Most businesses would like to achieve IT efficiency, but it’s often difficult to measure. Calculating efficiency gains is not a straightforward sum as it’s dependent on the goals of your business. Examples include immediate bottom-line improvement, increased revenue or improved productivity.
Therefore one business may be focused on reducing costs to improve revenue, whereas others may focus more heavily on training their employees to use IT systems more efficiently. IT efficiency will vary for each business, so you must set some basic expectations when looking at an efficiency drive.
Let’s take a look at our top 5 tips for improving IT efficiency. Some will be more relevant to your business than others, but it’s a good starting point.
1. Focus on your business requirements, not the technology
From time to time, we can be distracted by the latest developments in technology. We often want to implement as soon as possible to gain from the suggested benefits. Caution is required here before you rush into the execution of the new ‘in thing’.
Always take it back to the businesses needs and goals. Is this technology necessary to achieve business goals, or will it be an aid? Or is it just a nice to have and may bring some smaller benefits to the table?
You will gain IT efficiency when the tools you have selected help the company to succeed. For example, the business wants to improve productivity across the company, so IT suggests introducing a new ERP system. It will automate several of the internal processes, giving employees more time to focus on other projects.
The moment you get carried away without thinking about business needs is the moment you lose IT efficiency. The company may not utilise the tech as first thought, or it may have several bugs as its new or a significant investment that isn’t suitable for your business in the long term.
Keeping on top of technology changes and developments is crucial to remain ahead of your competitors, but the business goals must be at the forefront of your mind.
2. Select your IT vendors and partners carefully
Your IT can only be as efficient as your IT vendors and partners are. Sometimes, it is easy to be drawn in by convincing offers, cheap deals, prominent advertising and good reviews, leading to an impulsive purchase. But, it does not mean this is the most suitable product or service for your business which will lead to issues in the long term.
Building a strong relationship with your key IT partners is vital as they are essential to your efficient operations. They are your strategic partners. It allows for an open conversation between yourself and your partners, allowing you to communicate the business goals and expectations. You will find you have more scope to discover new technologies, process and frameworks relevant to your business, as you both will be working cohesively.
If you don’t have this type of relationship with your IT vendors, then you should question whether they are hindering your IT efficiencies. Are they just thinking about the next product or service they can sell to you, or are they thinking about how they can help your business achieve its goals?
3. Create documentation and define your processes, sooner rather than later
While documentation and processes are admin tasks which no one wants to do, they are crucial to your business. In the short term, it can seem as if you are losing efficiency, but the moment there is an issue with your IT infrastructure, you will have defined processes and supporting documentation to deal with the problem as fast as you can. It is at this moment you increase IT efficiency. Less time needed to figure out and fix the problem means less downtime.
Think about the IT stakeholders, from your technical leads, IT operators to your end-users. Each requires a different version of the documentation. For example, an end-user will need documentation around using a particular application correctly, but they do not need to know about configuration and troubleshooting processes. A simple way to group your employees is:
- Technical leads require comprehensive technical information about systems and applications and how they work with each other.
- IT operators need an administration guide which documents everything from installation, configuration to troubleshooting.
- End-users should have manuals which document how they should use applications to complete tasks relevant to their job role.
Don’t forget you need to review these processes and documents regularly. Things change over time, and processes evolve, so frequently updating them is vital.
Unless you have been living under a rock the past few years, you will know automation is essential for improving efficiency. Day-to-day there are so many administrative tasks that take up your IT departments time, which often leads to larger projects getting less attention. By automating these tasks, it reduces the time spent on them and improves consistency.
It will allow your IT department to roll out new applications and services quicker, decreases security and compliance risks, lower OpEx and gives your IT employees time back to focus on their strategic priorities to support the business goals. Your IT efficiencies increase as you are getting more out of your IT department.
Automation can break, so you always need to be mindful of this. Ensuring you have checks and documentation in place, will help you resolve any issues moving forward.
5. Last but not least, educate your employees
It may seem obvious, but training your employees to use systems correctly will improve IT efficiency. But, often we don’t see the value in training and development.
On the adoption of new software, employees will receive training to become familiar with the new interface and the basic functionality. Often once this is over, there is no further refresher training, and this is where issues begin to arise.
As with all of us, we often fall into bad habits and may wander from our defined processes. Once the bad habits set in, it is hard to correct these, and will often cause inefficiencies.
For example, when a new employee joins your business, it is likely another employee who may have developed bad habits will train them to use systems and software. Consequently, this will lead to the new employee automatically adopting these ways of working.
Continuous training will help to eliminate this issue, keep employees on track, ensure they know how to use systems and solutions effectively, and help you understand how to get the most out of your investment. Overall, training your employees will increase IT efficiency.
Furthermore, don’t underestimate how much your employees will appreciate additional training. It shows you are investing in them and the future of the business.
So to close
Just having your IT infrastructure in place and working, does not necessarily mean it is efficient. All businesses want to benefit from IT efficiencies, whether that be an immediate bottom-line improvement, increased revenue or improved productivity. Your business needs to focus on achieving its goals, select IT partners carefully, create documentation and processes, automation tasks and educate your employees for your IT to be efficient.