Is traditional IT Support really necessary in today’s modern network architecture? When I started in high school the older generation looked at me wisely and said “computer support”. These were men in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s who saw computer technology coming but knew they were too late to catch the technical wave. What they knew was that with every new technology whether it was the airplane, the automobile or the locomotive there was always a repair component. Eventually everything breaks down. Their advice to me was that to be the first person to learn how to fix the systems was as valuable as being the first person to design and use the systems. Today we think of IT Support as the people that go out and fix the computers when they have stopped working. My question is should computers ever be broken.
With all the computer failures in the world, technology almost seems like magic. The IT Support technician that brings a computer back to life almost seems like the modern day witch doctor. Before we understood the human body and human psyche the witch doctor was important. In the beginning of my career I would go from desktop to desktop fixing computers. I developed a “bed side manner” much like a doctor. I never pictured myself as a doctor though, I pictured myself more like a witch doctor. Most of what I was doing was like an act that the user expected and almost needed. If I walked in as a mysterious magical person my users with their broken computers didn’t feel quite so stupid. I know that sounds weird…but I would put on a show almost. Then I would teach users the magic of the computer by teaching them what the needed to do in the future to avoid the problem they were having. The users enjoyed it and despite my deeply introverted streak I was one of the most popular desktop techs.
As users become more sophisticated and computers became more bullet proof the need for the witch doctor persona disappeared. I could now talk to users who understood their computers. I put on a much more effective professional persona that was more like a physician than a doctor. But I have to ask, is there even a need for even that role any longer.
With managed services technologies we can catch most of the problems long before the user realizes there is a problem. We can even fix the problem before they realize there is a problem. Most of the work of the IT Support technician has changed. I think Microsoft realized that 70% of IT failures were cause by people. At first we thought it was the users causing the problems. So they made the user less and less relevant as a factor in the failures of the systems. When I walk into problem networks the problem isn’t with the user or the technology. The problem is with the IT Support personal themselves. They are the only ones actually touching the systems. As a result they are now the biggest cause of failure within the system. I talk with many IT support experts who seem to be perpetuating this myth of the IT Witch doctor. Instead of stepping away from the persona, they truly believe that they are fooling everyone in the room.
The problem is that their confidence says one thing, but their business process says something completely different. Looking under the hood, we begin to see that while the intentions are there something is missing. They are playing the role of the IT Witchdoctor because they don’t know themselves how or why the technology works either. Technology has changed so quickly that it has begun to look like magic.
I think that in the future IT Support will look much different than it did in the past. In the past IT Support was like putting oil in the car after it begins smoking. In the future IT Support will recognize long before the oil is low, just when and how much oil will be needed. IT failures that require IT support will become as rare as power failures. Our children will look back at us and see the same thing that we see when we look back at our great great grandparents who traveled in Conestoga wagons or bi-planes.
As systems move into the cloud and monitoring becomes more and more sophisticated, the cost of hardware goes down and bandwidth becomes more and more available, the need for an internal IT Support incident tree will probably become less and less relevant as a business model in Modern network architecture.