not supported by the software, that
the machine has insufficient graphics capability, that he is one of several
who independently ordered the software, or any number of other issues.
All of these issues take time, and often money, to resolve. The colleague’s
expectations of a quick install are not
met, and both he and the SA are frustrated, leading to conflict.
When the SA is seen as an advocate, on the other hand, he or she is
involved from the beginning, compiles a set of requirements, finds out
who else might need the software, and
so on. Then the software licenses are
linked to the license server, there are
sufficient licenses for all who need it,
all the hardware and related issues are
resolved in advance, and everyone has
a realistic expectation for when the
new software will be available.
Advocates are proactive, identifying potential problems and solving
them before they arise. They use extensive monitoring to track peak loads
and usage trends. Using this data the
advocate upgrades networks and services before they get overloaded and
slow people down.
Advocates interact with customers
on a regular basis and are aware of future requirements. Their colleagues
know to involve them in the planning
phases for new endeavors. One result
of such a team effort is a seamless,
smooth-running network that meets
the end users’ needs. Another is having colleagues who are more invested
in the evolution of the network.
Engineering environment. The conflict between SAs and their colleagues
is often worse in an engineering environment, where technology-savvy engineers want more control over their
own machines in order to be able to
work more efficiently. SAs know, however, that unfettered root access for
people outside the SA group leads to
randomly configured systems, more
failures, and more support calls. This
struggle for control and the importance of finding the right balance for
each environment has been discussed
elsewhere. 3 The key point to remember is that SAs need to foster trust and
build good relationships with their
colleagues. The end users really just
want to be able to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. They need to
among sAs is a
for the people they
are hired to support.
end users are not
“lusers” or “pests
trust that the SAs will be enablers and
not roadblocks. The techniques already described in this article will also
help to foster trust and reduce conflict
in an engineering environment.
Another conflict that can arise in an
engineering environment is between
the SA’s desire for high reliability and
the engineer’s desire for cutting-edge
technologies that may not yet be ready
for primetime. In some environments
SAs need to sacrifice uptime in order
to deliver the best overall service. This
is particularly true where the engineers in question are the ones developing the new technologies.
Lack of Resources
Most SA groups are pressed for time
and money. The first thing to do in
this situation is to make the most
of what you have using automation,
time management, and organizational structures. Once that is done, the
managers can lobby for more resources by improving the perception and
visibility of the SA group.
Automation. A good way to address
a lack of resources is to create additional time for the SAs by automating
the most time-consuming tasks. Automation saves time both by getting
tasks done more quickly and by ensuring consistency, thus reducing support calls.
Start with a script that outputs the
commands that would do the task.
The SA can review the commands for
correctness, edit them for special cases, and then paste them to the command line. Writing such scripts is usually easier than automating the entire
process and can be a stepping-stone
to further automation of the process.
A simple script that assists with the
common case may be more valuable
than a large system that automates
every possible aspect of a task. Automate the 80% that is easy and save the
special cases for the next version. Document which cases require manual
handling, and what needs to be done.
Look for vendor-supplied automation tools for tasks such as operating-system installs, and use them. Figure
out how to automate customizations
for your environment, too. Where
possible, automate tasks that are
common requests from customers
and create a Web page to make these