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New Role of IT Admins Different But Better

New Role of IT Admins Different But Better Credit: Computer keyboard image via Shutterstock

Allan Thorvaldsen, CEO and Co-Founder of Panorama9, contributed this article to BusinessNewsDaily's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Today is arguably one of the most interesting periods in the IT industry, with BYOD on the rise, the fundamental shift the cloud created and app stores that offer millions of choices. While some may argue that the consumerization of IT is the end of IT, I think right now is in fact one of the best times to be an IT admin, and here are five reasons why.

Less hardware and infrastructure, more interfaces and integrations

The cloud is dramatically changing the role of IT within a company. An admin's time was once dominated by hardware-centric tasks like installing a mail server or CRM database. They were often stuck in the server room, with the whirring fans and blinking lights, for days on end. Yet today with the rise of hosted infrastructure, many businesses don't have server rooms or even on-premise servers.

This changing reality does not mean that IT admins should worry about becoming obsolete any time soon. While you may be getting out of the day-to-day business of installing and managing servers, you're going to be involved in the far more strategic work of ensuring that all these devices, applications and platforms work well together to keep the business productive.

Rather than managing infrastructure, you'll be managing interfaces and integration — figuring out how problems like a hosted CRM app integrates with email marketing and helpdesk apps. BYOD means IT admins spend a lot of time managing mobile devices, access and apps for those devices so folks like sales managers can access company data from their iPads while traveling. Jupiter Research estimates the number of BYOD devices in the workplace will more than double between 2012 and 2014, up to 350 million.

Moving forward, in a consumerized environment, it's going to be up to you to put all these technology pieces and plug-ins together to design better ways of working for everyone.

Incredible speed of implementation and adoption

With the cloud, new software can be installed and configured in an hour or less. That's a far cry from five or ten years ago, when any new application, even an evaluation, required a new server, intense configuration and days (even weeks or months) of your time. The way IT evaluates and picks new apps has drastically changed. Instead of meetings with enterprise software vendors and PowerPoint slides, you get to be hands-on, testing out new tools.

If HR mentions they want to use Yammer, you can try it out, check the integrations, and have select employees and management test out the system, all within days. It's an incredible pace of adoption and innovation; you'll be able to play with more cool toys and tools than you ever imagined.

More things are digitized than ever before

In an effort to streamline process and boost efficiency, countless functions are being digitized throughout business today. For example, paper documents are being replaced with electronic forms and storage. Intranets are being replaced by new, hosted services that require an IT admin's involvement in terms of integrations and exchange of data. Backup is no longer run on a simple hardware box or a tape streamer, but is stored online as a hosted solution. The new solutions are simpler to run, but tracking is made more complex because servers are virtualized and hosted outside of the company.

This means that IT is central to more aspects of the business than ever before. Today, IT isn't just email, computers and software — it's essential to how employees are hired, teams collaborate, records are stored, products are delivered, etc.

Tech savvy end users

Today's generations of workers are more than capable of setting up their own email account. They're already familiar with countless devices and apps. This heightened tech fluency can create conflicts with traditional IT establishments. After all, if an employee is having a hard time sharing a file with a colleague because of SharePoint, they'll probably just upload the document to Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, etc. In other words, they'll go rogue.

[Employee Buy-In Is Key to Cloud Security]

However, there's another way of looking at this new reality. With savvier end users, IT administrators are free to handle more strategic (and probably more fun) projects. There's less day-to-day desktop support in terms of configuring email accounts, installing apps, etc.

End users share more accountability

In the past, most tech-related issues were the domain of the IT department. If software didn't perform as expected, was cumbersome to use or lacking key features, end-users always knew where to point the finger. Yet today's employees and managers are more likely to bring in their preferred devices, systems and applications. As a result, they're pushed to take more ownership and accountability of the process. For example, when a sales manager recommends using a certain tool, he can't complain too much upon discovering it doesn't support international currencies

For example, when a sales manager requests a change from one CRM system to another, they can't complain too much when they discover the new solution doesn't perform as expected. There is an opportunity here for IT to look like a hero by making a few tweaks to get the system customized for the end-user's specific needs.

In this sense, administrators aren't always pitted against end users. With more "democratic" software decisions, there's more collaboration and end user buy-in.

Things are changing, and change isn't always easy to accept. If you were accustomed to the traditional model where there's a tightly controlled environment and an established "IT-approved" way of doing things, you'll need to adjust to today's more democratic ways. While the transition may be difficult for some, don't lose sight of all the enormous benefits and opportunities available in today's golden age of IT.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher.