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Microsoft IT Winds of Change Part 3: Becoming the New Microsoft IT Admin

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Things are changing in the Microsoft IT world. It's happening slowly, but it's happening. We've reached an inflection point, or are reaching it soon – and whether or not today's IT administrators continue to have a job (or at least, the same job) is very much in question.

Why Microsoft IT Admins Are Losing Their Jobs
How happy would you be if, every time you needed a light turned on in your house, you had to call the power company and have them send a tech out to rig up the wiring? Not happy. But you don't do that, because that isn't how utilities work. They're largely automated.

And IT needs to become that kind of utility. Not because we should (although of course we should), but because the business is going to demand it. Large competitive companies are already doing it, and they're loving it. IT is a utility for them. When they want to roll out some new business service -- a Web site, a VM, whatever -- they no longer have to account for the IT overhead needed to implement the service. They've already invested the overhead in automating it all. They know that, once they decide to go ahead, they'll just flip a switch, a miracle will occur, and the new service will be online. It'll be backed up, monitored, managed, patched, and everything -- automatically.

You see, the tools all exist. A lot of Microsoft IT admins just haven't been paying attention. PowerShell's here. System Center is doing this stuff already. OS-level features are supporting this kind of automation. The VMware folks have got a lot of the same automation in place. This is all possible, not some vision of the future.

And what the big companies do successfully, the smaller companies will eventually see and want. So if you're an IT pro who's used to Remote Desktop, wizards, and doing stuff manually each time it needs to be done, you're going to be out of a job. The good news is that you can have another, better-paying job -- the job of creating the automated processes your organization needs.

The trick here is that a given organization needs markedly fewer Automators and Toolmakers than it needs button-clickers. So not everyone in your IT team is going to be needed. We're already seeing a significant falloff in mid-tier IT jobs, and a slight falloff in entry-level jobs. Just like every other part of the IT world, ever, Microsoft IT is consolidating into fewer, higher-end, higher-paying jobs.

So if you think PowerShell, System Center, and related tools and technologies "aren't my job" as a Microsoft IT admin... well, I'd like fries with that, please.

How You Become the New Microsoft IT Admin
Even Microsoft's certifications reflect the fact that Microsoft is marching toward this new inflection point. The new Server 2012 MCSE requires basic System Center knowledge, and the new "MCSE Private Cloud" certification incorporates nearly the whole darn System Center family.

Could you bet against Microsoft being successful in this push of theirs? Sure. Heck, I live in Las Vegas, we'll bet on anything. But you're on the losing side of this one if you think your IT job will always be the same. The economic pressures for Microsoft's direction are too high. This isn't a direction Microsoft chose, it's a direction forced upon them by today's business realities. We need to do more and more and more, with less and less and less, and automation is the way to do it. Companies are realizing they'd rather pay a few people a lot of money to make everything automated, than pay a lot of people less money to do it all manually. Is that fair to all the Microsoft IT folks who joined up thinking they wouldn't have to be programmers and toolmakers? Nope. But life's not fair.

Rather than betting against Microsoft on this, and getting crushed under the coming wave, get in front of it. Actually, you're too late to get in front -- but you can at least pull ahead a bit. Start looking at every process that your IT team does more than once, and figure out how you'd automate it. You're going to need to know all about System Center's capabilities -- all of System Center. You'll need to learn PowerShell, and it's going to take a serious effort, not just reading people's blogs and piecing together commands. You're going to have to learn to research, to find automation tools and technologies that fill whatever gaps you find.

And your employer may not pay for all of the training you'll need -- but it's an investment in you. Get your employer to at least put automation on your annual goals -- "automate 10 person-hours worth of manual labor each quarter" or something. Something you can measure, something that forces them to invest, since they're getting the lion's share of the eventual return on that investment. Commit to doing those things, so that you're the toolmaker in your organization. The one the company can't live without.

Because the alternative is not good. Remember, the square ones are the fish, and the round ones are the burgers.

Good luck.


Posted by Don Jones on 03/27/2013 at 1:14 PM


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