What can sysadmins learn from opening airport terminals?

You should really read this.  It’s long, but full of insight into the way we create and launch large new systems.

“Those of us in the software industry have heard this story before: the time runs out for system testing, but a big-bang cut-over to a mission critical new system proceeds anyway, because the planned date just can’t be delayed. The result is predictable: wishful thinking gives way to various degrees of disaster.”

In the System Administration game, we see the same problem.  In fact, since we are often at the end of the software supply chain, or the last milestone in the project, it usually our schedules and testing that are compressed or eliminated.  When all the earlier phases of the project have all slipped, and the “go live” date can’t be changed, we’re the ones who most often lose our testing time.

More importantly, though, how many of our projects are creating or support “socio-technical systems”, but are treated as pure technology projects?  I bet that you can all think of a project that was supposed to be only about technology (a systems upgrade), but turned out to have strong linkages into the social side of your operation, such as poor notification to users, missing training, or some other negative impact to your users.

So, how do we as System Administrators move from being pure technologists to more holistic creators of real systems, that include consideration of the social (and other non-technical) aspects of our projects and systems?

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