17 Efficiency-Boosting Tips for IT Professionals
IT departments are increasingly overtaxed. You’ve got a constantly growing list of tasks, support tickets and interruptions—on top of the critical work you’re supposed to be doing. It’s overwhelming! But with a few simple changes to your approach, you can drastically free up time and reduce the headaches. We’ve put together these simple tips for IT professionals to help you manage your day more efficiently.
Simple Efficiency Tips for IT professionals
1) Use support ticket systems
No business is too small for support tickets. You must have an efficient way to manage support requests from employees. Otherwise, you’ll be troubleshooting problems all day, every day. A good support ticket system will help you prioritize the most critical problems, delegate tasks to your team, and respond to tickets in the timeliest manner possible. There are numerous, affordable platforms available, so you can choose the right system for your needs, without having to build it yourself.
2) Outsource the big stuff
How are you supposed to focus on critical, ongoing activities like business continuity and software updates, when you’re spending all day fixing a computer monitor for Bob in Accounting? Outsourcing to experts is far more efficient in terms of both time and manpower. It takes a huge task like business continuity (managing your backup process, lowering risk for data loss, implementing best practices, etc.) and removes it from your plate almost entirely. And, it likely saves the company money too.
3) Schedule your day into blocks
Don’t let constant interruptions and false “emergencies” run your day off the rails. Many IT administrators have found success by breaking up their day into blocks of different tasks. For example, instead of addressing support tickets throughout the day, set a time for responding, such as 2 to 4pm. Need to review system logs? Push those to the morning, before the day gets too busy. You’ll make your day way more efficient by scheduling it into blocks like this.
4) Avoid the instant-response trap
Kudos to the super-administrators who can respond to requests as soon as they come in. But for most of us, it’s impossible to get anything else done when you’re always responding like this. We all want to cut down our response times and appear responsive to employees (especially to the higher-ups!). But chances are this disorganized process is wrecking your day. Not to mention, it gives the impression that you’re always immediately available for every request, which is probably not true, right?
5) Set realistic expectations
Achieving the efficiencies above can be difficult when end users have wildly different expectations for the role of IT. If you’re serious about making your department more organized, then the rest of the organization needs to be on board. For example, if you’re using a support ticket system, let users know when tickets are usually responded to and how soon they’ll get a response. Similarly, make sure you communicate these expectations with other managers, so they can set the tone with their teams. The last thing you want is an entire department suddenly complaining that “Nobody in IT is responding anymore!”
6) Create department guidelines
So, you’ve finally made your day more efficient. Great! But if everyone else in IT is still a disorganized mess, then the whole department will continue to suffer. When you’ve found a process that works, make sure everyone else is on the same page. Consider creating IT management guidelines that your entire team can follow, so they too can benefit from the efficiencies you’ve uncovered.
7) Slash service costs
If the IT budget is being cut, look for ways to reduce costs that go beyond staff cuts or hiring freezes. Cloud services and software licenses fees, for example, are sometimes a surprisingly big drain on the budget. Often, the number of paid users on a single cloud service account is unnecessarily bloated. For instance, if you’re paying for 100 people to use the service, but only five employees need it, then it’s time to reevaluate.
8) Avoid unnecessary infrastructure expenditures
This one affects both IT time and budget. Because if you’re constantly upgrading to the “next big thing,” then you’re probably wasting money and spending too much time on reworking infrastructure. Yes, if systems are no longer supported, or they’re failing, or there are unsolvable security risks, then it’s time to upgrade. But otherwise, you need to make sure that your technology investments meet two critical prerequisites: 1) They must be properly “sized” for the needs of the business; 2) They should generally be aligned with a roadmap you’ve already created for such expenditures—so that you know when such costs will eat into your budget; no surprises.
9) Invest in technologies that add efficiency
Here’s the flip side to the coin in #9. As the old saying goes, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” But what if you discover a new IT project management system that would boost productivity and slash costs so much that it would virtually pay for itself in a few years? Or, what if a new data backup technology would drastically reduce the time and resources you spend on managing business continuity? These are important alternatives to consider. Because if you can bring more efficiency to your day (and the company), then it could be a worthwhile investment.
10) Communicate smarter
How often are you visiting people’s desks to troubleshoot their problems? The in-person interaction is great for giving IT a personable reputation, but it’s probably eating up all your time. The phone is a quicker option, especially when you only need a little more information to diagnose an issue. However, you then lose the personal touch. This is why some IT managers prefer to use videoconferencing to communicate internally, as it offers the best of both worlds: speed and the reassurance of body language. Whatever you do, don’t spend all day writing long responses to support tickets. And when applicable, use remote desktop to solve issues without leaving your desk.
11) Track your time
Treat your department like a business (even if you’re flying solo). Consider using time-tracking software to gain better insight into how you and/or your team are spending your day. Think like an accountant. How much is each task actually costing the business when you consider your hourly wages? Which tasks are eating up more time (and money)? What changes can you make to reduce those costs?
12) Delegate, delegate, delegate
Pay attention, because this is one of our most important tips for IT professionals: If you’ve got a team, use them! Delegate tasks whenever possible, so that you can stay focused on your high-priority items. Trust your team members to tackle the important stuff too. If you’ve set guidelines for the department (see #6 above) and trained your employees properly, then you can delegate virtually any job that comes across your desk. Additionally, if you or your team is maxed out, ask HR about hiring some interns to tackle the lowest-priority tasks that require little training or supervision.
13) Cut down on support tickets with company-wide training
Do employees know how or where to save files on the server? Would they recognize a phishing email if they saw one? Do they know what ransomware is and how it could disrupt the business if they aren’t careful? These are the kinds of topics that should be included within a mandatory company-training. By training employees on safe web browsing, basic computing education and ransomware prevention, you can greatly reduce the risk of costly and time-consuming problems later on.
14) Run tests to prevent real problems
Unexpected infrastructure failure will drive your entire week off the rails. Be sure you’re conducting periodic testing on business-critical functions, like network load balancing and data backup recoveries, just to name a few. This is the time to catch and resolve issues, so they don’t happen unexpectedly during the middle of the workday.
15) Easy on the auto-alerts
Look. Automatic notifications are great. They let us know things are working. From network hiccups to daily backup confirmations, it’s always nice to know when things are running smoothly (or not). But if you’re getting email alerts for every little thing, then these alerts are probably just distractions. Set aside some time to configure your alerts, so you only get the ones that deserve your attention.
16) Avoid multitasking
Multitasking feels productive, but studies show you accomplish much more when you’re focusing on one task at a time. Remember how we said to schedule your day into blocks? (See #3 above.) Stick to that as much as you can. If you’re doing too many things at once, you’re actually being less productive and increasing the risk for mistakes.
17) Find what works for you
Here’s the thing. Not all of our tips for IT professionals will be applicable to your exact situation—and that’s okay. Your job is take these suggestions and apply them in whatever way makes most sense for you, your department and your organizational methods. It’s not an overnight fix. You need to continue looking for more efficiencies and keep making enhancements over time.
Need some help?
Let our experts help you tackle your business continuity management, so you don’t even have to think about it. Contact Invenio IT today at (646) 395-1170, [email protected], or click here to request a free demo.