The case for IT training

How important is IT training for other departments?

I was having a discussion with a senior (non-technical) colleague last week about a potential new IT requirement and we came to the issue of hardware. He asked me how much the server would cost (it would come out of his budget) and could I guarantee that we would only use it for his systems.

I think he was concerned that we would over-spec it and stick on a couple more systems (which is fair enough – I suspect we’ve all done that at some point).

What followed was a very tricky conversation about the concept of virtualisation, and the fact that there really isn’t any such thing as a server anymore, at least not in the way that most people understand it.

There’s no doubt that technology is getting more and more complex, and we’re getting to the point where even very switched-on users are struggling to understand ideas such as virtualisation, SANS, clouds etc.

On one hand, this isn’t so bad; it should put an end to users trying to tell my team what type of servers to use, or trying to get involved in technical decisions.

The concern for me, however, relates to issues of investment. If senior decision-makers are becoming increasingly distant from technology, it gets harder to make the case for investment. And once major investment is made in transforming the infrastructure, there’s a risk that ongoing investment may not be available.

I can hear the response now – “What? You want MORE money? After we’ve just spent x million on …..”. You get the picture. The problem is that, unlike new software systems, most of the benefits (increased capacity, more flexibility, better availability etc) are abstract, and are hard to quantify.

Another concern relates to the technical skills which are now required. In these financially-constrained times training is the first thing to be cut, but it’s evident that IT teams, more than ever, need to keep pace with technology.

There’s no point in bringing infrastructure technology up to date if you haven’t, as a team, got the skills to exploit it, and I’d go so far as to say that you have a major risk if there aren’t at least two people in the team who have the skills and knowledge to look after the infrastructure.

It’s up to IT leaders to make a strong case for continuing skills development, and make it absolutely clear that the infrastructure is only as good as the team who are looking after it.