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I've found that in some fashion here the IT term is used as a synonym to technical support and sys admin:

From the FAQ:

... system administrators and IT professionals[;] people who
 manage or maintain computers in a professional capacity....

While I have conceived it as a larger area, that include of course technical support, but expands also to software development, software management, hardware, methodologies etc.

For me IT is like the whole brach of knowledge.

For instance, I wouldn't use the following:

 "Call IT".. 

because it is like

 ... call who? IT is the whole industry!!

But I see here it would be a reasonable statement. "The IT guys" or the "IT department".

Is this something cultural? Did I get the IT term wrong and it is actually "sys admin" only related?

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migrated from serverfault.com Aug 19 '10 at 12:54

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  • 8
    This should be community wiki. – Adam Gibbins May 5 '09 at 16:38
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    This seems so far to be a linguistic question. Or are you just saying that "IT" is perhaps a poor choice of words in the FAQ? ;) (which may be true) – Kara Marfia May 22 '09 at 17:43

13 Answers 13

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That's really more of linguistic subject. Somehow meaning of the words tends to drift. Same happened to word "hacker".

It's quite easy to explain why for most ppl IT means tech support. In vast majority of companies, that's the only thing IT departments do. Only small part of companies actually have their own software developers. And when they do, they don't call it "IT department".

  • Reminds me of the use of the word, "diet," which has a couple different meanings and one tends to be the default. – JB King May 28 '09 at 14:33
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    Well, "hackers" in the old ages ment people who chopped down trees. – ldigas May 28 '09 at 15:11
  • So a development department isn't part of the "IT Department"? Strange. I've never worked at or heard of a company that has a group of developers (or even just one developer) that wasn't considered part of the IT department either by the IT Dept. itself or users outside of the IT department. – Wesley 'Nonapeptide' Jul 15 '09 at 1:25
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    Also cultural. For some IT means the systems and their management. Software development means creating new bugs to annoy the users. For me, software developers are users of IT but are not in themselves a part of IT, much like an author is not part of the printing industry. – John Gardeniers Jul 30 '09 at 22:27
  • Well when people at the average firm "call IT" they call the public face of the IT department, which will usually be the helpdesk. – Rob Moir Aug 19 '10 at 22:23
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IT to me is the people who use existing software tools to keep the company going. They make sure all the technology keeps working.

Developers write software to make new tools. The written software is usually the company's product and sold to pay the Developer's salary. If these tools are for in-house use by sysadmins, then we have overlap between IT and software development.

The lines are easily blurred, because someone competent in one has at least intermediate experience with the other and can switch roles if they need to. I think it's the same as the line between Computer Engineers and Computer Scientists. There are some roles that are definitely one or the other and a lot of roles that straddle the lines and require knowledge of both domains. You will frequently find that the best sysadmins are also capable developers and understand not just the tools they use but several levels of the stack below the tools themselves.

4

In http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/04/podcast-49 Alex Papadimoulis and Joel Spolsky had this exchange:

S: We are talking today to Alex Papadimoulis, who is the blogger at the Daily WTF, which is a blog, if you haven't seen it, about all kinds of things going wrong in software development. Right? It's mostly software development, although I see wine bottles here on the front page...

P: Information technology. But, yeah, generally software development.

S: Is there a difference between information technology and software development?

P: I like to think IT kind of encompasses maybe the network. IT is a broader domain. Software is just internal applications, external applications, whereas the IT organization handles all the servers, the desktops, phone systems, they seem to get it all.

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In my last job, if it had a plug, I was the first person asked to try to fix it. Anything I couldn't fix or didn't know about was considered non-IT.

  • That seems to be about the size of it, but I am sure there is attempted creep into other areas.. "can you hang this picture for me" is a recent favourite :) – Tom Newton Jun 9 '09 at 16:15
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In practice, I've observed that "I.T." is usually the break/fix and sysadmins (who are typically hourly). Developers/programmers/analysts are normally salary and get called "I.S."

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IT means different things to different people, and when you join a new company you're going to have to learn a new definition.

IT does encompass so much - anything that has to do with the technology of manipulating information can be considered under the auspice of IT. Even the mail room deals with information technology, and some IT departments handle the postal meters, copiers, and other business equipment that one might not consider part of the computer infrastructure.

In general, like every other term, when you are talking about IT to an audience, you'll have to define what you mean before you use the term, and understand what it means to them.

-Adam

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In common usage IT is anything that would typically be handled by the IT department in a company or other large organization like a university or government department. Effectively, that means sysadmin and tech support.

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I think it depends on the people and culture you work with/within, and probably your locale as well.

Amongst my friends and coworkers, we pretty much all mean something similar to the quote you pasted from the FAQ when we refer to "IT." The sysadmins, the network admins, the helpdesk guys, things like that.

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The easy distinction in a corporate environment between IT and Engineering (or Development) is that IT deals with the technology used to support the Employees of the company. Engineering usually deals with the Product and therefor the Customers of the company. This means that if the company is large enough then IT will have some programmers who support internal applications and Engineering may have some sysadmins that deal with production servers. This is also usually the difference between a CIO (Chief Information Officer) and a CTO (Chief Technology Officer). The CIO is responsible for infrastructure technology and the CTO is responsible for Product or Customer facing technology.

1

To the general public IT is a catch all term for anything remotely technical.

For people in the technology industry IT is usually reserved for technical support and system administrators.

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Questions of word choice aside, I think everybody can agree, there's got to be a line drawn somewhere.

  • Anyone who uses a computer as part of their job could consider themselves "people who manage or maintain computers in a professional capacity" (particularly if they feel their company doesn't give them adequate PC support, or work out of a home office), parsing out all possible interpretations isn't going to work
  • The "spirit" of the FAQ is to keep the questions away from support of individual PCs - away from turning SF into a home-pc-support site
  • SF will not be a "one stop shop" for sysadmins, most PC support questions will simply need to go elsewhere

I have this feeling there's a reason this isn't called computerfault.com - but just as this site was born out of a need for SO's unwanted sysadmin questions, who knows what site will come next?

It seems like some clarification in the FAQ is in popular demand, though?

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The helpdesk and similar functions are the public face of the "IT Department". Just like the site manager/facilities manager or whatever its called is the public face of the people who keep your office building running when in reality they might have a large organisation of specialists in air conditioning, power, heating, furniture procurement etc. behind them.

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Not necessarily an answer, but a point of view that has become an issue:

My company seems to think its ok to call on the IT Dept for everything from DVD player malfunctions to security cameras to creditcard machines to anything that plugs into the wall...the copier, the fax, phones, you name it.

I have found that its sometimes difficult to set boundaries without coming off as being rude, but if I dont set boundaries then I end up neglecting my real work.

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