Wandering Thoughts archives

2009-04-18

What users see as benefits from sysadmins

Here is something important about system administration: us merely doing our work does not give our users a benefit, not in the sense that users perceive benefits. This is because, fundamentally, the job of sysadmins is to make the systems work the way that they should to start with, much like the job of the janitorial staff is to keep the building clean the way it should be.

(System administration is somewhat different from janitorial work in that what we work on was not 'clean' in its natural, pre-user state, but users don't care about that.)

One of the consequences of this is that it is not a compelling sales pitch to users to tell them that if they do extra work, our work will be easier or we can do more of our job (or do it faster). Users don't care about how easy or difficult our job is, and we should already be doing all of it to start with. (In fact, from a user perspective most of our job should be unnecessary.)

There are situations where you can persuade users that this is not the case, but I suspect that such situations are all deeply dysfunctional to start with; they are visibly understaffed, or they contain lots of things that just intrinsically break all the time (for reasons that are clearly not the fault of the sysadmins) or the like.

To provide 'real' benefits to users we must go above and beyond making the system just work; we must make it work better than the users expect, make things more convenient than they thought possible, and so on. Then we can make a compelling case to users that if they do a bit of extra work, they get actual (perceived) benefits.

(Disclaimer: all of this is for what I will call 'operations' system administration. If your job is to build new and novel things, then I suspect that there will be less of a perception that things should just work to start with.)

sysadmin/UserSysadminBenefit written at 01:59:13; Add Comment


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