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Expert roundtable: IT skillsets for change and configuration management tools

Technical knowledge, business and compliance skills will all benefit change and configuration administrators.

Change and configuration management is a challenging discipline for IT professionals. Unlike many benchmarks or monitoring utilities, change and configuration management tools are expensive, complex to set up, demanding to manage and must be used consistently in order to provide any real long-term value to the business. But how much IT expertise does this focus really require? We asked several IT experts to share their opinion on the ideal skillset for change and configuration management.

Understand how the data center pieces fit together. One of the most important skills an engineer in a configuration management role can have is the ability to be a data center "jack of all trades." The idea isn't to be a master of every system component, but to understand how every IT piece fits together. By having a good understanding of the system architecture, IT managers are able to make decisions which are more educated and have a more positive impact when system change comes into play. Knowledgeable IT staff who clearly have a good understanding of their environment will quickly know whether a given configuration management tool is a good fit or not.

-- Bill Kleyman, virtualization architect, MTM Technologies Inc.

Know the maintenance, uptime requirements and applications. For an administrator to excel in change and configuration management, it’s important to have a good knowledge of the network as well as how the organization works in terms of maintenance windows, tolerance (or lack of tolerance) for downtime, and the way that different devices work with various applications in the organization. This insight is extremely helpful when it’s time to set up the tool. Similarly, when a consultant comes in to set up the tool, the consultant can get up to speed quickly on the existing environment work effectively to build the proper change and configuration management environment, set up the policies and practices, and cross-train and knowledge transfer to the in-house administrator on day-to-day processes and tasks.

-- Rand Morimoto, president of Convergent Computing

Watch interdependencies and weigh compliance/policy factors. I think the technical skills are a given; you should have solid knowledge on your team regarding the devices and architecture. I think the part that gets ignored is the process side – especially in terms of compliance and policy. With change management, you need an in-depth knowledge of the inner workings of the environment, but you also need to understand how the pieces interact and work together. Part of any change management is looking at dependencies within a system, and that only comes from understanding the internal pieces. While even the most high-end tool can provide insights into your environment, there is still a knowledge transfer that has to happen for the software to be effective and reflect the environment that you are trying to create as an administrator.

-- Pete Sclafani, chief information officer at 6connect Inc.

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