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General Chat Thread, The Future of Employment in IT Support in General; Originally Posted by AMLightfoot I can't see a point EVER where End User and Second Line support is not required ...
  1. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by AMLightfoot View Post
    I can't see a point EVER where End User and Second Line support is not required - no system is foolproof and people will ALWAYS ask questions - mostly because no-one ever reads the manuals.
    I'm sure it will always be required, but the question is how many people does it need? When I started in IT in Education in 2000, we needed one sysadmin for around 80 computers. Netware 4.1, Windows 98, 10-Base T to the desktop. There were 200 machines, and four staff including the IT manager.

    I hear that the same school now has 500 workstations, supports 500 BYOD laptops, campus-wide wifi, and a host of smaller schools - and has 5 staff to manage the network. You can get away with far fewer people running much bigger networks.

    I'm seeing the same thing with my retail clients. Microbusinesses are going to managed solutions for their email, and NAS boxes, rather than a client/server architecture. They can cut their IT costs in half by doing that. Home users - well, lots of them are junking the home PC and switching to a tablet, which is all they ever really needed since about half of them only want internet, email and photos. No antivirus needed, no yearly service.

    The better the tech gets, the fewer of us it needs. It'll always need some people, but it really doesn't need that many any more. Tablets clobbered the retail market and cheap managed hosting killed the SME one.

  2. #17

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    The above has just been the final motivation to enroll on a PRINCE2 foundation course!!!

    Agree though, the job of ICT support has changed massively in just 10 years. I don't like the direction is it going but there's sweet FA I or anyone can do about it!!!

  3. #18

    Ephelyon's Avatar
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    Well, if you go down the career route that a PRINCE2 course suggests you won't be in support, but management.

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    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk View Post
    End user devices are becoming more consumerised, in the consumer world, but everywhere else I simply can't see it. I've yet to hear of a business who has abandoned their in house set up and moved to a BYOD or tablet style working (where the end user device is controlled entirely by the user). Its a massive security risk.

    .
    i think consumers [and as end users in the workplace] have more computing power at home, more flexibility with the devices they own in their pockets, than what is available to them in the workplace. So yes, businesses and the employer are slower to upgrade and less likely to embrace the technology that consumers are buying into. I read an article today that says this can be a cause of great frustration dissastisfaction for the employee as they are tied to a more rigid way of using technology in the workplace.

    But you can't ignore the big changes that have happened and will continue to happen that fundamentally change the nature of the sysadmin role. Neither does it all have to be about the cloud either....if an ICT decision is made in a school or business whereby they buy a product or service that automates a process that previously required time and in-house IT man power to implement how can it not change the nature of what in-house IT support does ? It will be the case that improvements in technology which enable automation or doing more with less input result in downsizing....i've seen it happen in the company I used to work for, which went from a department of seven to just three...and while this often occurs with a wider downsizing of workforce in an organisation, there are other organisation changes like mergers, and in general the move toward shared services and outsourcing of IT has clearly shaken up in-house IT. Even if outsourcing doesn't happen in the corner of education that an individual is happily plugging away in, shared services could very easily happen on their doorstep.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ephelyon View Post
    Well, if you go down the career route that a PRINCE2 course suggests you won't be in support, but management.
    That's fine by me. I really do think we are on the cusp of major change in the nature of IT support.

    I really enjoy management of projects and have already had some hands on experience delivering facilities at my semi pro football club. All voluntarily, but have learned some vital fundamentals whilst applying what in my view is common sense and basic organisational skills!

    I guess IT project management could be the perfect job for some people who want to remain in IT but try their hands at something different?

  6. #21


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    Quote Originally Posted by superatticman View Post
    I guess IT project management could be the perfect job for some people who want to remain in IT but try their hands at something different?
    Perhaps. I think it depends on how process driven it is. I worked as a Project and then Programme manager using PRINCE2 methods. There was a lot of focus on quality control of the processes (and PRINCE2 is very, very ... particular) which tended to take me away from the problem solving into, well ... box ticking. Some of that is necessary but it can easily become over emphasised and the tail starts wagging the dog. It can be also easy to get sucked into it and lose sight of why you are doing it in the first place.

    Still it generally pays quite well!

  7. #22

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    IT is an enabler & those IT projects & developments that are most successful tend to be solution-led.

    Think about all the technology that has been produced with a fanfare & quietly died a death because nobody had a use for it? How many of us in schools have had hardware & software inflicted upon us by staff who have thought 'Wow, shiny... must have...' without thinking about how it could be used?

    I think IT staff have to become more solution orientated and less fixated with technology. We should be looking at ways to improve the core reason for our business; in schools that is teaching & learning. We should try to steer school leadership (&teachers) away from 'shiny, must have' to what will really make a difference in the classroom.

    School IT staff have to become 'solution-architects' & take requirements from staff & students & develop & implement solutions. We need to develop architectural skills, systems analysis skills & people skills & spent less time worrying about what Microsoft & others are doing.

    It saddens me to think how many £000,000 must have been spent across the country with interactive white boards & see 60% or more being used as projection screens because of lack of training or investment.

    The last government missed a trick with BSF; We replaced our perfectly serviceable network with a brand-new one which offered almost exactly the same services to the end user as before but at a huge cost (£1m+) with large amounts of money being spent on consultancy, centralisation of servers etc. There was much talk about 21st century facilities, innovation etc but when it came to it all we got that was different was video streaming, virtualised servers & a SAN.

    Our end user experience now is no different than it was in 2010.
    Last edited by broc; 14th August 2013 at 08:58 AM.

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  9. #23

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    Agree with all of the above. In my experience a hardcore IT enthusiast in charge of a large network can be to the detriment of the end user. Solutions are often delivered due to an interest in the technology rather than the other factors of which should be taken into consideration.

    In fact we even had someone own up to this on here when inflicting VDI onto their users without consultation or actually deciding whether it was going to improve the user experience or provide any kind of advantage for IT admins.

  10. #24


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    Quote Originally Posted by alttab View Post
    i think consumers [and as end users in the workplace] have more computing power at home, more flexibility with the devices they own in their pockets, than what is available to them in the workplace. So yes, businesses and the employer are slower to upgrade and less likely to embrace the technology that consumers are buying into. I read an article today that says this can be a cause of great frustration dissastisfaction for the employee as they are tied to a more rigid way of using technology in the workplace.
    It's also very reminiscent of the early PC's displacing the mainframe. Users suddenly had the power and flexibility to manage their own data and central data processing was slow to respond and to users more and more distant from being able to meet their actual requirements. Technical innovation passed from IT to users and often PC's were being bought by departments without any reference to the central IT departments who seemed unable to see beyond the mainframe.

    Thinking about some change, around 1999 I was discussing delivery of digital music with someone in the music business. They were wondering about downloading songs rather than buying CD's and I was poo-pooing it, pointing out the size of a CD track and the capabilities of 56Kbit modems (and bearing in mind the limitations of audio modulation to push data down phone lines). I missed compression and I missed the developments in the local loop that now allows us to sidestep into Mbit connections. Smaller files over higher bandwidth; now downloading a song takes orders of magnitude less time than the song takes to play; we don't even think twice about streaming video.

    I think the impact of connectivity is something we (SM's/NM's) are still having difficulty appreciating. We are coming up on an important pivot point. There was a similar one I experienced with data around 2004/5; 10 years before that I was borrowing a record or CD and taping it, then tape turned into CD's and we were making digital copies, then we started encoding to MP3 to reduce storage space and make use of iPods. The pivot point around 04/5 was when I realised instead of borrowing a CD to copy [*1], it was suddenly practical to borrow someone's whole music collection. Hard disc capacity meant storing tens of thousands of tracks on a single device was practical and cost effective. The pivot point we are approaching now is with bandwidth rather than storage. Soon it will be possible to move large lumps of data around extremely quickly. That's going to open up how we provision computing power for the services we need. Why will I want to provide local server hardware which mostly idles away processor cycles, when I can much more efficiently just buy the processor cycles I need from someone who specialises in running the iron (and can therefore do it much more efficiently than I ever can), and I will be able to move the data that is the server between hosting providers faster than users need the data.

    I think that @localzuk's point about companies not wanting to move to the cloud might have a lot of truth - the end users see downsides. The trouble is they aren't providing the software and for the software providers, cloud based solutions are hugely efficient as delivery mechanisms. You might want to host your MIS locally, but in 10 years time, no one will be providing anything but a hosted solution.

    Maybe. I'm trying to put a bit of thought into it because I need to make career decisions which will span the next 10 years. Any and all input into this is much appreciated. I doubt any predictions I make will stand up to the cruel and inevitable onset of reality, but one thing we can be certain of; things will change. That we won't be doing what we are doing now is probably the only thing we really can be certain of.

  11. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcstru View Post
    I think that @localzuk's point about companies not wanting to move to the cloud might have a lot of truth - the end users see downsides. The trouble is they aren't providing the software and for the software providers, cloud based solutions are hugely efficient as delivery mechanisms. You might want to host your MIS locally, but in 10 years time, no one will be providing anything but a hosted solution.

    Maybe. I'm trying to put a bit of thought into it because I need to make career decisions which will span the next 10 years. Any and all input into this is much appreciated. I doubt any predictions I make will stand up to the cruel and inevitable onset of reality, but one thing we can be certain of; things will change. That we won't be doing what we are doing now is probably the only thing we really can be certain of.
    Thing is, the client dictates the product, not the company. If no-one wants to buy a hosted finance system, then they won't make and sell one. A hosted MIS system sounds like a semi-good idea, but it has issues with integration, so many schools simply won't buy into that system.

    Many businesses write their own internal software still. It works better for them because they can have it exactly how they want. Sure, they might hire an external company to do the work now (rather than having a permanent staff of a few hundred programmers like they used to), but they still have it as their own software.

    Things will change, sure, but I simply can't see any business handing over control of devices, and therefore security, to their end users. A lot of businesses can't for legal reasons!

  12. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcstru View Post
    The pivot point we are approaching now is with bandwidth rather than storage. Soon it will be possible to move large lumps of data around extremely quickly. That's going to open up how we provision computing power for the services we need. Why will I want to provide local server hardware which mostly idles away processor cycles, when I can much more efficiently just buy the processor cycles I need from someone who specialises in running the iron (and can therefore do it much more efficiently than I ever can), and I will be able to move the data that is the server between hosting providers faster than users need the data.
    I'm on the side of favouring bring-your-own-device style networks, where the school provides the infrastructure and the user can use whatever device they prefer to go about their tasks how they like to work, but I don't quite agree with simply letting Google / Microsoft / Amazon provide services that schools passivly consume. There's no reason why schools shouldn't themselves be providors of cloud-based services. In fact, it should be an ideal computing model - multiple schools around the country have decent server-hosting facilities, there's a good opportunity there for a proper, distributed cloud but with local-speed access. This would be a cloud tailored to schools' particular needs - with pupil data kept within a certain jurisdiction, for instance.

    Although both bandwidth, processing power and storage volume all keep increasing I think local storage needs are likly to outpace available wide-area bandwidth for a while as yet. Also, especially with end-user devices capable of doing most of their own processing, central services are likly to want to use space for storage rather than more processing power.

  13. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcstru View Post
    Maybe. I'm trying to put a bit of thought into it because I need to make career decisions which will span the next 10 years. .
    Very wise indeed. This is pretty much the stage I am now.

  14. #28

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    My Tuppenceworth.
    There will always be a front end and there will always be a back end. And in the middle sits us (well, you guys now). I have to be honest here, with some services going to the cloud it is actually a relief. Hosted Exchange? Yes please. I've gone though the pain of installing and upgrading Exchange servers too many times to find it fun any more. I want a ready to roll set-up where someone else carries the can for it's up-time and availability. yes, you will still have to create and manage accounts, but you won't be getting bogged down in the failed patches and other random things which can happen. The same goes for a raft of on-line services. You will still control and configure them (as required) but no longer will you have to sweat out hours and hours of random problems. You can get on with your job of providing the services your organisation needs.
    I was once a cloud skeptic until one day I realised I was living there myself.
    Last edited by Dos_Box; 14th August 2013 at 01:08 PM.

  15. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dos_Box View Post
    My Tuppenceworth.
    There will always be a front end and there will always be a back end. And in the middle sits us (well, you guys now). I have to be honest here, with some services going to the cloud it is actually a relief. Hosted Exchange? Yes please. I've gone though the pain of installing and upgrading Exchange servers too many times to find it fun any more. i want a ready to roll set-up where someone else carries the can for it's up-time and availability. yes, you will still have to create and manage accounts, but you won't be getting bogged down in the failed patches and other random things which can happen. The same goes for a raft of on-line services. You will still control and configure them (as required) but no longer will you have to sweat out hours and hours of random problems. You can get on with your job of providing the services your organisation needs.
    I was once a cloud skeptic until one day I realised I was living there myself.
    What you're doing there, though, is de-skilling yourself. I'm not saying that what you're doing isn't to the benefit of the user but you're making yourself redundant. Any monkey can reset and create accounts, it doesn't need an MCSE.

    Not saying it's necessarily a bad thing, just that the pool of well-paid, highly skilled jobs is shrinking, not only in number but also location. How long before it's all shoved out to India?

  16. #30

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    Best career move is out of IT, people don't understand it and blame it for everything they can't do even if this is because of policy or their own lack of training.

    Because of this and the wild inflation of power, pay and numbers of managers self assured with their MBAs they are successfully commoditising chunks of IT and the best you can hope for if they get their way is being a minimum wage glorified personal shopper for other services while getting to take the blame for any failings. Good news is they will still demand a degree and decade of experience just to get an interview.

    The only way up is out.
    Last edited by SYNACK; 14th August 2013 at 01:19 PM.

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