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Survey Results: IT Teams' Essential Skills Lacking

Last year I asked you to complete a short survey on your team's essential IT skills. A huge number of you took a few minutes to answer those questions -- thank you! Thanks also to those of you who agreed to speak with me on the phone for some follow-up questions.

The news, unfortunately, is not good. I'd asked about your team's grasp of basics like network troubleshooting, AD basics, and so forth, and almost 50 percentof you said that less than half of your team (but more than a quarter) really understood those basics. Another 25 percent of you said that only about a quarter or less of your team grasped the foundations. That means we're seriously lacking some basic skills -- and I think I know why.

Take a look at nearly any IT-level computer course these days and you won't see much of the basics. They're missing from certification exams as well, even though 80 percent of you said that these skills were "very valuable," with another 15 percent checking in at "valuable." The fundamentals have been pushed out by the ever-increasing number of features that have to be taught, and by some economic realities.

Look, let's just admit that Windows Server 2008, as one example, is a lot more complicated than Windows NT 3.51. Earning an MCSE in Windows NT 3.51 required you to pass six exams, which were supported by about four or five weeks' worth of Microsoft Official Curriculum training. Earning an equivalent certification in Windows Server 2008 requires basically the same number of exams, supported by somewhat less classroom training. That means you're mostly being taught, and tested on, new features -- while the basics have been squeezed out. Nobody's going to accept a 12-exam certification or send their folks to 10 weeks of training, but in reality today's products are probably complex enough to warrant it. So the exams and classes we get have to stuff more into the same amount of time, and so the foundation stuff just doesn't make the cut.

It's a shame. A huge 90 percent of you said your IT teams would be more effective is essential skills were better-understood by a majority of the team, but it's damnably hard to even find training on networking basics, for example. It's like sending your kid to school and having them learn trig without learning basic addition and subtraction, because they just use calculators for that low-end stuff.

Posted by Don Jones on 03/01/2012 at 7:38 AM


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