Admin Alert: What Should An IBM i Administrator Do, Part 1
December 3, 2014 Joe Hertvik
With remote monitoring and lights-out data centers, people think there isn’t a need for system operators any more. And they’re right-ish. There’s little need for low-skill operators whose main function is watching the system and printing reports. But IBM i operations work isn’t obsolete; it’s just changed into a systems management function. Given that, here’s my take on tasks a lower level IBM i system administrator can perform in 2015 and beyond.
Why You Need Day-To-Day IBM i Administrators
For IBM i shops, it’s important to define the difference between project management and day-to-day operations. IBM i project managers are usually in charge of defining organizational needs and creating a system for answering those needs. Once set up and running correctly, the system is turned over to the lower level system administrators for day-to-day operations and documentation. In smaller shops, one or more people perform both functions but in larger shops, these are separate roles.
The Checklist: What IBM i Administrators Do
You can define what a lower level IBM i administrator does with a checklist of general tasks. This checklist is valuable for two reasons.
First, it allows you to identify day-to-day IBM i-related work that needs to be done and assign those tasks to proper personnel. It helps identify items that can be handled by lower-cost personnel or that can possibly be eliminated through automation or shifting duties, freeing up more skilled operations personnel to perform business-centric tasks. It’s a planning document.
Second, an IBM i system administrator task list can be included and referenced in budgets, job descriptions, job postings, or other hiring and employment related matters. It gives you talking points to explain and justify having administrators on staff. It’s also a staffing document.
Generally speaking, you don’t want a $70,000/year higher skilled IBM i project administrator/architect (who may have other critical duties) changing tapes. You want higher level people planning and adding value to your system, while less experienced people manage the day-to-day operations. A system administrator checklist helps you identify who should be doing what and what day-to-day areas are ripe for automation or turning over to less experienced people who in years past, were system operators.
Defining The Duties
Here’s a starter list for day-to-day IBM i operational items.
This week, I’ll look at items 1-3 to see what responsibilities a lower level IBM i administrator (as opposed to a system operator) can perform to benefit an organization.
The List, Part 1
1. User provisioning–Less experienced personnel can easily be trained to set up new IBM i users on development and production partitions. With the help of written procedures and automated processing, it doesn’t take a high degree of skill to process IBM user adds, deletes, and changes. With proper training, this can usually be handled by day-to-day administrators.
2. Audits–IBM i auditor demands are getting more stringent, with auditors wanting documentation for several functions they may not have asked for in the past, including:
While you may need a higher-level administrator or manager to create the processes for protecting and reporting on these items, a lower-level admin can usually handle creating and documenting audit proof. And a lot of this information is generated as the process occurs (such as documenting user adds and terminations), which makes it a daily duty.
3. Third-party software setups and on-going maintenance–While third-party setups are related to user provisioning, they go beyond simply setting up a new user. They take more attention and usually occur on a regular basis as business needs change. Here are some items that you may call on your lower level system administration staff to perform.
Like most items on this list, the dividing line for third-party software tasks lies between routine tasks and projects/special configurations. Issues beyond the lower level admin’s experience can always be escalated upward to more experienced personnel. But for the most part, routine third-party configurations can usually be handled by experienced lower-level personnel with clear instructions, checklists, and training.
More To Come
Today, I defined the need for a day-to-day system administrator checklist and started looking at specific items low level admins can perform. Next week, I’ll finish the list and add more perspective into why it’s important to have low-level system administrators and how their work can be combined with other functions, like a Help Desk.
Joe Hertvik is an IBM i subject matter expert (SME) and the owner of Hertvik Business Services, a content strategy organization servicing the computer industry. He also runs a data center for two companies outside Chicago, featuring multiple IBM i ERP systems. Joe is a contributing editor for IT Jungle and has written the Admin Alert column since 2002. Check out his blog where he features practical information for tech users at joehertvik.com. Joe can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.