Disclaimer:  This is scientifically indeterminate information. Statistically unfounded, and somewhat anecdotal.  I would use more adjectives and analogies, but my coffee ran out hours ago and my dog just tried to eat my cat.

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What is This?

This article is a summarization of data collected from customer engagements working as an IT consultant over the past calendar year.  The information is taken from notes that are primarily intended to provide scoping around specific IT projects.

After reading so many Forester and Gartner reports, as well as internal assessment emails from various customers, I sometimes wonder if they suffer from the Heisenberg principle, or if they focus on alternative motives, I really don’t know.  I wanted to at least try and put a stick in the ground and point at it while mumbling.

I’ve made every effort to translate my notes into this compilation, but I cannot share the actual names or identifying information due to serious legal risk (there’s a white van circling my house… right…. now…)

Business Types

(just the ones I have personally connected with)

  • 3 municipalities
  • 4 hospitals
  • 4 manufacturing
  • 5 retail corporate offices
  • 3 health insurance corporate offices
  • 2 luxury goods
  • 3 food processing
  • 2 food service retailers
  • 1 railroad company
  • 1 cloud data center hosting company
  • 2 financial services companies
  • 5 banks
  • 2 chemical processing companies
  • 2 engineering firms
  • 10 legal firms
  • 1 household products company
  • 2 defense engineering companies
  • 1 electronic circuitry designer
  • 1 sports franchise marketing firm
  • less than 20% are publicly traded
  • and a partridge in a pear tree

IT Organization Sizes

(just my own personal involvement, not our company as a whole)

  • 50% – 5000 devices/users or less
  • 25% – 500 devices/users or less
  • 20% – More than 5000 devices/users
  • 5% – More than 10,000 devices/users
  • Smallest = 60 devices
  • Largest = 185,000 devices

Infrastructure and Platforms

(very approximated numbers)

  • 100% are Windows Server Active Directory environments
  • 50% are using cloud services currently (AWS or Azure)
  • 90% are using VMware datacenter products
  • 75% are using MDT or SCCM
  • 40% of “new” SCCM customers are on current branch
    • 50% of the rest are preparing to upgrade
    • 50% of the rest are scared to death for no reason
  • 90% are still using Windows 7
  • 80% are actively deploying Windows 10
  • 10% are actively deploying Windows Server 2016
  • 30% are actively deploying EMS/Intune, Azure AD Premium
  • 95% are actively deploying Office 365 and Azure AD
  • 50% still don’t understand Group Policy
  • 90% still assess configuration controls via a product-centric perspective (bad)
  • 80% still don’t document Group Policy changes
  • 90% have switched from Batch or VBScript to PowerShell
  • 95% are using Symantec or McAfee antimalware products
  • 35% are using, or trying to use, disk encryption (e.g. BitLocker)
  • 5% using other endpoint management tools (e.g. LANDesk)
  • 80% of SCCM owners still don’t understand ADR’s
  • 99% of System Center owners still don’t know what Orchestrator does
  • 75% of SCCM owners still don’t understand thin, thick or hybrid image concepts
  • Observations:
    • Most are excited to get to Windows 10 as soon as possible
    • Most are excited to upgrade SCCM when they learn how it can help them get to (and support) Windows 10
    • Most are frustrated with the gaps in Cloud technologies, but mostly (always) due to assuming it’s a “done” technology, rather than an evolving one.  Examples: SCCM/Intune integration, Azure ADDS.
    • Not implying these are deficient or faulty products.  Just that many customers expected everything is available to “switch over” right now, when many of the expected features are not quite ready.

Roles and Functions

  • Breakdown of those I’ve worked with:
    • 60% mid-level operations
    • 30% senior-level operations / architecture
    • 9% executive management
    • 1% whoever answered the phone
  • Observations
    • Vast majority would state they are providing two or more distinct job functions, many stating 3 or 4.  In most cases, each role would have been a distinct job position five years ago.
    • Most of the role-compression has been the result of passive attrition, small percentage from active attrition.
    • Almost all (actually only 1 exception) stated they are expected to respond to business requests after normal business hours.
    • Most of the preceding group still don’t know how they got tricked into doing that
    • Almost all (3 exceptions) are salaried, rather than hourly.
    • None were compensated for overtime hours, but were allowed flex/comp time as make-up.
    • 75% received a small raise in the last three years.
    • 25% had no raise in over a year (usually department or company wide)
    • Only 3 or 4 had received any monetary bonus payouts in the last three years.
    • 75% stated that they feel IT is a reactive, not a controlling, force within the organization.
    • 10% of SCCM owners still have managers that are afraid SCCM will automatically reimage every computer in the organization one day without notice.  Because they heard from a friend of a friend how it can “just happen”

Job Tiers

  • Almost all organizations use a seniority-based model for assigning job titles, rather than a functional or role-based model
    • Most engineers are doing administrator work
    • Most architects are doing engineer work
    • Most technicians are doing administrator work
    • Most Administrators are asking WTF?
  • Lower-paying roles are difficult to staff to meet customer SLA expectations due to ability-versus-upward-mobility challenges. (e.g. top-performers rarely want to remain in help desk or call center roles longer than they feel necessary)
    • The exception to this seems to be tech-focused businesses, like datacenters, software development, etc.  Roles and functions didn’t seem to be as caste-oriented as non-tech-focused businesses.
  • The quality and aesthetic appeal of the work spaces seem to relate to the overall “happiness factor” as far as I’ve seen.
    • Offices with play rooms, sofas, cafeterias, free vending machines, etc., often have more workers walking around in a good mood.
    • Offices with a roach infestation, dead bodies, and yellow-ribbon across doorways, tend to have fewer smiling workers walking around.
    • Very very very few unhappy telecommute workers.  But that may be due to encountering very very very few telecommute workers.

Work Patterns

  • Just read “The Phoenix Project” up to chapter 23, and that’s pretty much how most organizations seem to operate.  Continuous effort to maintain.
  • Most have said that proactive, innovation-oriented work is considered a luxury.
  • Company-paid training is noticeably less available than it was 5 years ago.
  • Reimbursement for certifications continues to be available at most organizations

Conclusion

  • If you like getting prostate or cervical exams with a garden shovel, you are probably a good fit for working in IT as of 2017.  If a work-life balance of 90:10 is your thing, you’re probably going to excel.  If you thought “do more with less” only applied to home improvement projects, well, think again.
  • Are there still rewarding careers in IT?  Sure.  Based on this, obviously anecdotal, mini-slice of the world, I would subjectively propose that, in general, it’s heading towards a more rigorous environment than a more-creative environment.
  • Somewhere, somehow, it seems (to me, anyway) that there’s a growing disconnect between the IT staff layers, and executive management.  This varies widely based on the nature of the business, and the scale of the organization.  But regardless, it seems that the CIO and CTO roles are increasingly difficult to fit into the divide between business and technology.  Their roles are often aligned more closely to one or the other.  When aligned too close to non-tech, the technical side seems to suffer more.  But when aligned too close to purely technical, the executive layer (cultural) support seems to suffer.
  • Again, this is all subjective, anecdotal, non-empirical, non-deterministic, kerfluffery stuff.  Whatever that is.  I just needed to vent.  Been on 20 hours of phone calls dealing with everything from SCCM site problems to cats fornicating outside people’s hotel windows at 2am.  It’s been an interesting day.
  • Cheers!
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