The impact of AI on system administrator skills

Find out which skills every sysadmin should learn now to be ready for the future

The workforce—and the skills people need to be successful—will evolve significantly over the next five years. Due to the effects of AI across every industry, once-familiar technology-based roles will undergo a fundamental shift in how they are executed on a daily basis.

The good news is that the demand for tech-savvy workers will grow. New research has found that in order to implement emerging technologies, we will need to add approximately 160,000 new system administrator roles to the global workforce, about 70,000 of which will be based in the U.S.

Pearson, in partnership with ServiceNow, analyzed how increasing automation and use of AI will affect tech-focused job categories in the years to come. The role of system administrator is at the top of the list for workplace transformation. To prepare for this shift, people in this position need to understand the changes coming their way and get the right training to help future-proof their jobs.

With an average annual salary of $82,000 in the U.S., system administrators are a staple of the tech industry.

Traditionally, sysadmins are responsible for keeping an organization’s computer systems up and running. These IT professionals are called upon to ensure that their technology tools are meeting the needs of the business while also supporting, troubleshooting, and maintaining computer servers and networks.

Today’s sysadmins focus on servers and computer systems. Successful sysadmins have a core set of skills, including:

  • A deep understanding of operating systems (Windows, Linux, Mac)
  • The ability to work with hardware (servers, printers, etc.)
  • Cloud computing skills (ServiceNow, AWS, Office365, Google Cloud Platform)
  • Familiarity with networks (setting up and maintaining local area networks, wide area networks, and firewalls)
  • Good communications skills (to support nontechnical employees throughout the org)

While system administrators aren’t going away anytime soon, AI will bring big changes to their everyday tasks.

While 39.7% of their tasks could be augmented by AI. This could lead to 13 hours each week being freed up by AI automation and augmentation.

The four key technologies responsible for this change are:

Process automation: Code programmed to complete predefined logical and rule-based processing tasks

Suggestion provision: Tools that reactively use machine learning (ML) to prioritize data to identify relevant recommendations

Solution discovery: Agents using reinforcement learning (RL) and sensors to digest and solve unstructured, complex problems

Predictive analysis: Tools that reactively use ML to conduct narrow analysis and make related predictions

The ServiceNow/Pearson research shows that within five years, 9.3% of current sysadmin tasks could be automated

Research also found 20 sysadmin tasks that could be reshaped by technology, with the most significant effects on:

1. The maintenance and administration of computer networks and related computing environments, including computer hardware, systems software, application software, and all configurations 

2. The operation of master consoles to monitor the performance of computer systems and networks, as well as the coordination of computer access and use

3. The loading of computer tapes and disks, as well as internal software and printer paper or forms

To remain relevant, sysadmins will need to learn new skills, and business leaders will need to begin creating learning and development programs to support this talent transformation. 

Based on an analysis of 32 capabilities identified as crucial to all roles of the future, system administrators must be highly proficient in these five areas by 2027:

1. Foundational IT skills

2. Cyber awareness

3. Digital collaboration

4. Digital communication

5. Learning

While maintaining and supporting the IT function will remain at the core of what a system administrator does, there will be a new emphasis on risk and security, as well as a heightened need for organization-wide collaboration and a growing emphasis on communication. Because AI will continue to affect the sysadmin role, acquiring new skills as needed through training programs will also be a key contributor to future success.

Based on the predicted levels of technology implementation, IT leaders can use this new information to identify proficiency gaps, understand future upskilling requirements, and create the appropriate training programs to support these sysadmin skills of the future. 

Find out which skills you and your employees need in your career to prepare for the future.

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