By Greg Keller Posted September 15, 2016
We hear from both sides of IT every day.
IT management tells us that it’s okay for their team to do manual tasks because they don’t have to pay them extra to do the work. Paying for automation is expensive, so why should they pay for it when their employees can just work a little more to accomplish the task?
IT admins call us and lament that their management won’t approve expenditures for automation and tools. Supposedly, there isn’t room in the budget for those tools, but there is a budget for the person’s valuable time.
This conversation slightly varies from company to company, but there’s a lot of overlap.
Balancing The IT Budget While Allocating Your Team’s Time
There is a practical balance that can and needs to be struck.
Achieving balance is good for the organization and good for the employee. The problem is, in most cases, the balance is way out of whack in favor of minimizing spending on tools. Hence, the employee is relegated to doing more manual tasks than needed. The impacts of not automating command execution can end up costing the business both in the pocketbook and in the employee’s job satisfaction.
IT organizations that struggle to automate manual tasks end up having to solve a number of second-order effects.
Consequences of Not Investing in Automation
Tasks That are Not Urgent, but Still Important Don’t Get Done
There is little opportunity to focus on big picture issues when IT’s time is used for urgent manual tasks. This is a constant struggle with interrupt-driven roles. Important, strategic issues rarely get to the top of the stack. When they do, it is at the end of a day spent fighting fires.
Organizations benefit from clearing a simpler, more efficient path to the resolution of urgent issues. This allows the team to stay focused on important, long-term projects.
No Space to Think Creatively About Problems
When IT teams are in firefighting mode, there is little time to creatively think about solving problems in a lasting way. When there’s a sense of urgency, the problem just needs to be fixed in the moment, rather than solved for the long term.
This is a pesky habit that we often refer to as, “fixing the problem twice,” because you almost inevitably need to revisit the problem again later.
When you are under pressure, it’s natural to put the bandage on and defuse the situation quickly. After that, hopefully you find time to step back and figure out how to solve the problem so that it won’t recur.
This second passover is the real solution, one that increases resiliency and long-term performance – but organizations that overwork their IT staff often miss out on this all-important second fix. This results in recurring systemic issues and inefficiencies.
Repetitive work leads to burnout. Not only do we believe this, but the research also supports this view. Unfortunately, management teams sometimes don’t realize this when they are in the middle of intensely building their organization. IT professionals that can work on more strategic, longer-term projects will likely feel less burnout from repetitive tasks.
Learning Doesn’t Happen
Organizations that quickly learn and make adjustments are generally the ones that win in a market. Focusing on repetitive tasks does not allow the team to learn. That learning can translate into higher value strategies and results.
Productivity Is Reduced
The world doesn’t need some of our smartest and brightest people doing rote tasks. We have the capability to automate those through technology. We should take that step and be focused on moving the world forward with new innovations rather than focusing on manual tasks.
Making the Most of Your IT Team’s Time
“It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.”
– Steve Jobs
While we didn’t give you a specific answer to what your IT team’s time is worth, we hope that this is a more strategic way to look at how you allocate resources. Understandably, every opportunity for automation can’t be taken. However, when you put processes in place to address major issues, you will be surprised at the results. You will have a high-performing organization.