The managers of any successful business must keep a constant focus on productivity. Well implemented IT helps to achieve this, for example through automating manufacturing processes, improving supply chain efficiency or enabling flexible working. The same managers may assume that the IT departments that help deliver these innovations are themselves productive. In many cases they will be wrong.
A recent Quocirca research report - The wastage of human capital in IT operations - shows that many IT teams could improve their productivity dramatically. As much as 40% of a team's time can be spent on routine low level tasks, for example patching software, dealing with end user device problems or error checking.
IT managers themselves are well aware of the issues and those in mid-market organisations, in particular, list such wastage of their team's time as a top frustration. They have a clear understanding of their staff's skills, but are not able to use them as effectively as they would like. For the individuals involved, work becomes boring and there is general demotivation.
Whilst the wastage should in itself be major concern, an even bigger concern is that this very issue is holding IT departments back from their raison d'être – helping businesses overall increase their productivity and competitiveness. IT managers admit that if they had 50% more man hours available to them, they would use these to modernise IT infrastructure and deliver new applications.
So what can be done? The truth is that the mundane tasks are not going to go away. IT managers have three options; stick with the status quo and accept the wastage; introduce cheaper, low skilled labour, probably through outsourcing areas of IT operations management; or introduce more automation.
It is estimated that 80% of IT infrastructure is common to most businesses IT operations. So, mundane tasks are being repeated by skilled operators on a huge scale. Outsourcing just displaces the problem when, in reality, automating these tasks and repeating them across multiple businesses should be straight forward.
The vendors of automation tools are themselves experts at building the procedures that enable repetitive tasks to be carried out time and time again across different organisations IT infrastructure. Such tools can recognise exceptions and make an intelligent hand over to human operators, be they an internal staff member or an expert from a third party specialist.
Once the investment in the tools has been made, the incremental charge for repeating is negligible compared to outsourcing. Such tools enable the industrialisation of IT – the efficient repetition of certain tasks hundreds or thousands of times over without consuming valuable IT staff time.
There are three options for achieving this:
- Capital investment in new tools installed on-premise from the 'big' systems management vendors, namely BMC, HP, CA and IBM (some would add Microsoft's Systems Centre to this list)
- Freeing budget from operational spending to subscribe to on-demand system management services that support high levels of automation such as IP Soft and ServiceNow
- A hybrid approach with the flexibility to deliver both of the above, which is possible with the IP Soft tools and a few other vendors such as Kaseya
The ineffectiveness of many IT operations will spiral out of control if action is not taken to improve the way they are managed. Putting in place the necessary IT management tools, services and procedures to maximise automation and to industrialise processes will address this and reduce skills wastage. The ultimate value will be the ability to efficiently manage the increasing complexity of IT infrastructure, whilst delivering new applications that will ensure a business remains competitive.