The System Administrator and successful technology integration
Understanding the differences between the System Administrator and the Power User is essential to successful technology integration.
I've heard the complaints over the years about the evil power mongers known as sysadmins. I've read many articles complaining about company IT departments that unfairly lock down workstations so users can't install software. The articles are often written by disgruntled power users wondering why they have the latest and greatest applications at home, but work for companies that force employees to use clunky programs.
This series on technology management helps business professionals to better understand technology management in a business network. It also hopes to give the average network user an appreciation of the reasons behind the decisions made in managing the business computer network.
The Systems Administrator
On a small to mid size network there may be little, if any, distinction between a systems administrator and a network administrator. The tasks may all be the responsibility of a single post. As the size of the network grows, the distinction between the areas will become more well defined.
In larger organizations the administrator level technology personnel typically are not the first line of support that works with end users, but rather only work on break and fix issues that could not be resolved at the lower levels.
Network administrators are responsible for making sure computer hardware and the network infrastructure are maintained properly. The typical systems administrator, or sysadmin, leans towards the applications (software) and OS (Operating System) side of things. Systems administrators install software releases, upgrades, and patches, resolve software related problems and performs system backups and recovery.
The Power User
A power user is typically someone who has above average experience with computers and utilizes many advanced features of applications. They may also have experience with multiple computer platforms as well, such as Linux or Mac, in addition to Windows. The tech savvy power user, who is used to tinkering with applications on a home network, often becomes frustrated when forced to use computers or applications at work that are slower and older than the computers they use at home.
Don't confuse the term power user here with the "Power Users" group on older versions of Microsoft Windows, which attempted to define a system that gives more permissions than a normal restricted user, but stops short of Administrator permissions. The Windows Power User group has been dropped in more recent versions of Windows. I guess even Microsoft realized that trying to put a definition on power user was a difficult proposition.
Can you see the forest for the trees?
The power user sees the tree. They focus on how much can they do with a single computer. Power users will often compare the speed of using their Mac or Linux based computer at home, and wonder why they can't use their personal non Windows based computers at work.
The power often looks at troubleshooting network problems in the context of their home network of three computers.
The system administrator sees the forest. They focus on how well the computers work together as a system. An application that works well at home on your personal computer has to work well as part of a team of computers, communicating, sharing files between a large number of users.
The system administrator deals with troubleshooting network problems in the context of dozens, or even hundreds of computers using a network resource on a continuous basis. Every action they take is in the context of how it will effect many users.
The answer to simple network management is not the most popular
Unfortunately there is often tension between computer users and IT departments in the workplace. System administrators are demonized for unpopular choices in workplace technology beyond their control.
System administrators are under management pressure to contain costs. While many users wonder what is the harm in installing free software, cutting costs does not always mean replacing expensive software with open source software or freeware.
Sysadmins need to understand the behavior of software and tasks performed by the software in order to deploy it and to troubleshoot problems. Compatibility problems constantly pop up, and problems with having untrained users sharing files between types of software can create time consuming training issues.
System administrators are often limited in terms of time and resources. Often a business uses a core piece of software that dictates or limits what operating system can be used, and at times prevents upgrades to more modern operating systems or web browsers.
Writing about technology has given me the opportunity to address many questions heard over the years, and hopefully create a better understanding of technology issues from various points of view