The Changing Face of the IT Tech
For those of us who have worked in organisations with IT Techs on staff, we tend to have a grudging respect for them. We are thrilled they are around to solve our IT problem, and to perform system maintenance activities at times convenient to us. On the other hand, we are somewhat suspicious about all the time they sometime seem to have on their hands – to play solitaire, download music and movies, etc. However, times have been changing, even in the Caribbean, and the role of the IT Tech is not what is used to be.
With the continuing advancement and convergence of computing, networking and telecoms, the role of the IT (or perhaps now ICT) Technician has been changing. The term “IT Tech” is used here in a generic sense to represent the broad range of positions, expertise and functions, and to persons working in-house and in an outsourced capacity. Nevertheless, in the past, IT personnel were often regulated to obscure and cramped back offices, usually stealing space in the server or telecoms room. Their primary purpose was seen as facilitating the work of other employees. As a result, their workdays frequently revolved around servicing and repairing equipment, installing and upgrading software, and attending to ad hoc malfunctions experienced by other staff members. Now, this is not often the case.
Considerably less focus on equipment repair and maintenance. The drastically decreasing price of computing and electronic devices has made equipment repair less cost effective. For example, the price of a new motherboard, sound card or hard drive can rival the price of a brand new desktop PC. It is usually cheaper to purchase and replace a defective piece of equipment than it is to repair it, or even to replace a faulty component. Consequently, the hours or even days that the Tech used to spend troubleshooting and trying to rectify equipment problems have been whittled down to practically no time. The objective now is simply to determine the source of the failure and to have all systems restored to normal operation as soon and as efficiently as possible.
Greater involvement in operations and strategy. The ease and capability with which information can be shared and updated over networks and over the Internet has had a significant impact on business processes and productivity. Additionally, the importance of information and our ability to access and protect it have become critical considerations in today’s world. To that end, Techs have become integral to the operations and strategy aspects of organisations. Increasingly, they are being invited into management circles to discuss matters such as productivity, efficiency and optimisation, and the role that the organisation’s computing and communications systems can play to realise its objectives.
More data security responsibility. Coupled with our increasing dependence on information networks, the infrastructure in which data is stored and transmitted is subject to a broad range of threats. Within organisations there is a considerable and growing emphasis on network and data protection and security. In many respects, this task, of ensuring adequate security and redundancy in voice and data networks, has become one of the primary duties of the modern Tech.
Broader knowledgebase required. In recent years, businesses have more direct control over all of the infrastructural elements that comprise their voice and data networks. As a result, Techs must be increasingly aware of the equipment and technologies available in the industry. Furthermore, they should be actively keeping abreast of trends and new developments in order to better manage their organisation’s risks and to promote its goals and objectives.
Broader skill base required. The IT Tech’s widening duties, as per the preceding points, has also broadened the range of skills that he or she must possess. A Tech may now be required, in addition to being proficient in networking, to be able to build websites and to programme in a variety of languages. For example, it is not unusual for a Tech to be asked to build a small programme or application (such as a database), or to customise and existing one to better suit the needs of the organisation.
Based on these five points, the power and role of the IT Tech should not be underestimated. They have become highly valued and highly regarded, and the field is a very lucrative area for employment. Information and network security are critical considerations across all levels of the society, and is reflected most strongly in the workplace. Techs are frequently considered the chief guardians of all computing, communications and networking operations within the organisations they serve. However, since their expertise allows them to influence and manipulate all areas of operation within organisations, they also wield considerable control over their ultimate success and wellbeing.
Do you think that the role of the IT Tech still under appreciated?
How have you seen the role of the IT Tech change within your workplace?