Sysadmins role ‘crucial' in purchasing’

IT departments risk investing in inappropriate technology if system administration staff are shunned during the purchasing process, according to US Systems Administrators’ Guild (SAGE) president Geoff Halprin.

Halprin, who is also a member of SAGE-AU, warned sysadmins to get involved or face the need to manage inappropriate technology. They make up one of three groups involved in effective IT purchasing, he said.

“There are at least three main groups involved in purchasing – systems administrators, IT managers, and financial managers,” Halprin said. “Their respective roles are to perform the technical evaluations, purchase the equipment, and do the bean counting. Depending on the vendor relationship, purchasing can be done at the IT manager level without introducing further complexity.”

Halprin told Computerworld that because systems administrators will be involved with a certain technology across its lifecycle, they need to participate in vendor selection.

“Systems administrators have between 10 and 80 per cent of the influence when it comes to purchasing,” he said. “This can change on a daily basis due to complexity. Once a selection is made, the organisation must go through the planning, implementation, and execution of the technology. The sysadmin’s role is managing this complex interplay of components.”

In addition to the holistic reasons, Halprin said there are many immediate benefits in having systems administrators involved in purchasing.

“The sysadmin has to integrate solutions from various vendors and holds the responsibility of distilling its associated complexity,” he said. “This results in a working knowledge of the technology which can be reported back to management. Also, sysadmins are far more likely to collect feedback from end users about a particular technology than management.”

For systems administrators who feel shut out of the purchasing process, Halprin said: “Sysadmins should assert their purchasing authority by becoming more aware of the selection process and engage with management who can help with technology selection reports.

“In return, companies stand to gain sustainability in their IT systems,” Halprin said. “Systems administrators have to invest time in understanding how to solve problems with new technologies. Therefore, by having administrators involved from the beginning of a purchase is a move away from ‘reactive mode’ for that organisation.”

Halprin said it is not uncommon for systems administrators to have more knowledge about products than vendors.

“There is a pyramid of IT maturity,” Halprin said. “At the bottom is the IT dial tone which represents the minimum needed to run the business,

second is achieving a certain level of productivity with IT, and at the top is leveraging IT to gain competitive advantage.”

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