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Thursday, October 19, 2023

IT productivity secrets: how to streamline management and tasks

Here are the secret ingredients for keeping IT simple and speedy, so the business can perform faster, recognizing more value from newly adopted technologies.

It’s time to get back to the basics of productivity. The IT pendulum is swinging back toward operational excellence as companies must now recover from a whirlwind of digital transformation investments made over the past three years. Today, CIOs need to operationalize new technologies and online business models. But with IT teams already overexerted, how can companies champion this new workload?

Expedited innovation has brought IT productivity concerns to the forefront:

  • Technology adoption has accelerated, leaving IT with more tools, services, and providers to manage.
  • The cloud and network edge have expanded, forcing IT to accept broader responsibilities across distributed IT environments that make visibility difficult and control more time-consuming. Engineers are known to spend 50% of their time monitoring and troubleshooting the network.
  • Today’s cybersecurity strategies require IT teams to make significant changes, updating systems and processes in response to new security frameworks. 
  • Staffing challenges slow operations with hiring, training, and learning curves. About 1 million people work in cybersecurity in the U.S., but there are nearly 600,000 unfilled positions. ↗
  • Fluctuating business needs and evolving security threats consistently keep teams in response mode, distracting them from continuous improvement.

When innovation multiplies functional tasks, it’s even more important to step up productivity. Here are the secret ingredients for keeping IT simple and speedy, so the business can perform faster, recognizing more value from newly adopted technologies.

Secrets to IT productivity: gathering momentum in teams, talents, and tasks

Operational vigor is necessary to ensure expedited innovation is working the way it should. At the heart of logistics are people and process management. Accelerating operations starts with assessing the three “Ts” of productivity: Teams, Talents, and Tasks.

Teams: Is the IT team and their priorities aligned to the business outcomes, and can the team see or understand how their joint contribution is driving corporate strategy? When IT is an ecosystem converging the network and security with every department and major initiative, is the team connected to each relevant business unit in ways that help it co-innovate and co-orchestrate success?

Management shapes team culture, and when teams feel connected to their work, their leaders, and each other, companies grow faster and more efficiently gaining 7.4% more revenue growth ↗.

Talents: How are you making sure people have the right skills to operate at maximum capacity? Do you know what unlocks each person’s potential, and are you tailoring resources to their specific needs? When management styles and remote work policies impact the amount of energy employees can bring from their personal lives into the workplace, is your approach enhancing individual contributions?

Leaders focused on meeting the individual needs of their people are 1.2x more likely than their peers to achieve hypergrowth of 10% or more ↗.  

Tasks: Has the IT team benchmarked the amount of time required to perform critical tasks? Are processes standardized and documented for repeatability and scalability? Are projects prioritized across the business units to produce timely results when and where they’re needed now? When priorities are always shifting, does your change management streamline communication and responsive action? Do you both think and act using agile best practices? Are projects and tasks visible? How have you explored new ways of working, reinventing processes to make things go faster?

Overconfidence slows performance

In poising IT for expansion, task management must be honed as a continuous process. Focusing on the three “Ts” of productivity can build capacity, but be careful not to get overconfident. Leaders tend to overestimate how connected teams are, how satisfied employees are, and how streamlined processes are, which explains why reassessment is necessary. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to shed legacy mindsets, inviting creative ideas and experimentation that foster an adaptive and resilient workforce.

Secrets to IT productivity: handling more of everything

Today there is vastly more for IT teams to manage: more technologies, more services, more providers, and more distributed environments—and all with more changes. It’s a bit like trying to manage the world’s oceans at once, keeping tabs on all the schools of fish.

So, the question at the center of productivity becomes: “How can we automate the management of it all?”

Sure, there are hundreds of service providers willing to work for you (and we’ll get to that later), but how do you really arrive at automated management? To get there, it helps to break down each functional area, defining what (and who) must be managed:

  • Network Management: Network connections – each with their services and providers
  • Security Management: Security capabilities and applications – each with their services and providers
  • Cloud Management: Infrastructure and applications – each with their services and providers
  • Endpoint Management: Mobile devices – each with their services, providers, and applications in use

Getting started: an approach to automated management

An automated approach to management starts with a computer-driven system collecting information across all the assets in all the oceans listed above. Next, it applies artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics and leverages robotic process automation (RPA) as well as integration to accelerate management in three primary areas:

  • Vendor Management: API integration establishes an inventory of all current assets, creating an accurate catalog of services, providers, and users. Now, an automated system can be created to apply due diligence to the processes of vendor tracking, contract negotiations, anticipated upgrades, as this helps with economies of scale and efficiencies of scale.
  • Service & Device Management: Advanced analytics recognize redundant, unused, or underutilized services and mobile devices. Now, an automated process can dissolve, consolidate, and reallocate assets to get more value out of existing investments. Likewise, you can automate service order approvals, device procurement, and service implementations.
  • Billing Management: API integration collects all service invoices, making it easy to automate workflows to validate and pay invoices. Removing manual tasks also makes accounting and cost allocation more accurate. 

Productivity isn’t the only advantage. Automation helps with everything from IT budget forecasting to business continuity—when outages are avoided because services get paid on time.

But AI automation can also be used more broadly.

Secrets to IT productivity: gaining speed from AI-Powered automation

Competitive advantage today is defined by speed, and swift action is driven by digitized processes, advanced analytics, and hyper-automation built into the core of the IT organization.

Digitization makes the architectural building blocks of IT more nimble and responsive. By moving to the cloud and by switching from hardware to software, the network infrastructure establishes a foundation for acceleration. Modular architectures are virtual, allowing for extreme flexibility. This transition also makes data easy to access, which is fundamental in using advanced analytics.

When machine learning, behavioral analytics, and predictive analytics can observe the entire IT environment, Ieaders can make quick sense of IT complexity for faster, data-driven management. The key is to apply analytics holistically, breaking down data silos with a centralized platform serving as a single source of truth. This allows for overarching insights across the network, security, cloud, and endpoints.

Hyper-automation powers self-healing, autonomous IT systems

Advances in AI-powered automation are helping IT systems “heal themselves.” Using closed-loop automation, an AI engine can identify problems inside complex IT environments. Moreover, it can recommend repairs or solutions and then act on those recommendations itself —that is, once the administrator hits the approve button. Self-healing capabilities help leaders build reusable tools to automate manual, mundane, and highly repetitive IT tasks, and it has proven success, particularly in the areas of:

  • Security, reducing the amount of time and effort needed to identify and mitigate threats.
  • Network performance optimization, predicting outages, and preventing connectivity issues. Gartner states ↗, “automating 70% of network change activities will reduce the number of outages by at least 50% and deliver services to business constituents 50% faster.”
  • IT asset management and service administration, diminishing the time it takes to responsibly manage sprawling tools and providers. One study shows ↗ companies see a 52% productivity boost from mobile device management automation and outsourced services.

When IT leaders invest in self-healing IT systems, they are making advances toward the fully autonomous IT environments of the future.

Balancing outsourcing with insourcing and knowing when to automate vs. outsource

Automation is an advanced field, and companies don’t always have the internal skillsets to go at it alone. Services and solutions like AI for IT Operations (AIOps) and IT Expense Management (ITEM) can help, but knowing where to draw the line between outsourcing and the work of your internal team is another critical decision point in maximizing productivity. Outsource too much, and you lose control. Insource too much and you will never get to the more meaningful work of driving innovation for the business.

Those who strike the right balance have an intimate understanding of:

  • The talents on their team, the cost or value of the work being performed, as well as when and where the day-to-day grind is pulling the internal team away from innovation.
  • When to use automation versus outsourcing. Automation technologies are transformative and can have a meaningful impact on reducing costs and time. While outsourcing services can also free up time, it provides peace of mind during times of volatile change and uncertainty. Outsourcing is optimal for enabling talent scalability – automation is not.

In planning an automation partnership, there are ways to find a good middle ground. You can start a project entrenched with a partner, leaning on professional services to audit and more fully examine your IT environment, accelerating your end-to-end processes. This way, you start with a fully customized service before moving into maintenance mode.

Operationalizing innovation to deliver on the promise of digital transformation

Productivity is the secret to success in digital innovation, and while there is an abundance of advice on leadership strategies and techniques for using AI inside the IT infrastructure, there is far less guidance in helping IT teams solve the daily grind issue—handling the explosion of assets and services after expedited innovation. In order to improve performance, you have to also tackle productivity at the source–at the vendor management level.

To learn more about IT expense and asset management services, visit us here ↗.  

Kaylie Pferten
Kaylie Pferten
A pilot of submersible crafts in a former life, now married to my husband David and writing about investment advice.

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