Death of the SysAdmin

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Death of the SysAdmin
Speakers at the iTnews Executive Summit, Melbourne. L-R: Denis Curran (NAB), Liam Fraser (Optus), Justin Warren (PivotNine) and Vito Forte (Fortescue Metals Group).
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Training and incentives

Speakers at the iTnews conference noted that IT staff had, for too long, been structured around specific disciplines, reinforced to some degree by vendor certifications.

HP, which sponsored the event, cheekily distributed copies of ‘HP Networking for Dummies’ book to attendees in an attempt to disrupt the industry standard Cisco certifications.

“Don’t get boxed in by certifications,” Vito Forte said in the keynote. “Its not about certifications, its about the ability of your people to deliver."

Forte’s decision to switch to cheaper networking for “predominantly commercial” reasons saved the company 50 percent of networking costs, he said.

“Vendors can talk about dedicated proprietary protocols, but why? It didn’t make a difference to me. Our network guys thought it would make a difference, but when we dug under the covers it didn’t make a difference at all - and I saved a shedload of money."

Forte bristled when asked whether there were specific programs or promotions in place to convince staff to re-skill around broader business-relevant disciplines.

“You get to keep your job,” he said, bluntly. “Why do I have to provide incentives for people to do what they should already be doing? I think there is a natural progression in terms of the roles changing.

“We’ve articulated the vision of where we need to be, and we’ve asked everybody to get on the train,” he said. “Otherwise, the station door is that way. We don’t have the time to be moddy-coddling the one or two percenters.”

Curran said the change is significant enough to require a restructure that refocuses staff across the book. “[The NAB] had a fairly significant restructure to embrace a service-orientated model,” he said.

“It’s a structural question rather than a specific incentive about [specific staff] moving from one role to another.”

“The key is to make IT relevant,” Forte concluded. "Is [your project] helping to put [iron] ore on that ship? And if it isn’t, why are you doing it?”

Is there still a role for SysAdmins in an advanced economy? Have your say below…

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