Time and money wasters plague many IT professionals. This hurts your entire organization

by | Dec/3/2008

In these economic times, it is even more important to be sure you are allowing your IT professional to be as productive as possible. Whether you have internal IT professionals or utilized outsourced IT, see if any of these time and money wasters apply to your IT professional:

Time and Money waster # 1: Constant Interruptions. Research shows that for knowledge workers such as IT professionals, at least a fourth of their day is wasted handling interruptions. Also costly is the recovery time to return to the level of focus and attention that existed before the interruption.

Many IT professionals work inside noisy work areas, answer their desk phone and mobile phone, and are getting messages and notifications on their computer throughout the day. In most cases, companies waste at least a third of the money paid for their IT professionals due to interruptions. The financial cost of interruptions is staggering. It works so much better to control the majority of the interruptions and gain two or three hours back each day as productive time invested.

Furthermore, many of the interruptions are unimportant.  I so often sit in IT professionals offices who answer the phone while some user says, “I know how to fix this but I want you to be on the phone while I solve the problem in case something goes wrong.” Another huge waste is users engaging in repetitive whining to the IT professional about, “Isn’t Vista terrible? It is on my home computer!” or “Why do we have to change our passwords every four months now?”

I recently watched a poor help desk professional take out his frustrations on a package delivery person making a delivery to the IT department. The help desk professional feels frustrated by users all day, and then he vents his frustrations on delivery people. Since the help desk professional’s cubical is near the other IT professionals, he effectively wastes four people’s time for more than five minutes each time.

Time and Money waster #2: Multitasking. Humans attempting to focus on two or more tasks at the same time wastes time. Just ask the families of the people killed in the train wreck earlier this year on southern California possible caused by the engineer text messaging instead of watching for “stop” signals. If your IT professional reverts to multitasking, they are probably feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to do. They may even be asking you for more help in the form of another IT professional to help them.

Time and Money waster #3: Killing alligators. Many IT professionals invest a lot of time every day responding to calls for help and putting out fires. IT professionals’ schedules are often driven by the urgent.

Solution #1: Drain the swamp. If IT professionals invest some time every day into draining the swamp, the alligators will leave. The IT professional can start doing the job they always imagined – looking towards the future and managing the organization’s technology resources. To most IT professionals, this focus on preventative maintenance sounds impossible due to the overwhelming number of alligators. The other solutions will free up the necessary time to solve this.

Solution #2: 45 minutes uninterrupted time per day. For just 3 weeks as a trial, have your IT professionals set aside at least one 45 minute period each day during which there are no interruptions. Turn off e-mail notifications. Turn off all phones and pagers. Close the door to their office. Short of the building being on fire or a primary server crashing, that IT professional is in do-not-disturb mode. IT professionals devote this time to draining the swamp. Examples include finally configuring the centralized patch management tool, configuring group policy objects, or testing the disaster recovery plan. Executives have to support this otherwise the IT professional will “give in because so-and-so’s problem was important to get to right away.” Face it; so-and-so can wait the remaining 37 minutes. This is where boundaries come in.

Solution #3: Have strong boundaries. IT professionals need to use good relationship skills with users and being friendly and available is included. The being available for friendly banter must be limited though. If the CEO does not have time to visit with an employee – most people understand since the CEO is taking care of tasks that are imperative to the success of the business. IT professionals also take care of tasks that are imperative to the success of the business. As long as the IT department is being productive, it is ok for them to close their office door. They have to be strong enough to be able to say, “I would love to come fix your ink jet printer at your desk, and will do so tomorrow, but for today please use the network printer down the hall.” The IT professional should not even need to add, “So I can prevent the RAID array in the server from crashing and necessitating a full restore from last night’s backup.” Just the fact that the IT professional is busy should be enough. In order to enjoy this freedom, the IT professional also must earn the trust of the executives and the users. Increase this trust through IT evaluations and third party reviews of the IT department.

Solution #4: Separate office or place to go hide. Provide a “safe zone” for the IT professionals, even if that is an unused conference room for the 45-minute part of the day. Some users are so tenacious that they will “track IT down” and IT professionals need a place to focus each day.

Solution #5: Come in early and go home early. Many IT professionals are happy to start their day one or two hours early in return for being able to go home earlier. If your organization has multiple IT professionals, they can stagger their schedules. The 6am to 8am period often proves to be the most productive time of the day for an IT professional who comes in early.