Rising IT productivity means fewer people, more work, less respect
Plus more effort to outsource all the good stuff
Productivity jumped in IT departments during the past three years as companies reduced staff, increased the amount of work remaining staffers had to do, and replaced labor-intensive systems with some that were more automated.
A survey from the Association for Computer Operations Management (AFCOM) shows 37 percent of data centers reduced staff, 29 percent kept them the same and 35 percent actually increased their headcount.
During the same time, three quarters of them increased the number of physical servers in their data centers, meaning that two thirds of the data-center workers in those companies are managing more systems with fewer people.
Virtual servers, server management software and data-center automation all make it possible for few to do the work of many, but the increase in physical-server count makes it clear there is more work being put on remaining staff, despite "all the yacking about server consolidation and data center consolidation," according to John Longwell, VP of research at analyst firm Computer Economics, as quoted in Infoworld.
AFCOM execs predicted 80 percent to 90 percent of data centers would adopt some form of cloud computing to a greater degree than they do already.
I'd put it higher than that, though it might be the business units, not IT that contracts for the external services, as is increasingly the case.
The productivity numbers and rising number of boxes-per-geek may also be the reason virtual-server satisfaction levels have been stuck at about 50 percent for three years, according to Dan Olds, principal of Gabriel Consulting Group, who has been doing annual surveys of Windows and Unix-server users for more than five years.
The number of companies that don't know whether their virtual infrastructures are easier to manage than the physical ones before is at around 25 percent – pretty high for an investment that large and that inductive of change in data center staff and processes.
Looking at the productivity numbers could give people the impression IT is in good shape and getting better.
That's a misperception, though. Look a little more closely at surveys like Olds, showing satisfaction levels with existing technology, and any of the millions of surveys showing how many companies want to shift some of their IT work out of the data center and into the cloud.
How often does it happen that the desire to get an important set of tools out of your workplace and into someone else's hands indicates that people are happy with the person doing the work?
More important, when it's time to place the blame for why business units or managers aren't happy with IT, how often is it possible to make big cuts in staff, add a lot of work to the survivors, and end up with top-quality, economically efficient service?
Sometimes, probably. More often you end up with disgruntled, overworked people who know their work isn't appreciated and aren't willing to stick their necks out to create innovative technology for business managers who don't value what they do and don't want to pay even for the level of service they already receive.