
providers. Hosted or cloud computing can result in less total cost of ownership
than traditional or virtualized servers in-house in addition to be more readily
available from remote locations.
WE SEE TECHNICIANS IN THE FOLLOWING CATEGORIES:
2) Inept, but believe themselves to be competent,
3) Incompetent, and convince others they are competent,
4) Competent, and convince others around them they are an expert,
5) Competent, and a poor communicator, so they rarely accomplish the right
6) Competent, but stuck in doing things the way they know how,
7) Competent, progressive and communicative…the best of all worlds,
8) Uncontrolled…will take unnecessary risks without thinking through
These descriptions can apply to both in-house IT or outsourced IT people, in
addition to being a generic description of many people’s performance in
their jobs. A workable solution in today’s market may be to outsource
all of your IT needs to managed IT providers who specialize in maintaining your
network. Establishing your needs and explaining your expectations are key to
these relationships working properly. Outsourced IT can often be less expensive
than maintaining internal IT people. You will typically need at least 25 users
before you can justify a single IT person on staff.
Surely not all possibilities of installing applications or the skills of IT
personnel have been named above. You can see from each of the lists that there
are a number of scenarios that can play out that would wind up producing a bad
result for your organization. The more complex your technology, the greater
skill set you need to complete your IT work. Unlike accounting skills, it is
very hard to judge how competent IT people are at completing the work. Computing
installation is part science and part art. There are 10+ right ways to do things,
but there are hundreds of wrong ways to implement technology.
Until the arrival of affordable and effective SaaS applications and hosted
computing, technology implementations had been getting more and more complex.
Web-enabled applications or an outsourced IT vendor who can carry the entire
load of implementation can reduce the amount of effort required by your own
in-house IT or your own outsourced IT people. The skills needed by IT for implementing
technology in this new generation include project management, communication
skills, budgeting skills and an understanding of how technologies fit together.
IT teams who have spent years honing their skills for PC repair and server
maintenance are beginning to find those skills in less demand. Skills like firewall
configuration and communication line configurations, security and directory
management, and database and report writing skills are needed by many firms
to be competitive and to be strategic. If IT is not strategic, then there is
a business case to outsource more IT costs and functions. If IT is strategic,
then the projects that have the greatest ROI should be chosen first, and outsourced
IT used to implement technologies where your internal IT team is not capable
For many of you, your organization is small enough that you are the IT person.
You will have the greatest tendency to trade your time for dollars that you
would have spent on a technician. Worse, in complex situations, your setup may
never be right. If you are the only IT resource, you should manage primarily
from project budgets, and you should do your best to know when to bring in outside
expertise. What type of technician would you be from the list above? One thing
is for sure, you will be a highly compensated technician, and you’re probably
better off practicing accounting rather than technology by contracting for IT
project implementation and IT managed services.