Top 10 things to do after a system administrator leaves their job

Staff turnover is normal. With every departing system administrator certain details must be addressed. Here's ten must-do actions.

How to recruit the best hire for your company Companies are using a range of new recruiting tactics to win the tech talent war.

Every employee departure is different. Some leave abruptly, some are terminated, and some give two weeks notice and help ease co-workers in the transition. No matter how a system administrator leaves, the result is the same: Disruption. 

In order to ease co-workers' minds and alleviate potential chaos certain actions must be taken. Below are ten recommendations. 

SEE: Policy pack: Workplace ethics  (TechRepublic Premium)

 1. Gather the details of their current workload

Take advantage of any leeway you have with a departing employee and (if possible) try to find out what this person worked on and with whom to ease any transition. Investigate if there are any hidden "tips and tricks" to the way the former employee set things up or configured systems to reduce any surprises, which might pop up down the road.

Even if the system administrator is already gone, you can speak to their former colleagues or check the user community to see what tasks and projects this person worked on so nothing falls between the cracks.
 

2. Get access to their data/email

Having access to the former employee's data (such as in a home directory or on their workstation/mobile device) as well as email messages is a key priority to ensure that their work can still be performed after their departure. 

Email repositories can also serve as a good source of reference material to see how the administrator communicated to users, which instructions they provided, and other salient details.

If possible, copy the information to a shared location such as a department folder or shared mailbox so that it remains available indefinitely.

3. Send out an announcement

Notify the user community as to the administrator's departure and provide them with alternate contact details for requesting assistance (However, you should rely upon a centralized ticketing system rather than having employees make direct requests of staff members).  Where possible, identify who the contact is for the tasks and projects handled by the former employee to ensure no gaps in coverage appear.

Note: Refrain from including any details as to why the user left, whether it was voluntarily or not. Even such an innocuous phrase as "they left to seek greener pastures elsewhere" may come across in the wrong light.

SEE:  Hiring kit: Network administrator  (TechRepublic Premium)

4. Disable all their accounts

Immediately disable every personal account used by the former administrator the moment they walk out the door. This includes VPN access, Active Directory accounts, Linux accounts, mobile device connections, etc. This is especially important because system administrators generally have access to "the keys of the kingdom," so to speak.

Although, never delete administrator accounts as this might cause additional pitfalls. Also, make sure to disable or at least change the password (See below).
 

5. Change all administrator-related passwords

This will likely be the least popular tip, but it's also the most necessary. Go through and change all passwords system administrators have access to: Internal, external, vendor sites, support portals—you name it.

You may think that the former employee is the most trustworthy person in the world, and there's no company risk to leave passwords intact. You might even be best friends with the ex-staff member. 

It doesn't matter; your obligation to the company is to ensure only authorized personnel can access privileged accounts, and the former employee might release the passwords inadvertently, such as by losing a folder containing passwords, which were written down. 

On a darker note, you might not know it, but the former staffer might be disgruntled and wants to seek revenge against the organization, which puts your own job at risk.
 
How do you know which passwords to change? You are using a centralized password management tool like KeePass, which holds all the accounts system administrators rely on to conduct company business, correct?  If not, here are some instructions to get up to speed with this handy utility.

SEE: Employee termination checklist (TechRepublic Premium)
 

6. Change all contact information

Many vendors and support contracts entail individual contact information, which might be linked to your former employee. Ideally, you would use a centralized email address (e.g. administrators@company.com), which links to a group of all IT staff members, but sometimes outside organizations require each individual is listed in their system.

Ensure you have the individual removed from any and all such external lists or databases and that the correct individuals/groups are present.
 

7. Look for any pitfalls

Here's where you need to pay close attention to your systems and processes to see if something suddenly breaks and why. There are a myriad of reasons for this – the former employee may have worked on a faulty server or application and without their efforts to keep it afloat it might fail. In similar fashion, they might have performed regular maintenance on a routine basis and neglected to document it. They might even have used their own account credentials for a service or script, which would then stop working when their account was disabled or the password changed.

In short, be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary, which may be related to the administrator's departure. If you have to contact them to seek assistance remedying the issue, go ahead and do so (if management/HR permits such contact).
 

8. Finish their tasks/projects

Close the loop on the employee's departure by finishing their outstanding tasks and projects. Keep in mind some of those tasks and projects may now be unnecessary and can be shelved, such as potentially low-level endeavors the ex-administrator decided to implement themselves, which may or may not be worth proceeding on.

Not every vacated position will be refilled. If the administrator left the company due to budget or staffing cuts and the position no longer exists, you can skip the remaining steps.

SEE: IT staff systems/data access policy (TechRepublic Premium)
 

9. Poll the user community

Now it's time to look ahead and seek out a replacement for the former employee. Before HR starts the interviewing process, talk to the user community. Have a frank discussion about the former employee. What did people like or not like? What worked well and what needed improvement? What sort of skillset does the replacement administrator need? How best can they work with the replacement individual?

This can be a great opportunity to seek out someone who might be a better fit, such as utilizing more sophisticated people skills or with knowledge of an up-and-coming technology the company will soon implement.
 

10. Develop hiring/training plan for replacement

Now that you have a better idea of the type of candidate your company should look for, notify HR to kick off the interview/hiring process based upon the criteria from the previous step and formulate your own selection plans accordingly. 

Also put together a training plan for the replacement administrator to help them get up to speed on your company's environment, processes, procedures, technology, and operational requirements. This way they can hit the ground running on day one.

Also see

Fired businessman packing personal desk items in box

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

By Scott Matteson

Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.