Asking the right questions is often the key to new directions, as Quest Software found out this year in conducting its annual user survey at The Experts Conference.
Each year, the systems management vendor has been asking TEC attendees about their most pressing issues, how they prioritize those issues, and common practices with Windows infrastructure management. TEC attendees are hands-on with Microsoft tools including Active Directory, Exchange and Identity Lifecycle Manager; 2009's attendees included 28 percent systems engineers, 22 percent architects, 19 percent consultants, and 14 percent IT manager/director/VP. Ninety-one percent work at companies with more than 100 employees, and 71 percent at companies with more than 1,000. Obviously, these attendees are responsible for very large numbers of users; 57 percent of conference goers from IT organizations (as opposed to vendors or service providers) are servicing 20,000 users or more.
So take a conference full of folks supporting those kinds of numbers and ask them, for the first time, to include single sign-on and two-factor authentication in their rankings of challenge areas that are "out of control, problematic, manageable, handling well or a non-issue." As it turned out, both those working within IT organizations and those working within vendor organizations ranked single sign-on as the leading challenge; 35 percent of the former said it was either out of control or problematic, and 27 percent of vendors said the same. And it's interesting to note that the reasons given for the challenge focused on technology, and the quality of available automation, not on softer issues like staff training (often noted as impediments to smooth implementations of highly desired solutions). The automation issue is not as problematic across the board for this group as it is in SSO -- more than half of both IT and vendor folks are at least partially automated in infrastructure management in general, and both groups are increasingly satisfied with both their native and third-party automation tools.