If IT Pros Were Doctors

If IT Pros Were Doctors

The classic role of an IT pro was rather like a GP — you needed to know a lot about a wide variety of potential problem areas. Is that still the case today?

Medical picture from Shutterstock

This line of thinking was suggested in a presentation by Stefan Haase, divisional product director for data cloud services at InTechnology, during Data Centre World in London (which I’m covering as part of our ongoing World Of Servers series). Around 2000, the role of an IT director was very much like that of a GP, Haase arued. Your business ran a wide variety of systems and you needed to know how to troubleshoot all of them (though you might use specialists for particularly thorny problems).

That approach has changed somewhat in the cloud era. The need for maintenance care is much reduced, and the focus is on maintaining the overall health of the system rather than fixing spot problems. You’re a consultant, not a jack of all trades.

In this context, working for an outsourcer might be viewed as the equivalent of being in the emergency ward; everyone shows up with their problems. Working in IT for a cloud provider is like being in a large general practice with dozens of other doctors: there’s a large base of people all utilising the same services and not caring who they see. Running a department full of ageing machines that are several versions behind is presumably the equivalent of being in alternative medicine; it happens, but there’s no evidence it’s actually a good idea.

Any other suggested additions to the list?

Lifehacker’s World Of Servers sees me travelling to conferences around Australia and around the globe in search of fresh insights into how server and infrastructure deployment is changing in the cloud era. This week, I’m in London for Data Centre World, paying particular attention to how to maximise efficiency and lower costs in the data centre.


  • I’ve always thought the 2 disciplines had very similar processes. Both in IT and in medicine, with experience you can pinpoint issues based on the external symptoms, run tests and provide solutions. In some ways I think IT is harder. All human bodies work relatively the same, and treatments are standardised and have been tried and tested by many others before they’re put into mainstream use. With IT on the other hand many issues can be specific to a given setup and may never have been encountered before. That said, unfortunately if a doctor stuffs up they can’t reboot or restore from backup…

  • I’m a GP and I think my job is sometimes like being in IT. Every now and then all the standards and guidelines get changed and you have to re-learn everything. Or the latest and greatest upgraded medication turns out to be rubbish, and the old version was actually better.

  • The difference being that if you’re in IT and you break something you can just reflash/reinstall/replace/restore/reboot etc

    You stuff up and a person and you don’t get the chance to do that. Once you uninstall a leg you can’t reinstall a new one, and good luck with the turn it off and on again.

    (note: I’m neither in health nor in IT)

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